Brewer apprenticeship: bridging the gap from hobby to profession

Orono Brew Company is quickly approaching the point that grains can be mashed in, hops added, yeast pitched and beer consumed. Their brewhouse fabrication is complete and will be arriving any day now, if it hasn’t already, the tasting room is nearly complete, but is the brewer ready?

I sat down with Asa Marsh-Sachs at Nocturnem Draft Haus for a drink and a chat about his continued education over the past couple months. Asa is an accomplished homebrewer, having been involved in the hobby for seven years, immersed in the homebrew scene while working in homebrew shops. At Central Street Farmhouse, Asa was face to face with homebrewers on a daily basis, tweaking recipes, talking process and troubleshooting issues. It would be difficult to work surrounded by brewing supplies and bubbling buckets and not have a dream to move forward, go pro, and now it’s happening. so how does the transition happen? Not every homebrewer takes that leap, and those that do often take the risk and jump right in, Asa has not, instead he’s taken his leave from Central Street Farmhouse and begun down the path to commercial brewing by getting in an operating brewhouse.

Who have you been brewing with to get into the swing of commercial brewing?

Foundation and Geaghan’s, I had other places I could have gone but I didn’t have the time too, I’ve spent the bulk of my time at Foundation, just because I know Joel really well and I’ve never seen anyone research opening a brewery like those guys.” Asa continued “When I asked Joel what the best thing he did to get ready to open a brewery was, he said “Interning at another brewery” which he did at Baxter Brewing, so I was like, Shit, well I want to do that with you.”

Foundation Brewing Company's Sign at One Industrial Way

Foundation Brewing Company’s Sign at One Industrial Way

What are some of the differences between homebrewing and brewing on the larger system you’ve picked up?

“A lot of what I got out of it was not so much the making of beer aspect of it, but, ‘where did you get this from’ and ‘who’s your hop supplier, grain and chemical supplier’, or ‘what’s your CIP regimen’ and things like how not to blow tanks up, that’s something really good to know.”

Any tips or tricks you picked up while brewing with Geaghans or Foundation?

“All the different hoses, connectors, using CO2 to push things, cleaning regimen and how not to get covered in beer which will probably still happen but Joel would be like ‘if you push this and open this, you’ll get covered in beer’ so, that was good to know, even at Geaghans, same thing, how not to get soaked”

Wort flowing through a sight glass. Photo Courtesty of Asa Marsh-Sachs, Orono Brewing Company

Wort flowing through a sight glass. Photo Courtesy of Asa Marsh-Sachs, Orono Brewing Company

Has the thought of scaling up and working on a new system changed any of the beers you planned on brewing?

“No, no, it’s changed my recipes and it’s changed how I will do things on a commercial system, before you knock it out into the fermenter, before you start chilling you whirlpool, so instead of adding hops at 5 minutes why not add them in the whirlpool?” Asa continued “Also, as a homebrewer I’ve had a lot of fun playing with things like Brett, which I won’t be doing initially, I know that”

How has your entrance into the Maine Beer Scene been?

“Fantastic, the most welcoming thing ever, like everyone is so positive about it, it’s been so cool, we joined the [Maine] Brewers Guild immediately, which was highly helpful, just being with them, Sean’s [Sullivan] been great, I’ve had zero push back, everyone just wants everybody to make better beer, and I think that’s important, and that’s why Geaghans and Foundation opened their doors to me”

(L-R) Andrew Geaghan Head Brewer, Ryan Power Head Brewer, Donne Larrivee Assistant Brewer, Brian Sturgeon Assistant Brewer, Asa Marsh-Sachs

(L-R) Andrew Geaghan Head Brewer, Ryan Power Head Brewer, Donne Larrivee Assistant Brewer, Brian Sturgeon Assistant Brewer, Asa Marsh-Sachs. Photo courtesy of Asa Marsh-Sachs

My chat with Asa came to an end when the band started playing, He has a clear vision as to what he wants to do, he’s put in the time learning what he can from established brewers and his next obstacle will be feeling out his new brewing system, figuring out what he needs to do to meet his numbers and produce a consistent, quality batch of beer. Listening to Asa talk I can pick up a clear sense of confidence in his own abilities, he never says “I hope” or “maybe” but “I can” and “I will” when talking about the beer and brewing, and he still stays humble, admitting that the next few months and beyond will continue to be a learning experience.

Thanks to Asa Marsh-Sachs for taking the time out to chat with me about his experience apprenticing with Geaghan Brothers Brewing and Foundation Brewing Company, Additionally a thanks to Geaghans and Foundation and all the breweries out there who open their doors to up and coming brewers looking to continue their education, we the beer drinkers of Maine and beyond appreciate the extra effort to ensure that beer being produced here in Maine is of the highest quality.


Chad Lothian

About Chad Lothian

Chad Lothian lives in Old Town, Maine. He is a craft beer enthusiast and homebrewer. Chad has travelled to brewpubs, breweries and brewfests all over New England.