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.
I grew up around my Mawmaw's cooking. She was all about Cajun and Creole food. Her kitchen always had something going on in it. Like constantly. Whether it was a roux for the weekend or getting ahead on tomorrow's breakfast.... her kitchen always smelled so good. A lot of what I do and a lot of what I love about cooking, I realize I picked up from her.
After my time at University of North Texas, I went to Institute of New Orleans for cooking school. That put the science on what I already knew. Living in New Orleans, the food capital of the world, certainly schooled me on what makes a good restaurant... and a good kitchen. I worked at the Commander's Palace, and besides just being good at what they do, that place teaches you how to keep things tight and running smooth.
I moved to Austin for a change, and I hooked up with Amos and Swifty at the old place and even though I was bartending, I started making those guys lunch and that put me on the path to getting on here at the ABGB.
What I set out to do here is what I always wanted to... create partnerships with my suppliers, and keep them as local as possible so that I'm always getting the freshest and most in-season ingredients. And keeping them coming in daily. I like working with the farms so I know what's coming in next. That influences how I make the menu every day. I think of the season we're in... and go from there, the food should look like the time of the year it's from, so when it's summer, it's all about bright colors. When it's winter, you want to feel the coziness.
I'm really into the contrast of flavors- putting the savory with the sweet. While my pizza dough has to be proofed just the way I want it, it's really just a canvas. I like people to come in here and not know what they're going to get... to be surprised. A couple came in the other day and were sitting at the bar and shouted back to me in the kitchen and said "You put cantaloupe on a pizza? That's crazy?".
But they tried it, and I got them. Because that's how I do.