What’s your current position at your brewery, and how did you get started in the craft brewing industry?
I started the Church Brew Works back in 1996. Prior to that I worked in the steel industry, purchasing secondhand steel-making equipment from steel plants and selling the used equipment, both domestically and overseas. I started homebrewing in Boulder, Colorado back in 1987 while attending the University of Colorado and drinking fun beers down at Old Chicago on Pearl Street. My first intrigue with beer was at age five when I spied a colorful Goebels can under some rafters and shimmied under them to score my first beer can. I sort of grooved on the brewermania aspect at a young age. Since we are a brewpub, one needs to wear many hats and gain knowledge of project management, menu design, menu engineering, recipe formulation, marketing, and management.
What’s new at Church Brew Works?
2020 has been the most challenging year in our industry and we still have seven more months until June of 2021 when we can see light at the end of the business challenges. While we were in the process of installing our own Palmer Tech can line, we pivoted and brought an Iron Heart mobile canner to embrace the change much faster. We discontinued bottling about three years ago, which created a hiccup, but it is fun reconnecting with beer distributors and old customers with the can market. We also plan to convert a small storage space into a more youthful-oriented taproom and embrace newer style beers, but COVID-19 has put a hiatus to that venture.
What’s the best part of being a part of the craft brewing community?
There is an openness and comfort working with peers in the business. There are lifelong friendships made with peers that opened breweries around the same time as we did that are sort of the old guard in the business. There is a culture, history, and comradery around beer that transcends political beliefs, class, and race. Beer can simply bring people together in a common light. This is Pittsburgh, and I just can’t envision Pittsburghers bringing a glass of wine to a Steelers tailgate or a campfire. Beer helped create and define cultures in our cities 100-150 years ago in their first genesis. Craft beer is helping to revive so many urban areas, and even now smaller towns, to offer a vibrancy to these areas and breath new life and energy into communities. It is uplifting and fun.
Name a favorite food and beer pairing.
Spring rolls with a peanut dipping sauce and a nice Trippel ale.
What’s your biggest accomplishment unrelated to your job?
I was at a bourbon tasting the other night put on by a rep I have known for over 50 years, that included another person attending that I’ve known for 47 years. I have been fortunate to have such longtime friends from pre-K, high school, and college, and now have newer friends too. I have been happily married for 21 years with two great kids. So, this answer is more about what is worth cherishing.
What’s your favorite beer from another brewery?
Ayinger Brewery makes a ton of great beers and I love the whole genre of German Oktoberfest.
What do you like to do in your time away from the brewery?
I enjoy going on kitesurfing trips with friends and my extended family who all used to windsurf together. I enjoy skiing out West and playing lots of pickup soccer and a bit of golf. I enjoy getting together with a few friends and sharing stories and beers at firepits.
What’s the most memorable travel destination at which you’ve had a chance to sample the local beer?
Southern China in 1993. One warm 17-oz. beer would be handed with every meal, no one spoke English, and there was no refrigeration so all the food was super fresh. Also, Zambia 1992. There were droughts, lack of bread, and blazing hot sun, so on the rare occasion a beer was procured, it was nirvana.