Where did you grow up?
I am originally from Eastern Pennsylvania. I grew up there and completed my undergraduate degree in PA as well. After that I moved to California where I attended a brewing specific program at UC Davis and then worked in the state for nearly 8 years.
Do you remember the first craft beer you ever had and what effect did it have on you?
I don’t really recall the first “craft” beer I had had specifically. I’m not sure I know what that means anyway, but I’ve always enjoyed the taste of beer in general. I grew up in Yuengling country and there is a tremendous pride there for the locally brewed beer. When I discovered brewing to be a viable career I was hooked, there is a tremendous history and romance surrounding the trade.
How did you get into brewing and what was your first professional brewing job?
I went to Juniata College for my undergraduate degree, which is a BS in Natural History. My coursework covered a broad spectrum of natural sciences including Biology, Chemistry, Environmental Sciences, Ecology, Geology and Botany. I also studied German Language. One of my advisors taught a one credit elective, ‘The Art and Science of Brewing.’ In my third year an opening in the 4 student class presented itself and I really enjoyed it. Brewing beer with a focus on the science behind it was great. Of course I brewed as a hobby during that period of time as well. Following that I completed a semester of independent research in brewing science, and following graduation I went on to complete the Master Brewers Program at University of California Davis. That course really provided me with a solid background and positioned me well for employment in the industry.
I started my career as a Shift Brewer at the Trumer Brauerei in Berkeley, CA. I worked there nearly 8 years, also serving as Lead Brewer and ultimately Production Manager before moving on.
What is your role/job at MBC? What is a typical day like for you?
My job at Maui Brewing Company is Director of Brewing Operations and Brewmaster. I am responsible for managing the team of Brewers, Packaging, and support staff that are making our great beers. My day to day is a mixed bag of logistics and scheduling, troubleshooting, fine tuning our process and monitoring quality. We have a lot going on in our brewery and there is an incredible amount of details that need to come together properly to make a great beer on a production level. There is fun stuff as well. New beers are always exciting and certainly presenting our beers to customers and fans is always rewarding. Forward progress is always priority one.
You recently made the transition to a much larger and brand new brewing system in Kihei. How has the transition gone and what have been some of the benefits of the new facility?
The Kihei brewery is a big step for Maui Brewing Co. in both our beers, brand and team. The brewery in Lahaina was never planned or prepared to produce as much beer as we were even there. Lots of challenges. The new brewery was built from the ground up, greenfield is the term. That means that every element of the design is thought about from a functional perspective and design is critical to a smooth brewing operation. Production flow, cleanliness, proper utilities and removal of waste are all key items.
Much of the equipment at the new brewery is brand new installation. We have a custom dual batch production and specialty brewhouse, automated yeast management, centrifugal separation for clarifying the beer and a state of the art filling line. Those are not just fancy toys but tools that are critical to producing a product of the highest quality, which is really where we have shifted our focus.
The transition was quick. Up and running – no turning back!
What is your favorite existing MBC beer to brew and why?
I love them all because I know the guys and gals that make it! We work hard to stand behind all the beers we sell and if something isn’t where it needs to be we work on it. It’s hard to turn down a Bikini Blonde Lager or a CoCoNut Porter because those beers are still our most popular and keep the lights on. These days I am enjoying our Ono Grün, a dry hopped pilsner made with Patagonian Pale Malt and hopped with whole leaf noble varieties from Germany. I am also excited about our new Doppelshot Doublebock, which is a pale strong lager brewed with Maui Grown Coffee. It really works.
Any new releases in cans we can expect from MBC?
We just released our Kihei Kölsch, which is a traditional Kölsch style ale. It’s a really nice beer, crisp, clean and refreshing. It’s a got a slight fruitiness from the yeast, which we brought in from Germany, and a great hop punch as well. We are on track to release a fall seasonal in cans as well. I better put the coffee on and start working on that, hint hint.
How does your team go about selecting which beer will get released in cans?
It’s a collaborative process between ownership, brewing, and sales. Putting a beer into a package is a commitment for us and at the end of the day that beer has to be a good one. When we print a new can there is a minimum of about 5,500 cases, so it is a serious decision and a lot of thought goes into what our customers want to drink and what we can brew on that level.
Any plans to expand the barrel program?
We currently dabble in Barrel aging but have never really committed to a beer that would come out of a barrel with any kind of regularity. I think we will though, it’s been a busy year and will be soon time to explore new projects. Of course, Black Pearl, our rum barrel aged Imperial Coconut Porter will be on the list.
Any local ingredients you have always wanted to brew with?
I would love to make an Opihi Stout. I think it would be a great Hawaiian version of Oyster Stout. Nice and briny and using a truly local unique ingredient.
I’m a big fan of the German noble hops, nice and delicate. Saphir is the one!
Are there any breweries or other brewers that inspire you and influence you?
I’ve had the pleasure of working with and knowing some genuine industry experts in my career and owe my knowledge and current place to each of them in some capacity. Currently, I’d have to say that our brewing team at Maui Brewing inspires me everyday. They do a great job in making sure our beers are top notch and keep me motivated as well.
I’ve always had a great respect from afar for Ken Grossman and Sierra Nevada. They do a great job and are true proponents of craft beer. The brewery in Chico is a sight to see and I’m looking forward to visiting the Mills River Plant.
When you’re not brewing, what is your favorite thing to do in Hawaii?
I enjoy playing golf and spending time with my wife Allyson, and dog, Mees Pees. Sounds cliché’ but it’s true. Maui is a great place to unwind and relax so that’s what I try to do when I’m not focused on the brewery. I’ve yet to get on a surfboard but I’m a terror on a Tommy Bahama chair, cooler full of Kölsch and all.