Monday, June 22, 2009

Day 6: The Tale of Lone Peak Brewery (and me)

First off, thanks to everyone who has been reading this blog! I would love to hear your comments and feedback. Many of you have been wondering, how the hell did I end up in Montana at Lone Peak Brewery? I skipped over this story completely in my first blog post, well here is the rest of it.

I left off, sitting in a cube, at a chemical process equipment company in Minneapolis. Cube life just isn't for me. I don't have anything bad to say about the company or industry I was in, I just knew from day one that I was destined for a different path. Now, I had been trying to find a brewing job since I graduated college. "Come on," I thought, "I have a ChemE degree from the U of M! Getting a job in the brewing industry should be easy." Boy was I wrong!

My first applications went out to Miller, Coors, A-B, and Sam Adams. All online applications. Here is advice for anyone who applies for jobs online, it is a waste of time. I never heard back from any of them. Even with a contact at Miller Brewery, I never could get near the door. Soon I decided that networking was the only way I could pull off getting a job. Who the hell do I network with? I don't know anyone in the industry... ANYONE.

By now, I had discovered a website, ProBrewer is a GREAT resource for the brewing industry and finding job posting. I started applying for every job posting that I found. I only got back a few responses from my resumes and cover letters. Most of them telling me "you don't have enough experience" (it seems the standard request is 3-5 years experience). That is a bullshit request! At least for the dedicated and determined!

So now was the time to start hitting up the local beer scene, and hitting it hard. I emailed every local brewer and brewery owner that I could. What did I ask for? Advice, lunch, a brew day, anything to teach me more. I joined the BeerAdvocate community. I started showing up to beer events. While at the events I made it a point to introduce myself to everyone who would look at me, salesmen, brewers, owners, supporters, distributors, even random bar patrons. Soon I found myself emailing with beer reps; I got to spend a day brewing at Tyranena; I sat down to lunch with the CEO of JJ Taylor and the owner of Summit Brewery. The only reason any of these people helped me was because I asked for help. I got some great advice and great perspectives on the industry, but still not the big break that I had been looking for. I had an idea how to open the door though.

My next plan was brewing school. I have been accepted to the Master Brewer's Program at UC Davis and for a Master's Degree in Brewing and Distilling at Heriot-Watt University. My plan was to attend one of these programs when my time (and money) permitted, I would use my brewing education as the key to open the door!

Now it was March, 2009. I was in Big Sky, Montana, with my girlfriend Kelly and her family on a ski trip. Thankfully I was fortunate enough to tear apart my ACL doing karate a few months earlier and couldn't ski. So what else is there to do in a ski town? It so happens that there is a brewery in Big Sky, Lone Peak Brewery to be exact. I had actually found a job posting on ProBrewer for Lone Peak a year before: "Small craft brewery, located in ski town, mountainside condo provided..." Are you kidding me? I couldn't even describe my dream job better. Too bad that Steve, the owner of the brewery wrote me an email saying that I was not experienced enough (or so he thought).

Back to the story, I couldn't ski, so I used my talents for talking to people, networking, asking for things, and I went to the brewery and asked to meet the owner. We had a beer together. I introduced myself as an aspiring brewer and I asked him if I could spend the day making beer with him later that week. He thought it was a great idea and loved to help me learn a little about my future job and accepted.

It was Thursday, Kelly's family was on the mountain, and I showed up to the brewery at 10AM to make a batch of Hopfest '09. It is hard for me to explain exactly what happened that day. I can't say that I did anything extraordinary. All I did was show up, be myself, and work hard. What happened at the end of the day was a miracle though. Steve asked me "So, what do you think about coming back here in the summer to brew with me?" I WAS FINALLY IN! I FINALLY HAD MY FOOT IN THE DOOR! (This is by far the hardest part for this industry)

Here I am! I'm at my ultimate dream job (for now at least). How did I get here? I had the confidence to network and talk to anyone who was remotely related to my dream job. Sometimes I would find myself sitting at a table with beer salesmen and distributors who I had nothing in common with and knew noone, Akward! Sometimes I was told I was a waste of someone else's time. Sometimes I was laughed at. I never let any of that get me down.

Right now I am writing this story because this is the story that I wish I could have been reading for the last two years while I was doing my searching.

Skoal, Prosit, and Cheers to the confidence to never give up!


  1. You still haven't mentioned me yet in any of your stories?? Who was it that got you into brewing in the first place...

  2. Yeah, you need to give Colin more credit.
    And my time Gchatting has been cut severly.

  3. Cool story thanks for sharing. So I guess there is hope for a shmuck like me. Cheers!

  4. Good for you. Stick-to-it-iveness always works! I'm enjoying your blog.

  5. Spencer,
    Great post, needed the inspiration! Tomorrow I will be asking any of the local breweries if they need any help!