Sometimes I'm up to my elbows in sanitizer or repairing broken floor tiles. As with any small business, what you do depends on what the day calls for.
The beer doesn't make itself. Usually I'm brewing or filtering or bottling or transferring. Then I try to get out into the market and sell the beer, too, and make sure the distributors are doing their jobs.
The equipment consists of big copper tanks, stainless steel tanks, pumps, hoses. It's very hands-on. On brew days I'm in here with paddles, stirring the grains, mixing it with the water, moving hoses around, setting steams at 600 gallons of boiling liquid, cooling it all down, climbing in the tanks to clean them out. Everything has to be clean that comes in contact with the beer.
I graduated from college and wanted to be a chef. I started a culinary partnership at the Omni Hotel. At the same time, I started home brewing as a hobby. The bug bit, shall we say, and beer was pretty much all I was thinking about.
I started volunteering at the old James River Brewery, labeling bottles, washing floors, doing whatever to work my way in. They went out of business about a year later and became Mobjack. The original investors called me up and said, "You want a shot at being the brewmaster, making the recipes and actually brewing the beer?" And I said yes.
Everybody loves the beer guy. You'd be surprised at how many friends you make once they find out what you do for a living.
There's supposed to be only four true ingredients: water, malt, yeast and hops. Recipes vary the ingredients to produce different beers.
My favorite kind depends on what day you're talking to me how many I've had. We do three beers: our pale ale, which is our flagship; we do a red ale; and we do seasonal beers. Our seasonal is called "Old Coot Stout." It's a dark beer, creamy and chocolatey it's my favorite right now.
Sometimes people try to bust me. I'll be out in a bar and some guy will walk up and say, "What are you doing? You're a brewmaster [at Mobjack] and you're drinking a [not-to-be-named light beer]." And I'm like, "Hey, get over it."
There's a guy named Michael Jackson, not the gloved one, who is the world's foremost authority on beer. Somebody asked him a long time ago, "What's your favorite beer?" And he said, "The one that's in front of me." That's pretty much my approach. But I'll definitely drink my beer before anything else.
As told to Brandon Walters;
photo by Scott