What’s your current position at your brewery, and how did you get started in the craft brewing industry?
I am brewmaster and manager of brewery operations at Starr Hill Brewery [in Crozet, Va.]. Growing up in Asheville, N.C., I was inspired by one of the earliest craft-centric areas in the Southeast. However, my parents’ influence on my approach to food and beverage is the true foundation of my career path. My family spent many evenings cooking at home, introducing us to international cuisine at a young age. My brother, Patrick, recently opened G n Shan Station, an East-Asian restaurant in Asheville. After graduating from Hampden-Sydney College with a degree in chemistry, I worked for Wachovia/Wells Fargo Bank in Asheville and Charlotte. I started homebrewing on the side with a SAABCO unit I still have at the brewery today and that ultimately led me to pursue a career in the craft brewing industry. I enrolled in the World Brewing Academy Master Brewer Program through Siebel Institute of Technology in Chicago and Doemens Academy in Munich, Germany before starting at Starr Hill.
What’s new at Starr Hill?
A whole lot! 2015 has been a big year for change at Starr Hill, including my promotion to brewmaster in January. We’ve also redesigned our logo and all brand packaging. And, of course, lots of new beer including Reviver Red IPA and our draft-only, limited release Debut Series. We also are on a Collaboration Tour this year, brewing beers with seven other breweries from around the country and even Ireland!
What’s the best part of being a part of the craft brewing community?
Camaraderie and competition.
Name a favorite food and beer pairing.
Starr Hill Reviver Red IPA and steak.
What’s your biggest accomplishment unrelated to your job?
I have an award named after me at my alma mater, Hampden-Sydney College: The Robbie O’Cain 12th Man Award. I was the ultimate team player (and bench warmer) for the varsity soccer team.
What’s your favorite beer that your brewery does not produce?
Rodenbach Grand Cru.
What do you like to do in your time away from the brewery?
Fly fishing and fly tying.
What’s the most memorable travel destination at which you’ve had a chance to sample the local beer?
My time spent in Munich, Germany is a favorite. I’ll always remember the experience of drinking liters of delicious helles after playing pickup soccer in the English Garden with the locals.