My story is one of a kid looking for his own “voice.” Being one of nine kids, I was lost in the shuffle and eager to find something that I could call my own. As it turns out, it was brewing.
I remember a book called ‘One Hundred Years of Brewing’ and I was fascinated with it. I was only 12 but I could name the most famous beer from the Philippines (San Miguel). I recall wanting to know what made it better than the rest.
After graduating from Notre Dame with an engineering degree, I started homebrewing. It was the beginning of the American brewing renaissance. I was in Indiana where the beer selection was minimal, but I got my hands on a Boulder Porter. I was blown away. Though my early batches were debatably drinkable, I was hooked.
My engineering career brought me to Austin. I met Chip McElroy, a homebrewer with similar passion, and we founded Live Oak Brewing Company in 1996. In 2001, I began brewing with Tim Schwartz at The Bitter End. The chemistry of the combination led to some interesting and award-winning beers.
I became the brewer of Uncle Billy’s Brew & Que in 2007 and continued my lager-obsessed ways, winning four GABF medals in the process. Along the way, and the dream of what the ABGB could be was fomented. I’ve had the pleasure of brewing with Amos for the last five years. In this case, the sum is greater than the parts.
I grew up in League City, Texas... but managed to escape. The United States Navy helped. So did my amazing wife. I graduated from The University of Texas with a Mechanical Engineering degree. While in school, I met a gentleman named Scott Simmons. He was a homebrewer, and he invited me over to his house on brew day and let me throw hops in the kettle. That was it. That started the passion. I started brewing at home with 2 co-workers. Over time, brew night became a night where 10-15 people would be stopping by to "help." A nice, big party.
Along the way, I met Tim Schwartz, who was brewing at The Bitter End. Tim taught me how to do my first all grain batch. He also recommended a few books for me to read, and that fueled what became an ongoing thirst for studying brewing science.
I got a taste of Live Oak Pilz and became obsessed with Pilsner. I also got to meet the man responsible for it, Brian Peters, when he started brewing with Tim at the Bitter End. We became friends and he patiently tolerated all of my questions about brewing. Being around Tim and Brian also instigated my dream of someday owning my own brewery.
When Brian became the brewer at Uncle Billy's, I visited him a couple times a week, and soon enough, we turned it into a part-time job for me. I brewed for Brian at Uncle Billy's as an assistant brewer for a year. When Uncle Billy’s expanded to a second location at Lake Travis, Brian asked me to take over the Barton Springs location for him. I accepted. I quit my engineering job to become a full-time brewer. Or as I like to say: to live the dream.
With Brian, I helped Uncle Billy’s win a Gold and two Silver medals at the GABF and a Bronze at the WBC. And we dreamed up the ABGB. And now here, working in the brewery, developing beer recipes, and sharing them with customers… I’m truly living the dream.
I blame my brother. He introduced me to The Bitter End: a punch in the face sort of wake-up call about the art of craft beer. It was a time in Austin when craft beer wasnʼt anything like it is today. I couldnʼt believe the many styles, the history, and especially the (somewhat unknown) local breweries, brewpubs, and brewers... I didn’t even know I was drinking amongst legends, Tim Schwartz and Swifty Peters.
After sitting behind a desk for 10 years, doing landscape architecture, I went to the Great American Beer Festival as a civilian. And after a few too many at The Falling Rock Tap Room, I spotted Swifty & Amos, now at Uncle Billy’s, cruising through the bar. I climbed on top of the booth and demanded to work for them... as well as telling Amosʼ current assistant that I would be taking his job. That moment of bravado was followed by months of harassing Swifty and Amos back in Austin. But finally, I was given a shot.
I immediately fell in love with the process, the equipment, and all the labor. I spent many nights at Barton Springs Pool because I was sore from the hard work-- I was office soft. The brewery was a tiny space, so two people maneuvering ingredients, hoses, chemicals, parts, etc., was like Amos said, a ballet. And actually, there was plenty of dancing and backspins. And hugs, too.
After a year at Uncle Billyʼs, I became a cellarman at Real Ale. I took on some of the most demanding work Iʼve ever done and fell in love with the responsibility and importance of yeast handling. Itʼs the underdog of brewing... definitely not the glamorous image that everyone pictures when talking about being a brewer. And there was less dancing. And fewer hugs and backspins.
Fortunately for me, Swiftyʼs & Amosʼ dream of owning a brewpub came to fruition. And they hadnʼt forgotten about me. I'd say I have the best job in the world. I have my hugs, dances and backspins back.