Most of your generation of brewers begin by homebrewing. Not many start out with a background like yours in food science or brewing chemistry. What were you going to do if brewing hadn’t come along?
I thought I’d be developing food products. Since I was a little kid, I was always messing around in the kitchen. I was never content just to make cookies; I had to tweak them, or mix cookies and brownies together. I did an omelette demonstration in fifth grade with all these weird ingredients. Everyone was, like, “Oh, man, what are you doing?” Later, I did a brief stint with Wishbone salad dressing, but when I got exposed to brewing, I thought, “Wow, this tastes a lot better than ranch dressing.”
Does that background give you an advantage when you try to solve problems or concoct recipes?
Yes and no. As with anything, you can only learn so much in a lab environment. Only when you actually get out and do it does it really make sense. Of course, it helps to have a science foundation, so when you start talking pH and enzymes, you don’t have to learn a whole new vocabulary.
Your first brewing job was in Colorado?
I worked almost six years at Breckenridge Brewery in Denver. Then my wife and I took a short sabbatical from our jobs and did some traveling. When we came back and started sending out resumes, quality of life was very important, so we wanted mountains or ocean. The opportunity in Hawaii came up, and several phone interviews and a long weekend later, we packed our bags. We were thinking “How bad could this be for two or three years?” That was eight years ago.