What’s your current position at your brewery, and how did you get started in the craft brewing industry?
I am the brewmaster at St. Francis Brewery and Restaurant in St. Francis, Wis. I do use the title “brewmaster” very loosely, as I still have a lot to learn. As a long-time homebrewer, I was unhappy with my career, and began to wonder how I could turn my hobby into a profession. I wrote a letter to David Bass, brewmaster at Rock Bottom in Milwaukee, requesting some time to sit down with him and ask for some pointers in getting my career started in the right direction. I met with Dave and he offered me an apprenticeship at Rock Bottom from Memorial Day to Labor Day in 2008. During that three-month stint, Dave taught me how to brew on a commercial scale. By the end of that summer, I was brewing most of Rock Bottom’s house beers, and I loved every minute of it.
When Labor Day came, I nearly begged Dave to find a way to keep me on, but budgets didn’t allow for it, so my dream stalled. Not for long, however. In November 2008, a full-time assistant brewer position opened up at the Rock Bottom in Cleveland, Ohio. It was there I furthered my education working under Bryan Shimkos (now of Flossmoor Station in Chicago) and later under Gerry O’Connell (now with the Cleveland Chophouse). With their training, I learned every aspect of commercial brewing. Cleveland’s depressed economy led to the slow-down of brewing operations at Rock Bottom and they no longer needed an assistant. I learned that the St. Francis Brewery back in Wisconsin was looking for a brewmaster. I interviewed for the position in July 2009 and was offered the job.
What’s new at St. Francis?
In addition to our five house beers, I come up with a rotating seasonal each month. We are also in the process of planning a significant expansion that will include a microbrewery with bottling. Ground will break in the spring of 2011.
What’s the best part of being a part of the craft brewing community?
For me, the best part of the brewing community is having a career that I truly love, and I hope that love shows in the care I take in crafting my beers. Milwaukee has a long brewing history, and I take a great deal of pride in being a very small part of that rich history.
What do you like to do in your time away from the brewery?
I enjoy traveling with my family. I try to frequent brewpubs at our destinations to see what other brewers are doing. I also love to cook, and work in my garden.
What’s your favorite food and beer pairing?
My favorite pairing would probably be weisse and fish.
What’s your biggest accomplishment unrelated to brewing?
My biggest non-brewing accomplishment would be attaining Eagle Scout as a kid. I also sang with an acapella comedy quartet for 10 years and we performed all over the country.
What’s your favorite beer that your brewery does not produce?
Lagunitas makes a copper ale called Censored that I love.
What’s the most memorable travel location at which you had a chance to try the local beer?
Several years ago I traveled to Europe. In Heidelberg, Germany, I came upon a small tavern that served Lowenbrau on tap. The beer, the place, the weather, everything was perfect.