Zen and the art of brewing

For Jeff Joslin, a career in craft beer didn’t come with an aha moment.
“It was more an organic love for beer,” he says.

No one walks the same path, and chatting with Joslin, brewhouse manager at Left Hand Brewing Company, you get the impression that his career in beer is more a product of perspiration than inspiration—one that started with a well-rounded liberal arts education.

“But,” Joslin says with a smile, ”like every English major out there, I started bartending after college.”

Tending bar did the trick for a while, but Joslin knew it wasn’t going to last. As he approached 30, he needed a change.

“[I] knew a guy whose brother was in the beer industry in Portland, and everything sounded like that would be a good fit,” Joslin recounts. “[Brewing is] hands-on, it requires creativity, you have to be able to think critically, solve problems; it’s a physical job, but it also requires mental aptitude.”

It also requires cleaning. A lot of cleaning. Luckily for Joslin, his attitude was ready-made for the position.

“All the cleaning is very Zen,” Joslin says. “If you’re really going to make a life out of it, you kind of have to be comfortable and accept that…I enjoy the simplicity of the physical aspect of that.”

It worked. After three years with Rogue Ales in Ashland, Oregon, Joslin relocated to Left Hand to work as one of the brewers. That was five years ago. Now, as brewhouse manager, Joslin oversees the hot side of production for Left Hand’s 60–65,000 barrels of beer per year.

“I oversee recipes and batch logs and processes through the brewhouse,” Joslin explains. “When it goes to the cellar, it becomes the cellar manager’s responsibility, and together we oversee the entire brew staff.

“All brewers here work both in brewhouse and cellar, unlike a lot of other places, where either you’re only a cellarer or only a brewer,” Joslin continues. “We’ve experimented with both models, and all the brewers, unanimously, prefer the variety.”

That’s not the only area where Left Hand allows for overlap; recipe creation is just as collaborative.

“No one gets into craft beer because they want to make someone else’s beer,” Joslin explains. “They want to own something.”

And with their seven-barrel pilot system, every department at Left Hand has a chance to create something new.

“We’ve done over 100 beers through there,” Joslin says. “We use it for recipe development, and we use it as a creative outlet.”

According to Joslin, Left Hand’s sales team will try their hand at creating a beer in December, with the tasting room staff getting a crack at it in January. Both will be on tap in the tasting room in due time.

A version of the above interview first appeared in the pages of Boulder Weekly Vol. 26, No. 16, “Profiles in brew: Jeff Joslin of Left Hand Brewing Company.”

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