Brewer Magazine Q&A: Joe Kurowski, White Labs Head Brewer

This is a part of a continuing series of Q&As with brewers from across the U.S.
Brewer Magazine will share business and personal insights from Brewmasters, Head Brewers, Brewing Managers and others each weekend to help you, a fellow brewer, Brewmaster or brewing manager get to know each other better in the industry and learn more to better develop your own brand.

Joe Kurowski, Head Brewer​/​Technical Manager Yeast Production​, White Labs — ​San Diego

BREWER: What is a lesson learned within your position that sticks with you to this day?

KUROWSKI: Stay ahead of it. It’s easier to stay ahead than catch up to mistakes. The more planning you put into it, the more proactive you are during the brewing process and the easier it is to overcome the hurdles that will come your way. This also means you have to measure the things that count, know what your fermentations should look like on paper, and act accordingly. Catching something out of the ordinary could be the difference between saving a struggling fermentation and dumping the product, which always hurt. At the end of the day, remember “it’s only beer.” You’re in the brewing world. Life happens. Mistakes will happen. Marketing will be spouting things off, bosses will demand things, production deadlines will approach faster than you want… but it’s only beer and you’re brewing it to make the world a little bit better.

BREWER: Who is your mentor in the industry and why? What have you learned from them?
KUROWSKI: Dr. Bamforth, Dr. Lewis and all of the UC Davis Brewing Program were all pivotal to my beer education. I think the collaborative community of craft brewers foments a spirit of continuing education, enthusiasm and passion. The energy is contagious.

BREWER: What has White Labs added lately that’s unique or making your business more successful?
KUROWSKI: Every beer is an experiment at White Labs. Our 20-barrel brewhouse splits the batches into 5BBL fermenters. We look at the fermentation profiles of different yeast strains or isolate variables such as oxygenation. This ongoing experimentation adds to our knowledge of fermentation and we share most of our data with other brewers to cultivate knowledge within the community. Additionally, we continue to make more efficient improvements and innovate with new processes and techniques both on the yeast and brewing sides of our business. Our on-site Analytical Lab has a bunch of toys to play so it’s fun to nerd out.

BREWER: What sort of innovations in craft beer excite you?
KUROWSKI: New styles and always striving to make better beer by combining the science and history of the craft.
BREWER: What is an important lesson learned?
KUROWSKI: I’ve learned in beer, that beer bets don’t cancel themselves out. If I owe you a beer and you owe me a beer, the total isn’t 0 beers owed, we both still have to buy the other person a beer.

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