Yellowstone National Park / Flickr
Growing up, it was always strange running into one of your teachers outside of school. “What the hell is Mr. Fixwell doing in the supermarket?” you’d wonder. “Doesn’t he have biology to teach? And what does he need food for?” As it turns out, teachers are real people. Likewise, brewmasters are people, too, with hobbies and interests outside of beer!
Brewers are also usually super interesting people -- so we asked a bunch of our favorite brewmasters about their favorite things to do when they’re not making beer. From playing music to mountain biking, here are some of the most intriguing brewmaster hobbies you’d never otherwise know about.
Ale Asylum’s Wild Guy
Madison, Wisconsin, is home to Ale Asylum, makers of the stalwart Hopalicious. It’s also where brewmaster Dean Coffey calls home when he’s not out in the wild. “I’m a pretty hardcore wildlife enthusiast,” he tells us. “I love to travel to parts unknown.” In an interview with the Brewers Association, he shared tales of his trips to places like Tanzania and Guyana, where he drank banana beer in the Amazon rainforest. He’s also a scuba diver and a cyclist, and he played bass in a band called Vermin that opened up for Slayer. Basically, he’s cooler than me, you, and everyone we know.
Harpoon’s Brewer Concocts Mysteries
Al Marzi, brewmaster for Boston’s Harpoon (producers of classics like Harpoon IPA and UFO White), told us about one of the most unique hobbies we’ve ever heard of. “For many years, my wife and I have set up ‘Mystery Weekends’ for our friends,” he tells us. “We write a story, create characters and assign each one to our friends, bring a lot of beer, and set up games and challenges.” We’ve gotta say -- Marzi sounds like a fun hang. (Especially the beer part.) “Everyone comes dressed in their character’s costume and we make them go out in public like that. Yes, it sounds a bit odd, but there is a lot of beer and laughter involved and we have a great weekend.” Who says it has to be Halloween for people to drink and dress up, anyways?
Elysian’s Guitar Hero
Okay, so Dave Buhler isn’t Elysian Brewing Company’s brewmaster. But he is a co-founder of one of the Pacific Northwest’s premiere craft beer brands, helping to launch the brewery way back in ‘96, when people were still buying music on CDs. (I know -- can you believe people used to buy music?!) Speaking of music, Buhler loves his guitar. He’s been playing for over 40 years, and recently headlined a show at Seattle’s Tractor Tavern to celebrate his newest EP release. You can listen to two of his albums here, which lean towards Americana/folk rock.
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Deschutes’ Brewer Bikes Oregon
The grandaddy of the Bend, Oregon, beer scene is Deschutes Brewery, but unlike most actual grandads, its beers smell great. And brewmaster Veronica Vega is responsible for making sure that all of those beers (including the Fresh Squeezed IPAs that taste real, real good come springtime) are in tip-top shape. But when she’s not brewing, she’s biking like there’s no tomorrow. “I bike anywhere, anytime I can,” Vegas says. “I dig mountain bike riding or getting on my crossbike and mixing up road and trail rides.” Part of the beauty of living in a mountain area is that when one path isn’t skiable, it’s likely bikeable. “The Nordic ski trails in Bend are magical for biking,” she says.
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If you thought violent contact sports were a young man’s game, you haven’t heard of Old Boys rugby: organized rugby for those over the age of 35. And Brenden Dobel, brewmaster for San Francisco-based, Certified Organic brewery ThirstyBear is pretty familiar with the term, having played the sport for almost thirty years. “I learned the game at St. Mary’s College of California,” he explains. “I then played for the San Francisco Golden Gate (a local team), and now I’ve joined the ranks of the Old Boys.” And while the brewery’s own Stave Series might feature sours for a discerning palate, it’s not exactly the kind of beer you’d expect to drink post-rugby match. “Eighty minutes of rugby is an intense experience, and that’s followed by an intense session of beer drinking,” he tells us.
Shmaltz Brewing's Woodsman
While Clifton Park, New York’s Shmaltz Brewing Company is known for its cheekily named beers like Funky Jewbilation (an award-winning sour series), its head brewer Richie Saunders tells us about his hobbies in a straightforward manner, with nary a wink or a poke in the ribs. “I love food and cooking, but I also play sports, hike, ski, and consider myself an avid outdoorsman in a general sense,” he says. And upstate New York is an ideal place to ski and hike. “There are few things more appealing after a stressful week or two at a brewery than being outside in the woods or near water; even a simple trip to the shooting range is amazing at re-connecting a dizzy head.”
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10 Barrel’s Snowmobiling Brothers
Aaron Goldfarb wrote about a trip to explore Bend, Oregon’s beer scene (a trip I attended as well) in a story for this very site. He wrote about drinking 10 Barrel’s solid Pub Beer lager and hanging out with Jeremy and Chris Cox, the two brothers who co-founded the brewery. But I, too, was on that press trip -- and he left out the part where they took us on a snowmobiling tour that made me fear for my life. (To be fair, many, many, many things make me fear for my life.) The brothers Cox are both adrenaline-craving junkies, having recently bought brand new high-powered snowmobiles that go approximately a million miles per hour (felt like it, anyway).
Wolf’s Ridge's Wanderlust
Chris Davison works a ton. Mostly, he’s busy cranking out Dire Wolf imperial stouts for the masses in Columbus, Ohio, for the brewery/restaurant Wolf’s Ridge Brewing. But when he’s not at “cheap metal shows,” he’s “looking for an excuse to go new places, especially if there’s good beer to be found.” And based on how jealous his Instagram made us, we’re going to say he knows where to look, as he visits “dozens of breweries and famous beer bars a year.” Check him out on Instagram at Brewery Ommegang, Bell’s Brewery, and Sun King Brewing Co.
Note: 10 Barrel Brewing and Elysian Brewing are members of The High End, owned by Anheuser-Busch.