Welcome to an ongoing BREWVANA series, Favorite Brewers’ Favorite Brewers. The project is simple: I ask some of the industry’s most notable brewers to share which brewers they most admire and why.
Maker of ridiculously good beer, Matt Van Wyk is the brewmaster at Eugene, Oregon’s Oakshire Brewing Company. Over the years, he’s won a gaggle of awards, to include GABF Brewmaster of the Year in 2006 while brewing for Flossmoor Station in Chicago. How’d he get so good? Keep reading.
MATT VAN WYK: As with everyone else in the series, it is utterly impossible to name just one influential brewer, so I’ll give you four.
First, Todd Ashman, currently of FiftyFifty in Truckee, California. Todd preceded me at Flossmoor Station in Illinois, and as a 2.5-year-experienced brewer at the time, I certainly knew it all. I, of course, didn’t. Through his mentoring and the riffs I did on the solid foundation he built, I was able to grow and have great success. Furthermore, if you know Todd, he does not subscribe to the Keep It Simple Stupid mantra, as he is an expert at layering flavors and aromas through complex malt and hop regimes, and I learned from that. Finally, I wouldn’t have had a clue with barrel aging experiments without Todd’s trailblazing experience throughout the 1990s. I owe much of my current success to Todd.
Second, I would say Jeff Bagby, formerly of Pizza Port and now of Bagby Beer. Jeff doesn’t know this, but he taught me to be thoughtful, careful, and creative, whether you are making your everyday pub drinker or your attempt at an international brewing award. I also think that, at times, he doesn’t take himself or his beer too seriously, something we could all learn from. It’s just beer after all.
Next, I give you a triumvirate of brewers. (so now we’re at six). From a trip to Belgium I got the pleasure of meeting Armand DeBelder, Jean Van Roy of Cantillon, and Frank Boon of Boon Brewery. What I learned from them is patience, patience, patience. Plus, cutting corners is not acceptable in the pursuit of great art and tradition.
Finally, while not a professional brewer, he is a professional chef who brews: the Homebrew Chef, Sean Paxton. His thoughtful use of flavors, textures, aromas, and also the use of beer are mind blowing. If you’ve heard Sean wax poetic about food and beer, you’ve likely heard him start a sentence with, “If you think about…” The dude is always thinking about beer, flavors, combinations, experiences. I subscribe to his philosophies as both a home cook and a brewer.
I could go on and on about brewers who have had a positive influence on my career.