Cape Cod at Work: Beer's the thing
NANTUCKET, Jan 22, 2013 (Cape Cod Times - McClatchy-Tribune Information Services via COMTEX) --
Jeffrey Horner bounces around inside his workspace, a modest area with a decor of wood and stainless steel.
Horner's job is part chemist -- and part alchemist. He's got creative control of his realm, located down the road from Bartlett's Farm, southwest of Nantucket's town center.
Horner is the brewmaster at Cisco Brewers, which was founded as a boutique beer maker by islanders Randy and Wendy Hudson in the 1990s and has grown to include a production deal with an upstate New York brewery and distribution as far away as Washington, D.C.
But Horner views his job in humble terms, citing one of his chief responsibilities.
"I'm basically a janitor," he says. "I keep things clean."
Cape Cod Times video: Beer Making: Its Trials and Tribulations
Constantly in motion, Horner hoses out stainless steel tanks and wooden barrels and keeps all the equipment involved in the brewing process sparkling clean.
That's an important part of his job, but it's just one aspect. He blends plenty of other skills into his job as well. The alchemy involves coming up with new beers and flavor combinations. He has a steady eye on the beer batches' temperatures and times. He picks out malts to be ordered, across Europe and elsewhere. And when those malts arrive, he lugs them around the brewhouse to concoct the beers.
And, especially in the summer, he morphs into tour guide as visitors stop by the Nantucket brewery to learn about the craft of beer making.
"I'm blessed with ownership that gives me complete creative freedom in here," says Horner, who took the job at Cisco in 2007.
Horner grew up in California and started home brewing nearly 20 years ago after a trip to Germany inspired him to tap into good beer. During his peak years, he was home-brewing 20 to 50 gallons a week -- yes, a week -- and giving his creations to home-brew clubs.
His years at the Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park, N.Y., helped steer him towards his calling as brewmaster.
Even a stint at the University of Maryland as a physics major helped him understand the science of beer making.
Before joining Cisco, Horner worked for a few years at Keegan Ales in upstate New York.
And part of his time now is spent in upstate New York as well, at the F.X. Matt Brewing Co. in Utica, where he monitors the quality of beer brewed there under contract.
Horner's job entails a mix of physical and mental challenges.
"Even one degree Fahrenheit can effect the quality of beer," he says.
When he started at the job, he created an ongoing series of beers aged in wood barrels. Some of the sour beers he created take three to five years to ferment, he says.
Last year, he ordered buckwheat for a special brew.
All of the company's specialty beers are brewed by Horner at Cisco's Nantucket brewhouse.
The opportunity to tap into creative ideas spurs Horner along.
"I have some inkling of what is going to come out of it, but it's fun to taste it," he says.
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