Silver City crew profiles: get to know the people that make your beer!
TALKING BEER WITH BRYCE
By Bill Mickelson
At first glance Bryce Johnson seems the shy, quiet type. His red-bearded frame moves breezily throughout the brewery, at times almost unnoticeably. It always seems like he’s pondering something. He’s got that look of an old salty craft beer philosopher.
But he’s only 26.
Bryce— a Tacoma resident and Fircrest native— works in the Quality Assurance and Quality Control division of Silver City. He’s our employee of the month for October.
Bryce has been with Silver City for just over a year, splitting his time between the lab and the pilot brewing / barrel aging program. He has made, or had a hand in making, a host of awesome small-batch specialty brews over the past year, including, most recently on tap: the Probably Awesome IPA and the Slice of Hefe’n grapefruit wheat ale. He also works on monthly cask beers, like Coconut Milk Stout and Basil Whoop Pass as well as Barrel-Aged and Sour series favorites like Le Fat, the Wiley Temptress blackberry sour and the Foxy Lady Flanders-style red.
In his spare time, Bryce counts yeast cells, helps out with cellar work, takes oxygen level readings and runs tests on tanks, bottles and cans throughout the brewery, helping to ensure that the freshest, finest quality Silver City beer reaches your glass.
I sat down with Bryce on the brewery’s mezzanine recently after he’d finished pitching yeast into the first batch of the upcoming seasonal Cold One Pilsner.
BILL: SO, LET’S TALK ABOUT BEER... WHAT WAS THE FIRST BEER YOU EVER DRANK?
Bryce: “Uh… craft beer, or…?”
FIRST BEER IN GENERAL.
“That’d probably be Budweiser.”
DO YOU REMEMBER THE MOMENT?
“Yeah… kinda. It sounds terrible, but when I was like eight, my dad gave me a sip of his Budweiser when we were in the laundry room,” Bryce says with a sly smile.
SO WHAT WAS YOUR FIRST CRAFT BEER THEN…
“It had to have been like a Mac and Jacks or Blue Moon, something of that variety. I moved on from that fairly quickly though.”
WHAT’S YOUR FAVORITE BEER?
“Uh… Favorite style, or...?”
“IPA’s... most likely.”
MAYBE TOP THREE FAVORITE BEERS THAT YOU’VE DRANK RECENTLY? MAYBE THE PAST MONTH? I’M SURE YOU DRINK A LOT OF BEER.
“Um… Old Schoolhouse has a really good IPA, so I’ve been having some of their beers. They’re from Winthrop.”
WINTHROP… SMALL TOWN?
“Yep….” Bryce pauses, trolling his brain. “S**t… what else have I had? … A lot of Silver City Beer.”
WHAT’S YOUR FAVORITE SILVER CITY BEER?
“Um… probably Nice Day,” he replies. “Well, Cold One is probably my favorite but it’s not in season right now.”
BUT IT’S ABOUT TO BE, WASN’T THAT THE BEER YOU WERE JUST SETTING UP THE PROP FOR? HOW COOL IS THAT?
“Yeah, that’s pretty rad.”
WAS THAT THE FIRST TIME YOU’VE PITCHED YEAST LIKE THAT?
“Yeah… First and second time, cause I did it on two tanks, one after another.”
WHAT’S THE MOST INTERESTING THING YOU’VE LEARNED, OR MOST INTERESTING THING YOU DO HERE?
“It’s been really cool learning the whole brewing process and how specific you need to be about certain things. I kind of do that at home as well, but I’ve been able to apply what I’ve learned here at home, which has been really cool... and beneficial to my homebrewing skills.”
HOW LONG HAVE YOU HOMEBREWED?
“For just about a year. I think the first home brew I had was the day I turned in my resume here.”
WHAT GOT YOU INTO HOMEBREWING?
“I’d wanted to work in a brewery for the past three or four years, but had just kinda been lazy about it. I don’t know, I was just working at a bar. I was involved with craft beer at a couple different places. I’ve always had an interest in it, I just never pushed myself to go into it. Until I got fed up with where I was working and wanted to try something new.”
