Neal Leathers and Bjorn Nabozney, two of the founders of Big Sky Brewing Co., recently gave a talk at IdeaMensch Missoula about the process of starting the brewery. They have some great insight for anyone thinking about getting into the craft-beer industry or really just looking to start any business.
IdeaMensch focuses on bringing entrepreneurial ideas to life and took place in Missoula on July 13.
- Matt Pritchard
Think you’re an expert on beer? Well, if you want to prove it you can sign up for the Cicerone Certification test at Hawthorne Suites in Missoula on Dec. 7.
The exam tests your knowledge of retail beer storage, modern beers and styles, flawed beers, beer ingredient, the brewing process, beer pairings for common foods and more. Cost is $345. In order be seated for the Cicerone Certification test you must have passed the Certified Beer Server exam in the past three years and have had at least one year of experience selling or serving beer.
In the wine world, the word “sommelier” designates those with proven expertise in selecting, acquiring and serving fine wine. Lately some beer servers have adopted the title “beer sommelier” to tie into the credibility of the wine world. But anyone can call themselves a beer sommelier regardless of knowledge or experience. And while some will be highly skilled, the only way to demonstrate that objectively is through independent testing of knowledge and tasting ability. The Cicerone Certification Program offers that independent assessment and certification so that industry professionals — as well as consumers — can be sure of the knowledge and skills possessed by current and prospective beer servers.
If you’re working in the industry, having this couldn’t hurt.
- Matt Pritchard
Here’s a story from Anne Creighton of the News-Review in Roseberg, Ore., on Tom Johnson, head brewer at Roseburg Station Pub and Brewery, which is part of the McMenamins chain in Oregon and Washington. Johnson, who went to the University of Oregon to study finance in the ’80s, decided he needed to take a different career path so he followed his love of brewing. It’s always nice to someone who follows their passion and succeeds, especially when beer is involved. Enjoy.
ROSEBURG, Ore. – When Tom Johnson starting brewing beer on the kitchen stove at his Eugene home in the ’80s, the University of Oregon finance major never thought he would end up working for one of the top craft breweries in the United States.
“I was never really big on wearing a suit and tie to work,” Johnson said. “My first attempt at beer was good enough, so I decided to stick with it and try some different recipes.”
Johnson, 48, is now 10 years into his career as head brewer at Roseburg Station Pub and Brewery, one of nearly 60 McMenamins brew pubs in the Northwest. Along with making the chain’s standard ales, he also concocts his own specialty brews using ingredients such as locally grown Asian pears or McMenamins coffee, giving them names such as Spearhead Molly, Pull Up Your Shwartz and Arrogant Beaver.
“Sometimes a name will just pop into my head, and I think, ‘Oh, that’s a great name for a beer. I should try and make a beer to fit that name,’ ” he said.
Roseburg pub manager Lisa Brannon, who has worked for the company for five years, says she has tried beer from many of the other brew pubs, but their pints just don’t compare to Tom’s.
“I think brewing beer is an art form, like painting a picture,” Brannon said. “Two different artists can paint the same picture, but they perceive it completely different, and I think that’s what Tom does with beer. He just has something amazing.”
Johnson said his road to employment wasn’t an easy one. He spent six years trying to find steady work in the industry. After earning a master brewer’s certificate from the University of California at Davis in 1995, Johnson job shadowed several Eugene brewers, hoping he would stumble across a job.
He eventually got a one-day-a-week gig in Corvallis for Oregon Trail Brewery, but Johnson said the cost of commuting was more than his paycheck. “I was just about ready to give up and become a FedEx driver,” he said, laughing.
One of the contacts he had made during his job search called him one morning with an opportunity. “He told me the McMenamins in Roseburg might be looking for a brewer, so I gave it a shot,” he said, and “the rest is history.”
Over the years, Johnson has won several awards for his home-brews, including a blue ribbon at the Oregon State Fair for his blackberry porter and a Best In Show award at the Douglas County Fair for a steam beer, a highly effervescent ale.
Johnson said he sometimes thinks about starting his own brewery, but doesn’t know if it’s something he wants to tackle at this stage in his life.
“Maybe if I ever happened into a lot of money, but it’s an incredible undertaking, and I would be working seven days a week until it got off the ground.
“I enjoy working at a small pub where I can get to know all the people who come in, and I think I have pretty good job security here,” he said, knocking on the wood dining table.
Brannon attributes the pub’s loyal patronage to the beer that Johnson brews. “This McMenamins has had its ups and downs, but Tom’s beer is what has kept those people coming back,” she said.
Roseburg resident Matt Fortune said he has frequented the Roseburg McMenamins since it opened in 1999 and keeps coming back for the beer. “Tom’s beers are great,” he said, sipping a pint of the Arrogant Beaver. “It’s just good quality.“
Michael Widman of Glide, another 11-year patron, said he’s had several conversations with Tom throughout the years in the pub. “He’s the most humble person. He lets the beer speak for himself.”
- Matt Pritchard
Maryland’s Dogfish Head Brewing Co. has announced a few job openings. And while I think it could be a sweet gig, Montana brewers need not apply. After all, Montana breweries are better and Montana is a better place to work than Delaware.