Brewmaster Alan

Alumnus travels an
unconventional road and makes his
college dream
come true

 

Justin O’Connell/For the Review

 

Though few Linfield students can deny their affinity for beer, most cannot imagine fusing it with their future careers and their college studies.

Linfield alumnus Alan Taylor, class of 1994, is an exception. As a Braumeister at Widmer Brothers Brewery in Portland, one of the largest microbreweries in the United States, Taylor merges his love of beer, science and physical labor.

While taking advantage of Linfield’s study abroad program, Taylor found himself in Vienna, Austria, where he had his first beer.

“(I had my) first tequila in Vienna, too. (I) saw a lot of museums in Vienna as well; it wasn’t just all drinking, for the record,” Taylor said.

Upon returning to Linfield, he began experimenting with his own brews.

“I got together with some friends from my freshmen year dorm, and we moved into Newby Hall, and that’s where it all started,” Taylor said.

Taylor said Newby’s Resident Adviser that year had a policy: If you brew it, you can drink it.

“So, the next day we started buying equipment, and two days later we made our first batch of beer,” he said.

Taylor’s early brewing experiences in Brewby, Newby’s name in those days, didn’t always go swimmingly.

 Forgetting to put the pulloff hose on their first batch, Taylor and his roommates woke up one morning to a closet full of
beer foam.

Another time, one of his fellow brewers was suffering from mysterious headaches.

“We were making so much beer that the CO2 content in the room was getting pretty high, and CO2 is heavier than air, so there was this layer of CO2 floating around in the air,” Alan said. “We figured out it was slowly poisoning him.”

Had the brewing in Brewby become too dangerous to continue?

“We just opened up some windows, cracked the door and it went away,”
Taylor said.

After Linfield, Taylor went to Germany, but decided being a professor of German did not suit him. Then a friend sent him a magazine about studying brewing science in Germany.

 “I thought that sounded pretty good,” Taylor said. “I applied to that program, and they said I had to do an internship. So I did internships in Berlin and then the Braumeister said (I) could just stay (there).”

Because he was dedicated to making beer and not just the glamour, Taylor and one of his first bosses in the brewing business hit it off.

“Oh man, (it was) every college person’s dream,” Taylor said.

Taylor said his new boss offered him a beer and quickly finished his own. While leisurely sipping on his beer, Taylor was offered another.          

“I think I had two liters before I was done brewing that day,” he said. “(I) walked outta’ there and I was like ‘wow, that is crazy.’ (My boss) leans into me and drops his glasses onto his nose and says, ‘you know we don’t have to do this every day.’”

Taylor graduated from the program in Berlin and came back to Portland, where he worked at Oregon’s Full Sail Brewing Co. for two and a half years, and then for two breweries in California before heading back to Germany.

“I ran a brew pub in Berlin as the general manager,” he said. “We had a hotel, a Biergarten for three hundred people outside and four hundred inside. I was looking to buy it at that point.”

 Taylor decided to come back to Oregon for the diversity of beer.

“I didn’t want to be making boring German beers,” Taylor said.  “I wanted to make stuff like we have here in Oregon, stuff with more hops and more character. Brewers are more conservative there, so (they) aren’t as interested as American brewers in trying different beers,” he said.           

Aside from his appreciation for beer, there are many reasons why Taylor enjoys his work.

“It has an intellectual and physical component to it,” Taylor said. “It’s not just sitting at a desk all day long. You’ve got to tear open some bags, go check the mash, got to bring out the hops. A lot of people in Germany say I can’t be a Braumeister; (I’m) not fat enough.”

Widmer is currently in the process of going nationwide and recently merged with Red Hook in Seattle, Wash.

“We’re going to be the second or third largest craft brewery in the United States,” Taylor said.

When looking back on his road less traveled, Taylor said his studies in German, math and physics at Linfield were crucial to pursuing his brewing career.

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