I’m going on 27yrs in the beer business.
My first job in beer was on the packaging line at Bridgeport Brewing Co. We would arrive about 2 hrs before we were to start packaging and flip glass. Basically, we’d take an empty case, place it on top of a full case of empty bottles, then quickly flip the two boxes so the bottles would be upside down. This bottling line was pretty manual, so after we had many pallets of flipped glass we’d take to 1 of 4 places on the line; line loader, filler operator, case packer, and case stacker. The line loader would flip the upside-down bottles on to the line so now they’re upright. Filler operator would monitor incoming and outgoing bottles to ensure they’d have a crown. Bottles would then get labeled and enter a circular collection table where the case packer would grab 2 bottles in each hand and pack the empty cases. Case stacker would tape the cases closed, date stamp the case and stack them on the pallet. This was a great introduction in to the glamourous life of brewery work!
I was able to get in to the beer industry by “who you know, not what you know.” At the time my uncle was the head brewer at Bridgeport. I had just finished track season at Clack Community College (Go Penguins!) and wasn’t sure what my summer would look like. He called me out of the blue and asked if I wanted to come work at the brewery. I was 19 yrs old at the time and didn’t know I could work at a brewery.
Back in the day I really didn’t have a mentor. My uncle was a complete hard ass to work with, but he taught me how to multi-task. I’m thankful of leaning that trait. It really paid dividends down the road. There was an unfortunate lack of resources early on in craft brewing. Today, it’s a completely different game with the amount of information out there. People want to teach and help you learn. Back then everyone was trying to figure shit out on their own.
A favorite beer of mine to make is Vienna Lager. It’s such a delicate balance to get the malt flavor correct and in sync with the hop bitterness. When done proper, it looks so beautiful in a glass and tastes amazing!
Lately I’ve really been in to drinking hop forward lagers. I love their clean, crisp malt profile. The tropical citrus aromatics and sweet hop bitterness make these beers flavorful yet super refreshing.
If I could claim I created a beer style it’d have to be Pale Ale. Those beers, when done proper are a perfect balance of malt and hops. Today, the Pale Ales produced are so incredibly hop forward they’ve lost the relationship to malt. It’s not called IPA Light…. To discover the right amount of caramel malt which is balanced by a citrus, pine resinous hop is pretty awesome!
I don’t if “anytime” would be acceptable to describe my favorite drinking situation… Ha! If I had to nail it down to only one, I’d say it would be a sunny, late spring day, on the Deschutes River, during the Salmon Fly hatch. A cold beer is a nice reward for hauling in an abnormally large red-side!
Music has been a pretty big inspiration for me when making beer! I pretty much enjoy all genres of music because there is music for all moods just as there is a beer for all moods.
Outside of work I’ve historically been pretty obsessive/compulsive with my hobbies. The last handful of years I’ve been doing a lot of fishing. Fly, crab and spinner fishing all have my attention. The Pacific NW is truly a wonderland of outdoor activities. You can go in any direction and find something amazing to do.
When it comes to changing the beer world/community the great thing about our industry is we’re pretty conscious of our actions and self-correct when needed. Our community is super driven by passion. We give access and insight to our world that most other industries don’t, which makes this industry so great. However, with this access comes a lot, and I mean a lot of opinions. We brewers balance art, science and business. Some do it better than other, some do one of those better than others, but at the end of the day we’re all trying to make a living doing what makes us happy with the goal of making the public happy.
If I could back in time with one message for “younger Ben” it would be to learn more math! Followed by learn more about excel!