This is the second post in a five-part series on the people who make up Aeronaut Brewing Company. Here, we introduce the quirky characters who envisioned this brewery and urban farmhouse, and are now making it a reality.
Chemists make great…brewers! As a PhD with a long career in chemistry R&D, I’m living the dream as the Assistant Brewer on Aeronaut’s team. My life in the brew world began in high school. I cobbled together equipment from friends and relatives, found an old bottle-capper my grandfather used to brew beer for Al Capone during Prohibition (so I’ve been told!), bought some hop-flavored Blue Ribbon malt extract and baker’s yeast from the local grocery store, and made my first batch of home brew. It wasn’t Lowenbrau (my go-to brew during those under-age years), but it was a start.
After four years at Purdue I made my way west. At UC Berkeley, I casually mentioned to my lab mates that I had brewed beer in high school. Prove it, they said. My access to choice ingredients had improved considerably: I picked up some whole grains, fresh whole hops, and genuine ale yeast. We built the equipment we needed in the chemistry department’s machine shop and, from then on, every Sunday was brew day.
We had three sources of inspiration: Michael Jackson’s book The World Guide to Beer and two pioneering craft breweries in the Bay Area – Anchor Brewing and New Albion. One taste of Anchor’s Liberty Ale made me a hop-head forever. This beer may have been the first craft IPA made in the US with gobs of Cascade hops. Cascade became the signature flavor of our lab brew, too: we dry-hopped our ales to get that same citrusy, grapefruit aroma and flavor.
I completed my post-doc at Caltech and then it was on to Boston. My career and family took up much of my time for the next decade or so, but during a trip to the UK I was blown away by the soft mouth-feel and complexity of Real Ale served at cellar temperature with lower carbonation. These cask-conditioned ales catapulted me back into the beer world. I became active in CASC (Cask-conditioned Ale Support Campaign) and the New England Real Ale Exhibition (NERAX). Eventually I became CASC President and the festival organizer for NERAX.
Thanks to Aeronaut, I’ve repurposed my chemistry pedigree to focus professionally on the passion I’ve nurtured since high school. As a professional brewer I look forward to helping Aeronaut develop unusual farm-to-brew recipes, bring new craft flavors to the public, and advocate for local, cask-conditioned beer.