Paul’s Wild Ride: An Exclusive Interview

When you send a resume to every brewery in the entire state and receive only one lone reply, you might assume the broad rejection would be enough to discourage anyone. This was not the case for Paul Bergeman, a young craft beer enthusiast fresh out of Fort Collins, Colorado at Colorado State.

First Steps Into The Craft Beer Industry

The only brewery that had showed interest in Paul -The Shoot -set up a phone

interview but it was instantly clear that his lack of experience took away any possibilities he had with them. Not to be deterred by this setback, Paul went and began to apply for distributing jobs. He got a job merchandising and stocking shelves in Portland and began to fully immerse himself in the brewing scene. While still doing that, he walked into Laurelwood located in Portland for lunch one day and asked if he could talk to the brewers.

“I got my way down into the brewery and I talked to the two brewers that were there and, ‘Yeah, you know, no opportunities for you right now, but…’”

I went back up to the restaurant and I asked them if they had any night opportunities. I started busing tables at night.

During the day, I would stock shelves and do shelves for a distributor, and then at night I started busing tables for Laurelwood. As I was doing that, I just kept bringing the brewers in my home brew and being that squeaky wheel.”

Eventually this time consuming endeavor became too much for Paul and he had to resign from Laurelwood and went back to only distributing. After about a month since leaving he received a phone call from a good friend that was brewing at Laurelwood, Jacob Leonard. Paul learned that his friend was taking a job as head brewer for Walking Man in Stevenson Washington and the conversation ended with his friend saying “You need to come back in and apply.”

Not three minutes after Paul hung up the phone, he got a call from the head brewer at Laurelwood, Christian Ettinger – who now owns Hopworks Brewery – which resulted in an interview. Both Christian and his coworker were expecting children within a week of each other so fortune had it that they needed somebody trained to brew immediately.

Within a few weeks Paul was brought on, brewing beer, washing kegs, and eagerly learning anything he could to help him get started in the steps of brewing in the craft beer industry. His path towards becoming a brewer was accelerated by need once he got his foot in the door and he continued to brew with Laurelwood for the next seven years, helping them open their second facility.

Moving on from Laurelwood, Paul pursued an opportunity with Kona Brewing in Kona Hawaii where he was hired as a salesman.

Aloha to Hawaii

While you may consider this a step back from what Paul was doing for Laurelwood, the risk soon paid off. After a year of working in Hawaii, which Paul had originally looked at as a fun adventure, he went from being a seller to becoming the brewing manager for the Kona operation which continued for four years.

Paul and his wife started a family in Hawaii and decided they wanted to go back to Oregon to raise their children around his family. He found an opportunity to come to Wild Ride and help them start an operation in Redmond.

“We had been searching around a little bit more selectively [on applying for breweries]. I joke about it, call it online dating, I guess that’s what everybody does now. You see something online and you start talking to people and create a relationship with people.

I knew that what the guys at Wild Ride were looking to do and it matched up what I was looking to do as well. I flew out in September of 2013 and met with Brian Mitchell who is the owner and manager here and he and I really got along well. I liked the building. I liked the location and it seemed like a good fit.

Our vision was to really focus on making beer and this was a great facility to do that. It had the room for us to put the kegs into. It had the room for us to grow. It already had the floor drainage which is a huge expense in breweries. We wanted to section off a thousand square feet of it for our tasting room.”

Paul’s Wild Ride to Redmond

By November 18th Paul had moved from Kona Hawaii to Bend and was helping set up Wild Ride. Their vision wasn’t to get into food, rather focus on the beer, so they looked for an option that let them manage operations, affect their time and capital into brewing instead of having to deal with a kitchen.

“They go hand in hand, so luckily our passion is beer and the food trucks passion is making food and we have a common place where they can do what they want. We do what we want and people can enjoy both.

In the beginning we had some people that were looking to do a food truck. That was the Food Fellas, and we’ve got a relationship with them as well. We knew they were looking to do a food truck and it just worked out well that we were looking to do the brewery.”

At Wild Ride Brewing, Paul tells us they like to provide a wide variety of beer for people to choose from.

“Most of the time we have 16 different beers on tap. We’re barrel aging, we’re souring, we’ve got a bunch of different IPAs which will all taste different, they are not all the same style.

Everybody has a flavor that works best for them. Their staple.”

What’s Next?

What’s next on the horizon for the guys at Wild Ride?

“We’re having fun, being creative, and enjoying the beers that we’re putting out. I think people are doing the same thing, that kind of fun spills over. Enjoying this spills over. We have a great staff here. We talk to them all the time. We want them to be doing the same thing, enjoying what they do here so when they talk about it, or go out and have a beer, they’re telling people that they’re enjoying what we’re doing. That shows, you know.

In addition, today we just purchased a bottling line and it just arrived. We’re looking to offer more bottles. We’ve been doing 22 ounce glass from the beginning, but we’ll be breaking into 12 ounce six packs this year.”

For recent accomplishments, Wild Ride Brewing was awarded a gold medal for the Electra-Fly IPA. Last year, Nut Crusher won six People’s Choice awards at different festivals and in the beginning of 2016 they were rated’s best in brewery of Oregon.

If someone was coming up in the brewing reigns like a cellar man, or a busboy at a restaurant, what would Paul recommend they do if the wanted to get into the craft beer world?

“That’s a great question. I think you’ve got to do a couple things. If you’ve been home brewing and you think that’s the direction that you want to go, you need to figure out what you want to do with it. Be honest to yourself. You don’t see brewers becoming millionaires, it’s a labor of love.

Giving yourself an opportunity to get to know the team, where you can learn a lot of different parts of brewing. It’s like somebody our size, you get your foot in the door. Here, you get an opportunity to start washing kegs.

You’re right around everything else, but washing kegs leads to filling kegs, starting to fill kegs leads to starting to clean tanks, cleaning tanks leads to getting on the brew deck. Working hard and paying attention to details along the way and showing people, being the leader by doing that I think that’s the way to become a brewer.”

At the end of a long work day, Paul says it’s about sitting down at the bar and seeing people around you, feeling like you’ve contributed to making a product that helps manufactures smiles, and that’s a great feeling.

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