Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Day 64: How my job has changed...

Last year, in a lunch meeting with the owner of a very prestigious St. Paul based brewing company, I remember asking "How has your job changed since you started Summit Brewing Co.?" Often before I had these lunch meetings I would sit down and generate lists of questions. This was one of the questions that I had come up with for that meeting and to be honest I wish I would have thought of it years ago...

My dream is to someday start a brewpub (and craft distillery cough cough). Of course, I have bigger aspirations than just any brewpub though. I am hoping that this brewpub turns into a pilot/test/fun facility and I end up with a much larger production facility to produce beer that sells all over the country. Many have already accomplished this in their own lives. When I asked Mr. Stutrud about how his job has changed over the 20 years that he has run Summit Brewing Co., I was asking how MY future may change when I accomplish the same someday. Too bad. Instead of discussing my awesome question, I ended up learning about the 3 tiered system and how it hurts craft breweries
(which is still very important, but not exactly what I wanted)

Luckily for all of you I will ask myself the same question (and answer it) Spencer, how has your job changed over the 60 days you have worked at Lone Peak Brewing Company?

The greatest change from Day 1 to Day 60 (that is when I started writing this post) is my independence...

I began as a "camera". This stage lasted a few weeks and consisted of me following Steve around and watching/mimicking what he did. It took me a few weeks to buy that black notebook of mine (adding the record function to the camera); I would recommend buying one and keeping it with you during this stage of learning. It will speed the retention of what is observed greatly.

I next transformed from an observer into a "robot". Instead of watching and learning from what Steve did, I was instructed by him to do things. These tasks ranged from clamping hoses and setting up tanks (in the correct configuration) to starting cleaning cycles (in the correct order of events). After a short time of performing small ordered tasks, I became an upgraded robot (v2.0). I was instructed to "set up a tank for sanitizing" or to "mill in for the IPA." These tasks involved a series of the smaller tasks that I had previously learned how to perform and complete in the correct order.

The next stage was "Artificial Intelligence". Suddenly, I was predicting what Steve was going to do. On my own I began to do things like dig the mash tun (uninstructed) after he was done brewing. Then I would go mill in for the 2nd batch of IPA. He would tell me that he needed to harvest yeast from FV4 and while he wasn't looking I would set the whole thing up for him! I believe that it was this stage that I really started to develop into a valuable employee. Steve was then free to spend more time completing his responsibilities and less time monitoring me. An important note here: as I developed into a self-sufficient being, I learned that completing the job CORRECTLY is just as important as completing it. If I made a mistake I knew that I had to correct it myself, and do it right away. Otherwise, Steve would have to repeat what I did, wasting my time and his.

What the fuck comes after Artificial Intelligence in robot development? I knew I couldn't keep this analogy up... Somewhere between the last stage and today I have become capable of managing myself and my time to be productive without Steve's direction. Although we often still collaborate on what needs to be done around the brewery, I am very aware of what needs to get done to keep the brewery running. Once I receive the green light to transfer a brew, I can complete the transfer, clean the tank the beer came from, carbonate it, keg it, put away the kegs, clean the brite tank, and record the necessary paperwork. I am capable of preparing distributor orders, getting kegs out the door and receiving them from customers, changing kegs, fixing kegs, and fixing our draught equipment. Almost every task in the brewery other than brewing the beer and doing the paperwork I can complete now.

What is going to happen in the near future? Well, I have been dedicating all of my free time to getting Candice working. I anticipate that because of the amount of time I have dedicated to the machine, and the familiarity I have with it (and my silly engineering background) that I will be in charge of running it, maintaining it, and troubleshooting it soon!

It has been a long journey! I am looking forward to what I learn in the future and will keep this story going someday...

Cheers, Prosit, and Skoal!


  1. pretty damn exciting if you ask me, so jealous man. good luck with candice, i am looking forward to seeing cans. do you have labels created yet?

  2. still working on the labels... right now my main focus is getting beer in the cans! Today I actually "growler filled" beer into cans and then sealed them with the seamer... seemed to work well!

  3. Hey...wasn't that my idea to "growler fill" the cans and seal them?

  4. Hey Spence (and others) you might be interested in this theory of the process of becoming competent:

    Unconsciously incompetent,
    Consciously incompetent,
    Consciously competent,
    Unconsciously competent.
    It is "uncannily" (get it?) similar to your description of your process. You'll get there, I have no doubt.