If you’re fond of brewery tours, there’s a good chance you’ve seen the handiwork of Jay Lesher, better known in the industry as “Jay the Welder.”
The Floridian has traveled across the country and around the world creating, installing and repairing the stainless-steel and copper tanks in which the magic of fermentation happens.
A wayward youth led Lesher to his career, when he did time in an Illinois prison.
“While I was there I took a beginning welding class, and they said that I was really good and they thought that I should continue to go on with that,” he says. “I thought that was something that could change my life with it, and that’s basically what I did.”
He paroled to Florida and landed a job with a boiler maker, then started his brewery specialization in 1996 with New World Brewing Systems.
Lesher is on the payroll at Cigar City Brewing in Tampa, where his recent accomplishments include installing its newest 30-barrel brew-house and getting a new canning line operational. But he’s most proud of the Spinbot 5000, a converted Grundy tank that circulates the beer through treatments such as Spanish cedar.
Most of Lesher’s contract work these days is in Florida, but his handiwork is seen at breweries in international locales such as St. Martin, China and the Czech Republic, and domestically in California, Oregon, Colorado and other states.
He’s never bored. “Every brewery is unique,” he says. “Every brewery is like a person. Every brewery has its character.”
This profile appears in the November 2014 issue of All About Beer Magazine. Click here for a free trial of our next issue.