What’s Brewing From UNH? Part 2

What’s Brewing From UNH? Part 2

the hop yardThe time has come to add to the Wildcat craft beer family. This time around I decided to go with a more personal take. To be honest, there are not as many in part two, so I had the opportunity to get to know more about each and every one of these fellow Wildcats. If you recognize the bottle to the left, that is because it was one of the many breweries that was featured in the last blog and they just happened to partner with The Hop Yard.

Geoff Keating ’07 contacted me via UNH Tales and told me that he had no idea that his communications degree could be so versatile. Because of the flexibility within his major he was able to explore other classes that UNH had to offer. His senior year he ended up in the classroom of a professor who he found to be truly inspiring. The late Joseph Durocher taught his class Beverage Management/International Wine (HMGT 771) to explore the flavors and nuances that existed within quality wines, beers, and spirits. It was at that time he set out to explore flavors of the craft beer world.

In 2011, Geoff decided to pursue the passion that originated in professor Durocher’s classroom and started The Hop Yard. Understanding the relationship of terroir to the wines of the world, Geoff explored the prevalence of regionally sourced raw materials for the beer industry and found nothing of those sorts. Living in Portland, Maine, a community densely populated with brewers, he proposed the idea of locally grown and processed hops being available for these brewer’s beers. Let’s just say they liked the idea, but had their doubts about how this was going to happen.

The Hop Yard came to life in Northern Maine’s Aroostook county (say that 5 times fast! eek!). They planted 1000 hop bines and went on to prove all those brewers wrong. The next year the business expanded its acreage to its current location in Gorham, Maine. The Hop Yard now manages 10 acres of planted hops, making them the largest grower of hops in Maine. They are getting the attention of all of Maine’s whopping 55 brewers and are even acting as role models for any others who are joining the hop growing trend. Geoff and his team are not stopping now! They are continuing to grow their business through an expansion into hop processing, where they take raw hops and turn it into something that can stored and distributed year round.

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Brett Bauer ’10, assistant brewer at Idle Hands Craft Ales/Enlightenment Ales, graduated UNH with a degree in chemistry. It was at UNH where Brett sparked his interest in brewing. He first started home-brewing after an assignment in a speech writing course taught by Professor Michael Jackson.  Students were asked to write a “how-to” speech and present in front of the class. One student spoke on how to make a batch of beer using an at-home beer kit. He was already curious about exploring the craft beer world, but that meant picking up a new six pack at the Durham Marketplace (DUMP) each time he went. Soon after, his uncle sent Brett his old beer making equipment; which mainly consisted of a 5 gallon bucket with a lid. He figured he needed help from some friends with an apartment in Dover. The process was a mess and it turned out pretty horrible but that didn’t stop those guys from brewing again.

After Brett graduated UNH, he got a job working in biotech manufacturing in Watertown, MA.  He still had that interest in craft beer; so Brett would volunteer for beer tests put on by a locally based forum called BeerAdvocate. He did most of his beer buying at a local shop called Craft Beer Cellar in Belmont, MA. The day they announced that they were franchising, he made a joke to one of the owners that he’d love to help out at one of their new stores if they ever needed it.  Very seriously she replied “send us an email.” Sure enough, they were serious and hired him just to work at their flagship store on Sundays. Brett was the genius that figured out that he could keep his biotech job for the pay and benefits AND get to work at a craft beer shop in town! Through working at Craft Beer Cellar he made many connections, one of those connections was Chris Tkach ’96, founder and president of Idle Hands Craft Ales.

 One day Chris asked Brett to help him out with growler hours (later shift) at Idle Hands Craft Ales. Since then, Chris was kind enough to invite him back for bottling sessions, growler hours and representing IHCA at local festivals. The video above can give you an idea of what he was doing (courtesy of Idle Hands Facebook page). A few months ago, Brett decided to really dive into the industry by applying for the Greg Noonan Scholarship to the American Brewers Guild Intensive Brewing Sciences and Engineering course. Brett has used this degree in chemistry to fulfill prerequisites that he needed to apply for the Intensive Brewing Sciences and Engineering program with the American Brewers Guild. He needed two letters of recommendation, one of which being from a professional brewer.  Good thing Brett just happened to know one! When he asked Chris to write one of the letters for him, he offered him an assistant brewers position right on the spot. He would have to watch his genius plan crumble, and stop working his biotech tech position. Brett was in a predicament and he was not to comfortable with it. In reality, Brett was just handed an opportunity at his dream job. That night he called Chris back to accept, gave his two weeks notice at the lab the next day.

