Master Brewer of the month: JP Williams
More than a decade ago, Johannes von Trapp started thinking about founding a brewery at his family’s lodge in Stowe, Vermont. His dream was to brew a special American version of lagers that he had enjoyed while traveling to the countryside near his ancestral Austrian home. With this project in mind, Johannes worked to start a brewery at Trapp Family Lodge,the Von Trapp Brewing. Today his dream has become reality and the 30,000 sq. ft. brewery features a Rolec Brewhouse and can produce up to 36,000 barrels of beer annually.
Let’s know more about the Von Trapp Brewing and its Master Brewer John Patrick Williams, thanks to this brand new interview!
John, when did you start your career as a master brewer? Are there any funny stories you would like to tell us about this period?
I began my career at Magic Hat Brewing company in South Burlington VT 16 years ago. They bought a Rolec brewhouse many years ago. I was a young fella back then and thought I knew how to drink until I meet the Rolec crew. It was very humbling seeing these fellas work as hard as they do yet find time to “enjoy” the fruits of their labors after a long day/week. I could barely walk after working a day with those fellas, I just wanted to go home and crash, but after a long day having a few pints with the team, it was well worth it.
Which beer do you enjoy making best? And why?
Helles is my absolute favorite to make and enjoy with company. Its such a delicate beer and as a brewer you need to be on top of your game as any imperfections will stand right out and prove that you aren’t that talented.
You enter a beer store and can only buy 3 different beers that do not come from your brewery. Which would you choose and why?
- Lost Nation Gose: love the style, love the guys who brew it and love the story about its history.
- Hoppebrau Helles: love that style as mentioned above. Marcus is a great brewer and an even better person. His beers are super clean, and I love what they do in Bavaria. Please send more 🙂
- Ayinger Altbairisch Dunkel: We don’t have the best selection of German beers in the states, but I am always on the look out for this style from these guys. City beer at its best.
Is there a beer that you haven’t managed to taste yet and that you have been chasing after for ages?
I don’t know if it’s a good or bad thing, but I have enjoyed most if not all styles from here to around the world!!! Any time I’m out of the states though I peruse the Bavarians styles as that is my jam.
Outside of the brew house, what do you enjoy doing? In other words, what are your hobbies?
Being in Stowe Vermont we are very lucky to be surrounded by mountains, and that is where you’ll find me with my family if not behind this beautiful brewhouse. Skiing in the winter is the best way to pass the time. I have a young family and it is great to watch the kids carve and rip down the mountain. In the summer it is a great opportunity to go on hikes/camping trips and enjoy our beautiful scenery the is around us. We love the mountains, and I am passing that love down to my children.
Do you think the aesthetic aspects of a beer bottle or can is important (artwork, label, etc.)?
Its not that important to me. It’s not what is on the outside, but what is inside that matters. We can and bottle, so I see both sides of it. I still lean towards bottles as that fits our style better, but it’s a lot easier to pack in cans on a ski trip that having bottles rattle around in my pack.
Which other brew master would you like to work with? Can you explain why?
Markus Hoppe-we did a collaboration here in Stowe a few years back. We used a lot of cone hops in our fermenters, which was something we don’t normally do. It was a blast. He just built a really good looking (Rolec) brew house and we need to hold up our end of the plan and brew over in Bavaria. Can’t wait for that trip!!!
Which advice would you give to someone willing to choose this profession?
Take your time, slow down and enjoy the scenery because it can change very quickly both for the good (crazy sales and more and more markets) and the bad (long hours away from families)
Is producing beer technique only, or is there room for improvisation?
Our style here at vTb is technique. We make certain styles that really don’t have much room for improvisation. (not many helles’ that have fruit and spices or crazy hoping in them ha ha) Although we just installed the DryHopnik which is allowing us to break the mold and make some hoppy German ales that showcase a particular style of hop and that is quite improvisational.
The soundtrack of your day in the brew house (Max 10 tracks).
Grateful Dead-Row Jimmy
Old Crow Medicine Show-Don’t Ride That Horse
Pearl Jam-Off He Goes
Creedence Clearwater Revival-Long as I can See the Light (great runoff song)
Bob Marley and The Wailers-Positive Vibration
Neil Young-Everybody Knows this is Nowhere
Old & In The Way-I Ain’t Broke (But I’m Badly Bent)
The Band-The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down
Of all the beers that you have tried, which would you choose for these occasions:
1. Christmas with the family:
2. your birthday:
3. a day at the swimming pool:
it would def be Christmas with the family. That is my all-time favorite holiday to stoke a wood fire, enjoy some lagers and be with my family. I love that time of year as it is a joyous time to celebrate with your friends and loved ones and reflect on the year you just had. Not to mention we usually have great snow then so getting in a few days on the mountain are usually tied in.
If your favourite beer was a film, which film would it be? What features do they both have in common?
Beerfest is the cheesy thing to say here but it is a requirement prior to working here. “I remember my first beer” Just such a silly movie but kind of shows how we shouldn’t be so serious about life in the brewing industry.
What is your first memory about beer?
When I was 16 with my family at the Guinness brewery at Saint James Gate. What a site to behold in my teen life, kind of gave me an idea to what career path to choose. Obviously, my tastes have changed for styles, but it was cool having a few stouts with my family.
Is there an expression about beer that you hear people say all the time and that you can’t stand? And why?
I never understood how people say the beers talk to them. How do they talk to you? How much have you had to drink prior to them taking to you?
A question of your choice: ask yourself a question that you would have expected but that no-one has ever asked you. And give yourself an answer.
Do brewers all have beards and wear flannels…No they do not.
Can an equipment “make the difference” during the production process of a beer? In which way?
Absolutely. We have the best Brewhouse manufacture in the world. That plus the awesome team and ingredients we have makes our beer what it is.
Which equipment of the CFT Group are you working with? Which are its main advantages for your production process?
We have Rolec Brewhouse and a CFT filler. My favorite equipment would be the brewhouse. The quality of work that your team puts into each piece of equipment is epic. The support you get from Wolfgang and his crew is incomparable to any other company I’ve worked with in the past.
Thank you John! Last question: a special greeting for our readers!
“May those who love you love you; and those who don’t love you, may God turn their hearts.
And if He doesn’t turn their hearts, may he turn their ankles so you’ll know them by their limping.”
Trapp Family Brewing on the web: