The journey from dope-ass home brewer to hardcore (and respected) pro is a long road. It involves plenty of mistakes, lots of trial and error, and a fair bit of fumbling. Docent Brewing’s head brewer Bryan Geisen has walked that road, taken those lumps, and learned a hell of a lot along the way. Today, Geisen brews up tasty beer in the O.C. (don’t call it that) but it was a ten-year hike to travel from his backyard to the professional brewing floor.
We sat down with Geisen recently to talk about what, exactly, it took for him to make it in the pros. This isn’t an overnight success. This is about working hard and sticking to your guns while being adaptable and open to partnerships. That’s really the only way any brewer (or chef or creative or writer or…) can make it the world. Geisen had the chops to make the beer but he needed a support system to give that beer to the world. He found his beer family in Docent Brewing and, now, the San Juan Capistrano brewery is serving some seriously tasty suds from their taps.
If you love beer, enjoy the read and check out Docent’s Taproom the next time you’re in Southern California. They’re also throwing a two-year anniversary bash in March if you’re looking for the perfect time to try Bryan’s brews.
Let’s start at the beginning, what drove you to start home-brewing in your kitchen and backyard?
I think most homebrewers would say at some point beer meant enough to them to try and learn about how it’s made, and what goes into the process. The other drive, for me, was that I’ve always gotten a kick out of sharing things I’ve made with friends and family. It just comes from a love of beer and wanting to know what goes into it and how it’s made.
What was it like brewing your first batches of beer?
Things really seemed to click for me with the first couple batches I brewed. That turned into this kind of middle of the night recipe writing, obsessing over books, and digesting as much as I could about the process. From there, I realized that this hobby can be the cheapest or most expensive thing you get into. Foolishly, I thought I might be saving money on beer when I started making it myself. Then I started adding equipment and getting more serious about it. That’s when it hit another level where, cost-be-damned, I started trying to make the best beer I could.
What was your day job when you started homebrewing?
While I was in high school I started working for a ticket company. We sold event tickets and that developed into a career. I was at that same gig for 17 years. It was a very steady gig, and, you know, very comfortable. Then I took this leap, which has been just an incredible, transformative process for me.
How big was your brewing kit when you started out? Was it the classic five-gallon pot on the stove or a little more elaborate?
Yep. I used an extract kit and did it on the stove in the kitchen. I was quickly was kicked outside by my wife. It was one of those things where I did a couple of extract kit brews where I felt like I had an idea for most of the process. But it didn’t really feel like I was brewing.
What was your next step?
From there, I started brewing some malt grain batches of beer. Then I got the competition bug. I got hooked on getting feedback from outside my friends and family.
I hear that. Friends and family are going to be, “Oh, yeah, that tastes great man!” when the beer is free.
The price was right, that’s for sure.