As fans old and new know, here at Summit Brewing Co. we’ve built our brand and beer on quality, consistency and continual learning. We pride ourselves in our experimentation when it comes to brewing ingredients and technique, as well as our desire to expand our knowledge of the industry as a whole.
A huge way we hold up our mission is through the talent that makes up our Summit team. This includes, but is not limited to, our stellar brew squad. Not only do they each bring a masterful knowledge of beer to the table, but they also have an insatiable desire to learn.
So, we’d like to introduce you to the members of our awesome Summit brewing team. Last year, we met brewer Melissa Rainville. Then, in September we learned about Summit’s Lead Brewer Mike Lundell. Now, let’s meet one of the newest members of the team, Joel Weyenberg.
Let’s start at the beginning, what made you want to learn more about beer and to get into the brewing industry?
While I was going to school for food science I became inspired by the fermentation side of things. Learning about different fermented foods and beverages was fascinating to me. It quickly spiraled out of control when I started brewing beer at home. From there the creative side of my brain went wild, using fun and exciting ingredients to create beers that were different from the generic beers I was used to drinking.
Basically, to sum it up, the ability to use science and be creative made me want to this for a living.
It’s always fascinating to learn about the different ways brewers have gotten involved in this trade! So, it sounds like you were going to school for a different subject – did you end up studying brewing as well?
I went to the University of Wisconsin-Stout in Menomonie, Wisc. for a degree in food science. I was fully intending on working in a food lab or test kitchen prior to falling in love with brewing beer.
Aside from that, I’ve taken several courses from the Siebel Institute in Chicago and attended numerous seminars regarding all things beer. You could say my education is ongoing.
In an industry as vast as brewing I think it’s important to always be open to learning! It’s also one of the key pillars here at Summit Brewing, so it seems like a great fit! With that, what does being a Summit brewer mean to you?
After being in the industry since 2013 it’s honestly an honor to have the opportunity to work here and brew Summit beer. There really is a legacy around the brand, and it’s nice to be a part of it. I enjoyed my time and the experience I gained working at some of the other wonderful Minnesota breweries but there something special about working for the brewery, that in my opinion, set the standard for Minnesota craft beer.
That leads perfectly into my next question! You mention that in your opinion Summit helped set the standard for Minnesota craft beer, can you expand on that?
To me Summit is Minnesota craft beer. There is such a legacy to Summit, if there’s a beer style out there Summit was probably one of the first in the state to make it and make it well. Every craft beer drinker in Minnesota knows our core brands like EPA and Saga. I think Summit truly sets the standard for consistent beer.
Outside of Summit, what beer do you think helped define the craft?
There are so many wonderful craft breweries in Minnesota and nationally. Some of the big ones that inspired me would be New Belgium, Sierra Nevada, and Dogfish Head. All of them make consistently great beer and continue to make interesting styles with unique ingredients.
It truly is inspiring to think about all the amazing colleagues we have in this industry, both in our state and across the country. So, you mentioned that you fell in love with brewing while in school for food science but I’d love to hear about your early experiences with the product – beer. What was the first beer you ever had?
Great question I feel like I’ve had many first beers. My folks definitely let me try a sip on occasion of what was in the fridge which was most likely some Leinenkugel’s Original or Honey Weiss. I was lucky enough to have lots of great options when I turned 21. My first legal beer was Lucette Brewing’s Slow Hand Stout in Menomonie, Wisc. and my first Minnesota craft beer was Lake Superior Brewing’s Kayak Kolsch. Followed shortly by beers from Schells and Summit.
In thinking about some of these first beers, and how far we’ve come as an industry, what are some challenges you feel the brewing industry faces? What do you think the future of beer is in 2021?
Keeping customers interested in what we’re putting out there when there are so many options in the alcoholic beverage world. With the popularity of seltzers, hard sodas, crazy fruit puree beers and hazy things increasing who knows what will be next.
If I had to guess the trends that will continue in 2021 would be that of hoppy IPA’s and other exotic fruit flavored beers. Now, if it were up to me it would be the year of traditional German and English style beers like lagers, milds and pale ales!
We love our lagers here at Summit Brewing! Returning to your role here, can you give a little insight into what it looks like to be the early morning brewer on the team?
That alarm comes quick in the morning when you’re on the early brewing shift! Start times vary from midnight to 3 a.m. As the morning brewer you are the first one in the building, so you’re tasked with making sure everything is working properly throughout the brewhouse and cellars. Lots of little things such as turning on lights, water pumps and making sure the boiler is running. We also monitor the temperatures of the fermenters and bright tanks in the cellar. And cleaning, don’t forget cleaning! Some days it’s scrubbing or mopping floors and other days it’s running CIP’s on brewing vessels.
Without getting too technical, typically you start your day by mashing in the first batch and starting to the mill the grain for the second batch. From there, it’s off to the races weighing hops and loading silos with bags of specialty malt, as the wort is collected from the later tun into the boil kettle. Once all the wort is collected, we check the sugar content and boil the wort and add hops throughout the boil. After boiling the beer is cooled and pumped back into the cellars to ferment.
Our four-vessel system here at Summits allows us to brew back-to-back beers pretty close to each other, roughly 4-5 hours apart on average. So, in a normal day the morning brewer can be involved in several different batches before handing things over to the next shift.
Wow! It sounds like those mornings can get pretty busy! In addition to being the morning brewer, you’re also one of Summit’s newer brewers, joining the team just under two years ago. How do you think your perspective as one of the newer brewers with Summit shapes the team?
I hope that my perspective is one of fresh eyes and innovative ideas, coming from some smaller breweries where the model was always something new and exciting on tap and lots variety.
That being said I think I’m a pretty even-keeled guy that doesn’t like to rock the boat too much and I really appreciate the different beers we already offer and the way we do things here.
That sounds like a very important perspective to bring to the team – engaged in the tradition and legacy while also thinking of ways to invite innovation in. A very Summit approach! So, I have to ask, what is your favorite Summit beer?
Hardest question by far, but I would have to say Dakota Soul Craft Lager.
Again, we love our lagers at Summit! Last question, why do you love working at Summit?
First and foremost, I love drinking Summit beer!
The company from the top down is great! The people that work here are hard-working and friendly. It’s easy to be proud of the products we put out the door and to enjoy some pints in the taproom with those who make it all happen.