“The first bar that I worked at, called The Milton Tavern, just closed it’s doors after thirty years… They always had good beers on tap. That’s where I went from Mac and Jacks and Blue Moon to Boundary Bay IPA. I remember seeing Silver City Red there also.”
MILTON? M-I-L-T-O-N? IS THAT IN TACOMA?
“It’s in Milton,” Bryce says, seeming slightly offended that I had to ask. “Yeah, so, there’s Fife, Milton and Federal Way, kind of a forgotten about blue collar town. It’s right by the EQC.”
“You know, The Emerald Queen Casino?”
OH, RIGHT, SEE I WAS THINKING THE OLD GROCERY STORE HERE IN BREMERTON…THE QFC. TOTALLY DIFFERENT. ANYWAY, AFTER ALL THOSE BARS AND STUFF HOW’D YOU END UP HERE?
“I was working at the Red Hot in Tacoma, the hot dog craft beer bar. And my bosses knew that I wanted to work at a brewery and that I’d been applying at a bunch of different places and my boss, Stew, told me how they were hiring for Brewers Assistants here. And I was like 'Ah, I don’t know, it’s in Silverdale, and that’s a long way away from Tacoma.'"
“And then me and my girlfriend went to this wedding, one of her friends, and it was out in Poulsbo, so on our way home we thought, ‘let’s just stop by the brewery.’ So we stopped by the restaurant, not knowing that it wasn’t a brewery, and they told us where it was, and we almost didn’t come, but we thought, ‘oh whatever, we’ll just stop by…’ And then when we got here, and it was closed. Cause it was on a Sunday. And we weren’t open on Sundays back then.”
“But Uriah was working so we came in, I gave him my resume, he gave us a little tour, and then I got a call Monday.”
LIKE THAT FOLLOWING MONDAY?
“Yeah… and then Wednesday I had my interview and then Gary told me on Thursday that I got the job.”
AND YOU CUT YOUR HAIR.
“Yeah,” he laughs. “But then I grew it back.”
WHICH LEADS TO ANOTHER GOOD QUESTION, HAVE YOU EVER BEEN IN A BEARD AND MUSTACHE COMPETITION?
“I have not actually," Bryce ponders the possibility. "I probably could do fairly well.”
DO YOU HAVE ASPIRATIONS? HAVE YOU EVER THOUGHT ABOUT IT?
“Umm… Not really.”
NO? MORE KIND OF A QUIET GUY?
“I did have a perm once though…”
YOU HAD PERM?! OH, WELL, DO TELL...
“For my brother’s wedding…” he laughs. “I got a perm. It’s in all the wedding photos. It was fun. My brother’s pretty cool, so he was chill about it.”
WHAT WAS THE PERM LIKE, UP OR DOWN?
“It was a big-ass fro… it was good times.”
WHAT’S YOUR SPIRIT ANIMAL?
“Uhh…. you know… probably... I am a Leo, technically, so maybe a lion?”
TECHNICALLY A LEO?
“I don’t necessarily believe in that stuff, so…”
YOU DON’T BELIEVE IN LEOS? OR LIONS? OR SPIRIT ANIMALS?
“Spirit animals… or virgos or any other of those signs.”
OK, I’LL CROSS OUT ALL THESE QUESTIONS I HAD ABOUT REINCARNATION... I HAD BUNCH OF THEM… SO WE’LL JUST WRAP IT UP WITH: WHEN YOU WERE A KID, WHAT DID YOU WANNA BE WHEN YOU GREW UP?
“When I was in kindergarten I wanted to be a taxi driver and a veterinarian. Cause I thought it would be cool to meet a bunch of people through the taxi and then, you know, help animals.”
WHOA, YOU ARE A SHREWD BUSINESS MAN, SIR.
“It was weird,” Bryce exhales. “I definitely did not do either of those.”
WHAT DO YOU WANT TO BE WHEN YOU GROW UP NOW?
“I wanna continue in the brewing industry. You know, obviously, a few years down the road, maybe start up my own brewery. I don’t have any solid concrete plans, but maybe…”
Thanks for reading, and be sure to check out our brewery crew profiles each month at http://silvercity.beer