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Stay Balanced, Keep Moving

on Sat, 12/03/2011 - 3:15pm

I have a motto, “Stay Balanced, Keep Moving.” I can’t claim it as my own; however, I think if any one's wisdom should be followed it would be that of Albert Einstein, from whom the quote derived. I believe the full quote from the physics master is as follows: “Life is like a riding a bicycle, you must keep moving to stay balanced.” I say damn right friends. But what does that have to do with me being the Head Brewer at Hardywood Park Craft Brewery? A brief history may be in order.

I started home brewing beer after reading the Joy of Homebrewing, in my college senior year apartment. Experiencing only a hand full of craft beers at that point in time, I figured a nice safe English Brown Ale would ease me into homebrewing. I think many of us homebrewers start this way, easing into the experience of brewing, and the passion grows from that first batch of beer that was better than everything you had ever tasted in beer before. It didn’t take long for me to start scaling up and building equipment to brew better and brew more. After all, I did study Mechanical Engineering at Virginia Tech. I finally had the outlet to apply my Chemistry, Thermodynamics, Heat and Mass Transfer, Fluids Dynamics, and Mechanical Systems courses. Beer was the answer, barring 8:00 AM classes.

Fast forward about a bit. After college, I moved to the Heartland, Columbus Ohio. During my six years working with Honda Research and Development, I found myself stopping by the local brewery, The Elevator, on the way home from work more and more often. I felt the compulsion to learn how a commercial brewery operated. I was able to shadow the brewer there, gaining knowledge about the inner workings of the brewery.

It was at the end of my sixth year in Columbus, that my wife and I decided to pack up and move to New Zealand. Sure it was on a whim. Sure we might have been a bit frivolous trying to fire sale every item we owned with the intent of bringing only six suitcases and a bold sense of adventure to the Land of the Long white Cloud. There were a lot of questions as to why we would pick up and leave the country. For most of those questions, we had no answers, but the gut is usually right. After landing in Auckland, New Zealand, we received our answers. To us New Zealand was a beautiful country with generous opportunities. And as it turns out, it was our best adventure.

It was in New Zealand that everything that I learned from engineering and homebrewing came together pretty seamlessly. I created the opportunity to work as Assistant Brewer to Head Brewer Ian Ramsay at Galbraith’s Alehouse in Auckland. It was here that I learned to appreciate the process of making great beer, not just beer. Keith Galbraith and Ian Ramsay specialized in brewing Real Ale. Their portfolio also included world class lagers and an amazing Trappist style ale called the Resurrection. My time with Ian in the brewery was of particular significance to the storyline thus far. Not only is he a pragmatic and practical brewer which kept the Real Ales of Galbraith’s in perfect form, he is a good friend. Reflecting back on my experience with Ian and Keith, it is only now as Head Brewer at Hardywood Park that I can comprehend the full value of the knowledge gained under their tutelage.

So what keeps me balanced? I think it is the experiences and people I meet along the way. I feel that I was fortunate to have met Ian and Keith, and to be a part of the world renowned brewery that is Galbraith's Alehouse. I know the experience can never be replicated. I feel, upon my arrival back to my hometown of Richmond, that I was fortunate to meet Eric and Patrick who have begun something unique with Hardywood Park Craft Brewery. Again, never to be replicated. Keeping moving is relative, my friends. Hardywood is on the move, and I am moving with it.