What’s your current position at your brewery, and how did you get started in the craft brewing industry?
My title says “head brewer,” but since it’s just my partner John Fletcher and me, we both do a lot of everything. Strange Brewing Company [in Denver, Colo.] has been a dream of ours for almost four years. We are both avid homebrewers with 20+ years of brewing between us. But the timing was never “right.” We were both ready to quit our tech jobs in 2007, but then the hop crisis set in. Then in 2008 when the credit crisis hit, that didn’t seem like a good time either. But when the Rocky Mountain News closed in February of 2009 and we both got laid off on the same day, that pretty much decided it for us.
What’s new at Strange?
Everything’s new at Strange. We just opened on May 19! What an adventure that was to get the brewery open. The old adage, “It’ll cost twice as much, and take three times as long,” sure was true in our case. But now we can just focus on brewing some great beers and sharing them with old friends and new. Once the new car smell fades and we’ve recovered from the startup we’ll start rolling out some additional brews from our homebrew recipes.
What’s the best part of being a part of the craft brewing community?
I know I’m going to sound like a broken record, but the best part about the craft brewing community is that it is a community. When we first started talking to craft brewers about opening a brewery everyone was so incredibly helpful and excited about our project. It really energized us and convinced us that we were on the right track. And now we’ve started to pay it forward as others looking to open a brewery have queried us for help and information.
What do you like to do in your time away from the brewery?
My family is very important to me so I try to make it a point to get home before bedtime to spend time with them. I’m blessed with a lovely wife who is one of my strongest supporters and cheerleaders. We don’t bike as often as we’d like, and it’s been years since we’ve rafted a Class IV or V. Funny how things change when you have kids. But this summer will be our first camping trip with the kids. We’re heading to Great Sand Dunes National Park for a long weekend. Really looking forward to that! And winter always finds us skiing in Breckenridge.
What’s your favorite food and beer pairing?
At the risk of sounding self-serving, Strange IPAphany India Pale Ale and my homemade Flemish beef stew made with, what else, IPAphany. I’m probably breaking some food pairing rules by cooking with and pairing with the same beer, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t delicious!
What’s your biggest accomplishment unrelated to your job?
My children. My son Casey Ryan is 6 and my daughter Gabriella Sophia is 2. Casey was born very premature and spent much of his first four years in and out of hospitals. But though he has limited use of his legs, Casey is a downhill skier, plays sled hockey, rides his bike, and is learning the violin. He’s a constant inspiration to my wife Marni and me and we’ve centered everything in our lives around him. And his sister Gabby is a red-headed firecracker who’s going to drive her daddy nuts come the dating years.
What’s your favorite beer that your brewery does not produce?
I really enjoy barrel-aged sours. New Belgium’s La Folie has long been a favorite of mine as has Russian River’s Temptation. I’m hoping to take Vinnie Cilurzo up on his offer for a Pre-2011 CBC Barrel Symposium. Then I’ll have to find a different favorite beer that Strange doesn’t produce.
What’s the most exotic travel destination at which you’ve had a chance to sample the local beer?
We were in Brugge, Belgium for five days right before 9/11. Every meal was a Belgian beer adventure. I remember being impressed how every beer was poured in a glass from its brewery, until I had to wait an hour at dinner on our last night for a Goudenband. Seems the proprietor’s inventory of Liefmans glassware was a bit light and a large group had every last glass. I do remember the beer being worth the wait.