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, www.probrewer.com. 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!