Monday, April 22, 2013

Meet the Brewery - Cody Edition

Cody and Emily (Cody is the one on the left)
This week, let's meet the people who are bringing YOU beer from River City Brewing and Coeur d'Alene Brewing Company.  First, a quick comment about that dual identity - we operated in Coeur d'Alene from 1999 to 2010.  We lost our space there and eventually relocated the brewery to Spokane.  Since it wouldn't be authentic to operate the Coeur d'Alene Brewing Company in downtown Spokane, we decided we needed a new identity and became River City Brewing.  Despite the new name and location, we had a couple of beers so closely associated with Coeur d'Alene that it just didn't seem right to not keep the names of those beers - Coeur d'Alene Brewing Company's Huckleberry and VB Stout.  Hence, the split personality.

Our new location has more than just the names of those beers to tie us to our heritage, however.  We also brought over all of the equipment and, more importantly, two of the three brewers.  Our original head brewer, Laurie Kraus, was heading towards retirement when we shuttered operations in Coeur d'Alene, but was also injured in the process of moving, so he has not taken up the yoke in Spokane, but thankfully Cody was already sharing some of the lead brewer duties with Laurie before our move and was ready, willing and able to step up to being our Head Brewer.

Let's meet Cody.

Cody grew up in Hayden, Idaho and currently lives in Coeur d'Alene, now with his wife and two young children. Like a lot of brewers, Cody started with home-brewing, but unlike many, he was following in the footsteps of his father and grandfather who both home brewed.

Cody started working for the brewery in 2004.  Cody started the way most people do in their first brewery job - cleaning kegs.  There is always interest in brewery jobs, but he was hired for a couple of reasons, chief among them, he had a recommendation from one of the other guys on the crew at that time, his brother.  His brother was a hard-working, smart brewer, so we thought we would be lucky to get another guy who shared those attributes and, as it turns out nine years later, we definitely were.

Cody hadn't had any formal brewing training before joining the crew, but he learned quickly and eagerly.  As a result of his grasp of the details, he soon became an important person on the team and has continued to grow as a brewer and manager.  As the Head Brewer, his job is really to be in charge of the whole operation of the brewery, which not only includes brewing beer, but ensuring that all of the supplies are ordered, all the equipment is operational and maintained, and for each phase of making beer - from brewing, to fermenting, to conditioning, filtering, carbonating, kegging and the getting deliveries out the door, along with all of the cleaning, cleaning, cleaning that is a daily part of a brewery.

I don't want you to worry that Cody has to do all of these things by himself, though, as Cody is ably assisted by Greg in all of these duties, and they work as a team on really all aspects, but we will shine a light on Greg in a day or two.

And even though Cody is not the most verbose guy you will run across, let's let him answer a few questions.

What attracted you to brewing as work, rather than a hobby? The variety of the work.  Each day is different.  What we do in the brewery is ever changing; its never the same, and the world of brewing continues to change.  It's always a challenge and interesting.  

What is your favorite beer that you have made? A homebrew Coffee Porter.

What is your favorite non-brewing aspect of your job?  The engineering and projects we do.  With the new location, we are figuring out how to make things work and solve problems that crop up.  Sometimes we know the symptom, but not the cause, but either way we puzzle through the issues and then figure out how to solve it.  Sometimes we buy pieces or parts, but usually fabricate the solution.

What is your favorite music?  Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers.  In Coeur d'Alene we had a stereo set-up and listened to a lot of classic rock. 

What do you like to do when you aren’t at the brewery?  Spend time with the wife and the kids, and then anything outdoors, like camping, hiking and biking.  I would like to see the brewery involved in things like the Leadman competition at Silver Mountain. 

Any beer-related story you would like to share?  My worst experience with brewing was one I never want to have again.  While cleaning several years ago I accidentally spilled a cleaning caustic (sodium hydroxide) down my pant legs and it filled my boots.  It instantly blistered and skinned my feet.  Obviously it hurt a lot and I ended up having to have skin grafts, do six weeks of physical therapy and it left me with some really ugly feet!  The long-term result was that our IPA (which we had brewed that day) is known as Hotfoot, and it is a long-term reminder of how careful we have to be with chemicals and everything we do in the brewery.

Anything else to share? One of my favorite things about the job is the camaraderie between brewers which is like a brotherhood. We are all friends and have genuine respect for each other.  It’s awesome.

Those of us at the brewery think Cody is awesome. He is always willing to engage people in a conversation about beer and loves to share his voluminous knowledge with homebrewers.

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