Friday, March 18, 2011

A Bit of Personal History

Before I head off to Denmark and start relentlessly posting about brewing there, I may as well provide a bit of personal and professional background:

I graduated from Purdue University in 2004 with a degree in English. I wasn't sure what I wanted to do for a living, but I knew I loved reading and writing, so I ended up studying English more or less by default. I focused on technical writing toward the end of my education, but never pursued work in that field. Instead, I fell into the litigation support industry through a temp agency and quickly worked my way up the ladder by virtue of my technical skills, versatility and hard work. By 2008, I was working for a large law firm in downtown Chicago, which enabled me to further explore my enthusiasm for beer. 

My dad introduced me to beer when I was a teenager, and got me started on the right tack with beers like Newcastle Brown Ale and Guinness. During college, my best friend and I imbibed a steady diet of Leinenkugel's Red and Creamy Dark, until his curiosity led him to brands like Unibroue and Rogue. I went along for the ride, and realized just how large the world of beer really was. By the time I graduated from college and returned to Chicago, I was actively exploring new territory with beers from Three Floyds, Dogfish Head and others. I continued to expand my knowledge of beers from across the world, never turning down a style or brewer.

That same friend, along with his girlfriend, began homebrewing long before me, but once again piqued my curiosity and encouraged me to follow his lead. In early 2008, I brewed my first batch of beer - a Brewer's Best brown ale - and, although I continued to invest more time in other hobbies like music production, I grew more and more interested in the craft. I began working with spices in my second beer, a "Mexican chocolate stout" with cocoa nibs, cayenne pepper and cinnamon, and continued experimenting with unusual recipes while brewing more traditional styles. Within a year, I switched from extract to all-grain homebrewing, and began getting involved in local beer communities like the Chicago Beer Society. 

The tipping point came in summer of 2009, when I lost my law firm job and confronted the possibility of a career change. Doing database work for law firms paid the bills, but did I want to keep doing that for the rest of my life? I realized that I'd been coasting for a while in a field that ultimately didn't satisfy me, so I did some serious thinking and explored my options. Then I realized that my enthusiasm for brewing was nearly boundless: I could discuss the science, craft and history of making beer for hours, and actively put a great deal of time and effort into honing my homebrewing skills. I took the plunge and signed up for the International Diploma course at the Siebel Institute in Chicago, and started making plans to enter the brewing industry.

My time at the Siebel Institute introduced me to a number of fantastic people, and imparted a thorough education on the production of beer. I also spent some time volunteering with Metropolitan Brewing, which gave me some nuts-and-bolts experience in the production process. I continued volunteering with them while I searched for brewery work, as well as honing my skills with more intensive homebrewing than ever. I even did some food pairing work with beer while working with a gourmet cheese purveyor. Now, I'm finally on the verge of starting my first brewing job, which will take me further than I've ever been before to the country of Denmark. I'm incredibly excited, and thankful for all the support given by family, friends, homebrewers and pro brewers alike.

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