Meet the Brewer-Two Beers Brewing
Meet the Brewer
Joel Vandenbrink: Brewmaster, CEO and Founder at Two Beers Brewing in Seattle, Washington.
Hometown: Holland, Michigan
Favorite Beer: Joel says that his favorite beer is one of his originals: Immersion Amber. It was the very first recipe he formulated and dates back to his home brewing days. Joel also notes that it was awarded a Gold Medal at the Great American Beer Festival (pretty much the highest honor a beer can receive), which helps him continue to appreciate this particular brew.
Beyond the Beer: Joel is a fearless hiker and backpacker. Hiking solo, he completed the Wonderland Trail, a grueling trek that circumnavigates Mount Rainier. In five days he covered 93 miles, with 22,000 feet of elevation gain/loss. He did it when he was at a low point in his personal life and says that it provided him with clarity of mind and helped him change the course of his life.
Another solo backpacking adventure took him to the John Muir Trail in California’s Sierra Nevada mountain range. In 10 days, he hiked 221 miles, with 47,000 feet of elevation gain/loss, from Yosemite Valley to Mount Whitney (highest peak in the 48 states). Joel says, “It kicked my butt, but it is the most beautiful hike I have done to date.”
Brewing Pedigree: Joel graduated from home brewer working in his kitchen to a licensed nano brewer working on a 15-gallon system. Then he graduated to a 15-barrel system and eventually to the tile of CEO and Founder.
His Story: Joel lived right around the corner from Bob’s Home Brew in Seattle’s Revenna/Bryant neighborhood. He was a motorcycle commuter in those days and scooted past Bob’s shop many times. One day he drove by in a car because his motorcycle was in the shop. He must have known he’d leave Bob’s place with something that couldn’t have carried on his motorcycle, so that’s the day he finally decided to stop in and take a look around. Since he was in a car, and not on his motorcycle, he was able to leave with his first homebrew kit, which set him back $150. I suppose you could say that his entire brewing adventure started because his motorcycle broke down.
He immediately started brewing in the kitchen of his 600 square foot condo. After a couple years of doing that, he reached a transition point in his life when he completed graduate school. That’s about the time he got the idea of starting a brewery, an idea he says was inspired by Schooner Exact Brewing, which had recently started brewing beer, 15 gallons at a time, in an ActiveSpace rental in West Seattle. Joel rented a 170 square foot space and got licensed as a real brewery. In those days, the term “nano-brewery” was relatively unknown. His was one of the first breweries to brew on such a small scale, something that is not unusual today.
That was in November of 2007. At the time, Joel figured he would keep his day job while making beer, trying to sell it, and learning about the trade. One thing led to another and he started to win awards. For instance, his Espresso Stout won an award at the Phinney Winter Beer Taste in Seattle, one of the city’s longest-running beer tasting events.
“That’s when people started to suggest that my little brewery needed to grow up,” says Joel. “Having complete naïveté as to the amount of work required, I put together a business plan and found investors to get me into my first official commercial space with my first official commercial brewhouse.”