Christopher Tkach ’96 graduated UNH with a degree in civil engineering. During his time here he started doing as many others like him did – he started home-brewing. He  lived off campus for much of his time at UNH.  His last year and half was in an off-campus house that used to be called the Joke House. There he lived with 8 other guys who were more than happy to be his guinea pigs when it came to learning how to brew. Much of Chris’s involvement in the craft beer industry stems from being an avid home-brewer. He used to enter many of his home-brewed beers in contests and eventually started to win awards for them.  That unsolicited and unbiased feedback helped to shape Idle Hands, although he didn’t know it at the time. Chris knows a thing or too about taking risks. Idle Hands also gave him the confidence that made him able to produce a high quality product that went beyond the “Yeah, I would buy this” feedback that friends would often give. Before Chris opened Idle Hands, he had zero professional industry experience. Since then he has learned a lot from those first couple of years and continues to learn to this day.

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g0a0000000000000000fc059b8f3ba9db1953526b166f695b822bbff9faChris Webb ’92, ‘01G is co-founder and CEO of the Newburyport Brewing Company. NBPT is one of the fastest growing micro-breweries in the United States! He also comes from a long UNH family legacy. His father, Dwight Webb, was a UNH professor of psychology for more than thirty years. His mother, Nancy Webb ’75, ‘77G was a psychotherapist in Durham and adjunct faculty at UNH. Chris’ brother, John Webb ’91, ‘87G has been adjunct faculty in the department of psychology for at least three years now. Long story short, he bleeds blue!

Chris wants to create happiness for everyone! The one thing that Chris stressed is that it’s not just about the beer. NBPT puts on art shows and concerts, sponsors local music talent, and even houses some festivals from time to time. Chris created the tasting room for the community. He wants NBPT to be a place where Newburyport residents can gather and have fun. There is not a doubt in my mind that this mission was accomplished. See for yourself, here is a look at my visit with Chris and the rest of the NBPT crew.


Trevor Bland is different than every other Wildcat that I have been introduced to in the beer business. He is the science behind the operation at the Redhook Brewery in Portsmouth. He works as a chemist for Redhook and makes sure that each and every batch of beer is free of any elements that may change the way the beer tastes. It really is much more complex than that, but I figured, that like myself, most of you are not scientists. Trevor is a two-time Wildcat.  Trevor was not always interested in the beer business, but he took the Beverage Management/International Wines (HMGT 771) class when he was a senior and he was exposed to a lot of opportunities in the business. He graduated with a degree in biochemistry as an undergrad in 2010. He soon began working at the Dover Wine & Brew where his journey to Redhook began. He started at Redhook as a tour guide. While finishing up his masters at UNH, he had began to study yeast and soon Redhook took notice to his hard work and offered him a position as a chemist. Trevor graduated from UNH with a masters in chemical education in 2012. He has now come back to UNH with the idea of a collaborative study with some of the undergraduates involving yeast. Today, Trevor is working diligently to make Redhook even more successful than it already is. He hopes that the collaborative study will aid other Wildcats in becoming successful as well.


Chris Valade: director of brewery operations at Redhook Ale Brewery (Courtesy of SeacoastOnline.com)

Trevor is not the only Wildcat that is at Redhook. He introduced me to Chris Valade while we were chatting… Chris went to UNH and better yet, so did his wife, Sarah (Goodman) Valade ’04! We have a Wildcat couple on our hands. Their picture on the Pinterest board will follow shortly. Chris ’95 graduated with a degree in medical laboratory science with the intent of going into the medical field. Chris was in for a surprise when he ended up the director of brewery operations at Redhook!

The second semester of his senior year was a split internship; half the semester at Mary Goodall Memorial Hospital in the clinical Microbiology lab, and then at The NH Dept. of Public Health Microbiology Laboratory in Concord, where he focused on yeast identification.  Soon after he graduated, Redhook was looking for a lab technician whose primary focus would be a yeast surveillance survey.  That internship in Concord is what landed him the job. It was through Chris’ job at Redhook that he met his wife Sarah, a UNH hospitality management graduate. She was a recent grad working on the retail side before moving off to culinary school in California for the Fall.  When she returned, they started dating and were married in ’09. Chris has shown that everyone’s career may not end up in the path that they think it is going to go in. He is an example of how a Wildcat can truly evolve. Chris had some advice that he wanted his fellow Wildcats to know; “Your dream job is out there. Work hard, Be patient and passionate, You will succeed and find the that career that you will love and be proud of.”

Thanks to Steve Gallant ’15 for producing the UNH videos.