Curious about the brilliant minds behind some of the world’s best craft beers? So is The Wench, which is why I’ve started the “Inside the Mash Tun” brewer spotlight series featuring some of the most talented men and women in the craft beer industry.
Today I would like to introduce to Matt Van Wyk, the talented brewer with a slight-social-media-addiction at Oakshire Brewing. Okay, I jest about the addiction, but I’m serious when I say that Matt is one of the only brewers that “gets” and successfully uses social media. His keen insight and affinity for technology is most likely a result of his eduction at the University of Iowa (Big Ten, can I get a woot woot??!!!). Aside from stalking him on Twitter, I am also a huge fan of Matt’s beers — and I think that he is one of the most talented brewers in the industry. If you can seek out his beers, I highly recommend any and all of them — from his specialty one-off batches, to his more sessionable ales. Cheers!
Inside the Mash Tun: Matt Van Wyk
Brewmaster, Oakshire Brewing
Twitter handle: @OakshireMatt
How did you get into the craft beer industry?
After volunteering at a brewpub during my many breaks from teaching middle school and high school science, I took a chance for a short break from a steady, semi well paying job, to pursue brewing. That ‘break’ has lasted 12 years and I don’t see it ending anytime soon.
How long have you been brewing at Oakshire?
I just celebrated 3 years at Oakshire.
Out of all the beers you have brewed, what is your all-time favorite?
I am certain, like most, I can’t pick one. Nor can I pick my all time favorite offspring. Is it Nick or is it Ella? Tough to choose. If you made me (beer not kids), I might choose one I am most proud of. De Zuidentrein, a framboise of sorts, was awarded a silver in the Belgian sour category at the 2006 World Beer Cup. Since the gold was Rodenbach Grand Cru (my all time favorite beer) and bronze was a Dogfish beer (Festina Lente if I recall correctly), I felt I was in great company and am very proud of how that turned out.
What is your favorite beer and food pairing?
I love love love all things bleu cheese. Either paring a crisp IPA or a hoppy American Barleywine with it is bliss. Oh wait, stick a dark chocolate dessert with a tart raspberry beer and you have a wonderful marriage. Of course you can’t go wrong with grilled salmon and a hoppy pilsner beer in July. I like food, I guess….
What is the best part about working for Oakshire?
Oakshire is great for several reasons. First of all, we are one of the many craft breweries in the country who are experiencing phenomenal growth (60+% per year) and things change so fast you just have to put your head down and hold on. Secondly, I work for great people and have a great team of brewers. Our founder absolutely understands the industry and what we need to do to be successful and provides us the tools to get that done. Plus, we have such a positive environment, it’s a joy to go to work every day. Finally, I am blessed that my position allows me to not only design and brew nearly all of the small batch creative beers and manage the barrel aged program, but I get to be the face of the brewery and have the opportunity to attend beer dinners and special events. Its at events like this where I can meet all the wonderful people that choose to spend their money for what we make. It’s rewarding.
If you were a style of beer, what would you be and why?
While I am not particularly fond of the style, I guess I would fancy myself and old ale. First of all, I’ve been around a bit, getting better with age. On top of that, I warm and comforting, like a familiar friend. And as I warm up to you, more of my complexities are revealed to you. I’m not flashy, but you’d probably enjoy consuming me with a bowl of carbonnade and a roaring fire.
Outside of craft beer, what are some of your other hobbies and interests?
I spend as much time with my kids as I can and try to do it outdoors. If I had more time outside of work and kids, I would be hiking, biking, camping, skiing, sledding, boating, crabbing….
And lastly, what does craft beer mean to you?
My boss probably liked the compliment above, but may or may not like this. I wonder if he reads Drink with the Wench?? Craft Brewing, while a business, seems to me to be far from it. I feel this way because craft beer, to me, means making something of great quality, which has great value to the craftsman and to the consumer, but does not concern itself with costs and margins. It does not worry about focus groups and flashy advertising. Craft Beer is a creation more from the heart than from the mind. Passionate people creating unique and mind blowing experiences for the people who choose to consume it, is what craft beer means to me. I suppose that’s why I work for a brewery and don’t own one.
Want to see one of your favorite brewers featured? Just leave a note in the comment section below or shoot me an email!