Beer Alien, being fascinated with all things beer, has begun interviewing the local brewers in order to better understand the humans that make the beer we love so much. Through these interactions we hope to better understand and appreciate beer and the humans involved in making it.
We had the distinct pleasure of talking with Trevor Nearburg from Uncle Billy’s Brewery & Smokehouse in Austin, TX.
Beer Alien: How long have you been a professional brewer?
I started out stacking boxes in the packaging hall of Real Ale Brewing Company about two years ago. In a year I moved up through every position in the pack hall and became Assistant Brewer. I was in that position for about three months, at which point I became the Head Brewer for Uncle Billy’s.
Beer Alien: What is your favorite part of the job? least favorite part of the job?
Favorite Part: Collaborations! It always gives me the chance to try something new and share knowledge with other professionals in the industry.
Least Favorite Part: scrubbing floors, tanks, buckets, everything…
Beer Alien: How has your opinion of brewing beer changed from when you were a home brewer to now being a professional brewer?
I realized I wanted to be a professional brewer, rather than a homebrewer, when I went to work every day wishing I was in the garage brewing. My passion for beer has only grown as I gain access to more resources and as I gain experience. I would be very sad if I had to go back to a regular job and only brew on the weekends.
Beer Alien: When did you realize you wanted to be a professional brewer and how long after realizing did it take you to become a professional brewer?
A former girlfriend took me on a trip to Colorado and dd’d me all over the Denver area in October of 2012. I had an awesome tour at Avery and realized that not only was I very happy, but that everyone at all the breweries I visited was very happy with their jobs. There was nothing stopping me from leaving my job and pursuing a brewing career, so I decided to do it. My brother was homebrewing with me and it took no convincing whatsoever to get him to join me. He is now a manager at Real Ale.
Beer Alien: Share your most interesting brewing disaster.
It was my first brew as Head Brewer. I was pre-heating the mash tun using the steam jacket and completely forgot to turn it off for the mash-in. I de-natured all the enzymes immediately but tried to salvage the beer anyway. It didn’t ferment, so I decided to try out an enzyme that you add to the fermentor (please don’t hate me, It was a last ditch effort). It worked perfectly and the beer finished at 2 plato. However, it turns out the yeast I was using was super old and refused to flock out no matter how long I had it crashed. I tried to cool it down so much that I formed ice on the inside of the tank, which fell down in huge sheets towards the end of the transfer. THEN all the yeast finally decided to drop out in the serving vessel, leading to weeks of yeasty, mucky beer. Surprisingly, at the end of its life it came together rather well and was a crowd favorite in the restaurant. I have never told anyone this.
Beer Alien: For other home brewers that want to make the change, what advice would you give to them?
This industry will become your entire life. I really loved the beer community in Austin and don’t think I would enjoy what I do without their friendship and support. I really recommend getting to know your local brewers and spending time with your favorite ones. It will really give you a good idea of whether or not you want to do this for a living.
Beer Alien: On your days away from the brewery, what activities do you indulge in?
There are always beer events happening in Austin, so I usually end up at another brewery or hanging out with industry folks at craft beer bars. Usually if I have a weekend off I end up homebrewing with friends or other brewers since I have one of the nicest homebrew setups in town (sabco brewmagic).
Beer Alien: Do you have an experience that stands out above all others during your time as a a professional brewer?
One of my favorite things to do is go to the Alamo Drafthouse. The first time I went to go see a movie and I saw my beer on the menu I almost cried. I giggled to myself the whole movie. I get pretty emotional when I see people buying my beer or when I get to see my beer being served at places like the Circuit of the Americas.
Beer Alien: How long did you home brew before you became a professional brewer?
Very infrequently for about two years.
Beer Alien: Do you still home brew?
All the time. It’s much easier now.
Beer Alien: What was the first beer you brewed? What do you remember about the experience? (Come on, we all know the first time is an experience)
It was a minimash winter warmer with my brother and my dad. My dad still claims it was the best beer we ever brewed, but looking back on it there is no way that could be true. We brewed it on an electric stove, so it took about four hours to get to a boil, and then I just remember the three of us standing outside around the pot with a copper coil submerged in it trying to cool it down for about an hour at least. It was actually a really great experience and I think it really showed me how beer can bring people together in a fun and meaningful way.
Beer Alien: If you could give one piece of advice to new home brewers, what would it be?
My brother and I got too caught up trying to know everything before brewing something. You will never be able to make sense of any of this until you get your feet wet on your first batch. I can’t tell you how much it meant to me reading the Complete Joy of Homebrewing every time Charlie said to take a break, relax, and have a homebrew. So my advice is to not think too much about your first batch, and to realize that at the end of the day it is just beer. So have fun, throw some shit in the pot and make a beer out of it, then spend all the time you want trying to figure out how to make it better.
For more information about Uncle Billy’s Brewing & Smokehouse in Austin, TX visit them here: http://www.unclebillysaustin.com/
Be sure to follow us on Social Media as we invade more breweries and discover more awesome craft beers from all over the world! Cheers humans!