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Oct 25, 2014

Beer Break

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Beer Break Vol. 3, No. 13
So you want to be a brewer?

Jan. 9, 2003

Do you have what it takes to be a professional brewer? Many of our readers homebrew and still more of you are interested in the process. While there was a time in the mid-90s when it seemed a brewery was opening almost every day somewhere in the United States, and therefore homebrewers could jump right into the pros, those days have passed.

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Still, it doesn't hurt to dream. Before you take the next step, we thought a little advice from some pros might be of benefit.

We spoke with Dan Carey, who has won numerous awards at New Glarus Brewing in Wisconsin; Mitch Steele, who once was in charge of specialty brewing at Anheuser-Busch and now serves as an assistant brewmaster at the A-B Merrimack, N.H., facility; and Mark Matheson, brewer at Turtle Mountain Brewing Co. in Rio Rancho, N.M., and the winemaker at Santa Fe Vineyards north of Santa Fe.

First, they made it clear, you better be realistic.

"I don't understand what people think being a brewer is," Carey said. "Brewing is very much a glorified janitor's job. Brewers mainly clean. It's hard work, its backbreaking, it's hot, it's cold. It's not a bunch of monks in the cellar drinking beer -- somebody has to make the beer."

Then you should consider your skills.

As the world's largest brewer, Anheuser-Busch obviously offers more employment opportunities than anybody. "We look for specific things, some science background, life sciences or engineering," Steele said. "You have to have the ability to learn to brew. We look for people who are passionate about brewing and interested in learning how we do things."

Although Matheson has formal training in fermentation science, he said, "this might seem strange, but I wouldn't necessarily go with the scientist. If I had two guys, one a biologist and one not a biologist and the second one had a really good palate, then I would hire the dude with the palate.

"At the end of the day, what matter is does it make the beer better? What does it taste like? That's the part you have to be good at."

Carey, whose brewery is located in one of Wisconsin's most fertile cheese producing regions, recalled the approach he took last year when he was looking for a new employee. "I hire cheesemakers," he said. "They understand sanitation better than anybody in the world and they are used to hard work. They come to work here and they are in heaven. They make better brewers than brewers."

New beers to look for

- Cinder Cone Red is the latest seasonal offering from Deschutes Brewery in Oregon. It's a medium bodied amber ale with colored coming from four kind of caramel malt and a hint of dark roasted barley. Hops are East Kent Goldings and Tettnang.

- Half Pipe Porter is the first of a series of new Full Sail Brewing seasonal beers that showcase Oregon's Columbia River Gorge. Each package will feature extreme sports photography specific to the area and the season. Half Pipe Porter is brewed in the Brown Porter style.

- The Czar from Avery Brewing in Colorado as about as imperial as an imperial stout comes. It weighs in at a hefty 12.2% abv. The brewery describes "flavors redolent of English toffee, rich mocha, sweet molasses, candied currants and a hint of anise." They suggest cellaring the beer because it is sure to get more complex as it ages. We agree -- there's a tar-like quality (we mean that as a good thing) that just begs to be given time to mature.

Tasting notes

OLD TOM STRONG ALE
Brewed by the Unicorn Brewery in England
Michael Jackson writes: Huge head. Chestnut color. Or cherry brandy? Hint of cherries in the aroma? Perhaps I am being suggestible. Even the palate reminds me of cherry brandy, along with a nutty, chocolatey, spicy, smoky, richness. Smooth and remarkably un-cloying for a beer of this weight and strength. A classic example of an English old ale.

WINTER SOLSTICE
Brewed by Anderson Valley Brewing Co. in California
Roger Protz writes:
This is copper colored and offers an inviting spicy aroma of nutmeg balanced by rich orange fruit and tart hops. For a strong beer, the palate is surprisingly light and quenching, dominated by a spicy, fruity note and some delicious and un-cloying malty sweetness. The finish is literally stunning, a twist of barley sugar balanced by bitter hops. I'll throw some logs on the fire and crack open another bottle.

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