What do you do at Rhinegeist?
My title is the head brewer, and I’m heavily involved in the quality department. I think of myself as the Chief Scientific Officer and make it my upmost priority to maintain and improve quality and consistency. I’m also still writing recipes as well as brewing specialty and collaboration beers. About 90% of the recipes have been my recipes—it’s pretty cool.
How did you get into brewing?
So I started home brewing in the late 90’s and never aspired to be a commercial brewer. I just figured there were so many people who could do it better than I could. I spent twenty years as a chemist and was actually given my first break by my good friends at Sun King in Indianapolis. I was a quality manager along with a whole slew of other responsibilities.
What’s your best dish in the kitchen?
Smoked shrimp cakes with smoked paprika remoulade— I also do a mean steak on The Big Green Egg.
Piece of apparel you wear the most?
I wear my Saber Tooth Tiger shirt most often because they’re super comfortable.
Where does the beauty of the brewery lie for you?
The beauty lies in the thick of a really busy day. Last year we were doing quadruple brew days on a manual brew house and hitting the timing and efficiency perfectly. I would usually start very early in the morning and there was some serious serenity in that. Recently I’ve been working the late shift and it’s the same peacefulness.
Most of my family calls me James and I normally go by Jim. Sometimes I’ll get Jimbo and Jimbob but pretty much straight up Jim.
What’s the best part of your personality?
I’m an introvert that has the capability of talking a lot…
You want to say anything more about that?
What’s been a favorite beer to brew?
It’s like asking an adult who their favorite child is! My favorites are usually the ones that aren’t as common that we have on tap. Right now that would be Saber Tooth Tiger and Experimental Pils B. I’d say the one beer that epitomizes our collective crazy minds is Fiction (Belgian XPA).
And why is that?
It just has a combination of a yeast character and hop character that is unlike anything else you can find in the market. With Fiction, we’re not trying to chase any other beer in the market. It was totally inspired by our own creativity. There was a lot of discussion of what the beer was going to look like and a lot of different points of view, so much so it could’ve been called Friction.
I have two! An Owl and a dolphin...both are wise and graceful animals in their element and that’s what I aspire to be.
Famous look alike?
I have had people tell me that Moby and I look alike.
What was a light bulb moment for you?
The fact that I have a chemistry degree along with my culinary experience did give me a bit of an edge. Although there was no real moment, my first experience at Sun Kin of visualizing a recipe and then seeing it come to fruition was incredibly rewarding—I loved it. Honestly, it boiled down to getting the chance to brew. I was doing a little bit of everything at Sun King —cleaning floors, cleaning kegs, cleaning tanks, filling growlers along with quality control and assurance—and that gave me a solid base of knowledge. It was like an accelerated learning program and I certainly learned a hell of a lot.
What do you do when you’re not 'Geisting?
I like to work out and cook dinner for my wife. When on vacations I head to the mountains. Colorado in general is one of my favorite places.
What’s your slogan/catch phrase?
‘Who the f*ck is that guy?!’ Also, two others are, ‘Set yourself up for success’ and ‘We are one day closer today than we were yesterday.’
Any tips on how to lead a team?
It’s a really tricky balance that I sometimes feel like I don’t even handle well! I’ve learned a lot from places I used to work and how not to treat people. Even though it's simple, I treat people how I want to be treated. Also, leading by example and never asking someone to do something you haven’t done. When you abide by those rules you’ll generally earn people’s respect over time—it’s always a fine line.
On average how many times do you sing in the shower per week?
No singing for me. I’m very silent. But if I did I would sing “Don’t Stop Believing” by Journey.