Tommy Keegan

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What’s your current position at your brewery, and how did you get started in the craft brewing industry?

I am the founder of Keegan Ales [in Kingston, N.Y.] and brewmaster (I will never give up that title although I have to admit that I don’t get to have stinky rubber boot feet as much as I’d like these days. That’s a lesson learned from Fritz Maytag.) I got into brewing in the early 90s while studying biochemistry in San Francisco. One Father’s Day, I got my dad a homebrew kit (from the now owners of Speakeasy—thanks Eric) and liked the idea so much I went back the next week and got myself one. My dad is an attorney when he gets up and goes to work in the morning, but the idea stuck and he’s now the owner of The Brickhouse Brewery and Restaurant on Long Island. Meanwhile, I finished my biochemistry degree at SFSU and was hooked. I worked for a short stint at Anchor Brewing and then headed to Davis, Calif. for the Master Brewers Program.

What’s new at Keegan Ales?

Although we are mostly a production facility, we added a small eatery a few years ago. This spring we’ve added a big beer garden and I’ve found a born and bred Texas pit master for some authentic Texas-style BBQ.

What’s the best part of being a part of the craft brewing community?

The best part of the craft brewing community is just that, that it’s a community. It’s very unlike any other industry. Rarely do you see competitors working together and sharing honest info and ideas. My closest craft brewery is Captain Lawrence. Owner Scott Vaccaro and I have no problem calling each other to ask a favor or bounce ideas off each other. I doubt Steve Jobs is still running ideas past Bill Gates.

What do you like to do in your time away from the brewery?

Time away from the brewery? What’s that mean? Seriously though, I have two sons, ages 8 and 10. They keep me pretty busy. We ski a lot in the winter. That plus Cub Scouts, drum lessons, tennis, soccer, etc. keeps me out of trouble, which is fun. Soon they will learn that I’m an idiot and don’t know anything, so I take advantage of the fact that they’ll still hug and kiss me in public while I can.

What’s your favorite food and beer pairing?

Who do I look like, Garrett Oliver? That’s his gig. Mostly I’m of the opinion that beer goes best with hot dogs, pretzels, and trying to dance with girls on Saturday nights. It’s beer, man, don’t over-think it (another lesson learned from Fritz Maytag). On that note, my beers go well with BBQ.

What’s your biggest accomplishment unrelated to your job?

I was in the Coast Guard and am very proud of that. Unlike a lot of the rest of the military services, we don’t train for a job that we pray we will never have to do, which basically is killing people. As a Coastie, I am proud that I’ve used my training to personally save lives through rescue swimming and firefighting. I can count at least eight off the top of my head; it’s a very rewarding feeling.

What’s your favorite beer that your brewery does not produce?

Anchor Liberty.

What’s the most memorable travel destination at which you’ve had a chance to sample the local beer?

When I first got married [to co-owner Christy Keegan], our honeymoon was a trip across country from Connecticut/New Jersey to San Francisco. On the way, we visited a brewpub in Rapid City, S.D. called Firehouse Brewing Company. Although I’ve visited many other breweries since, Firehouse stands out because it was awesome and also turned me on to the craft brewing scene that was virtually unheard of on the east side of the Mississippi at the time.

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