The Brewmaster

Accounting skills equal nothing in the world of enzymes. Personnel management knowledge is of little use when your workers are yeast cells. So why would a guy with a Business Management degree from the University of Nevada, Reno, want to become a brewer at a time when it is illegal to make your own beer for sale in Nevada?

The Dream, that's why!

Dave and I had a dream to one day open a place that had knockout food as well as fresh and flavorful beers. Reno had nothing like it at the time and we felt the people would respond enthusiastically to this new restaurant concept.

I knew the brewing law would eventually be changed in Reno. All Dave and I had to do was get ready and wait, and thus our journey began.

By 1991 Dave was “The Man” in the kitchen, and I was confident in my abilities to organize and run the business side of things, but that still left a sizable hole in our plan – no one knew how to make beer! I promptly quit both my jobs and went to Napa to work at Bouchaine Vineyards for the crush season. I couldn't have chosen a better place to learn about fermentation. Throughout the next few months I worked in many different aspects of wine-making, from the crush pad to barrel conditioning. After Napa Valley, I went to work at Karl Strauss' Old Columbia Brewery, the first brewpub in San Diego.

With a couple of years of practical experience under my belt, I decided to go back to school and get my official brewmaster credentials. That's how I ended up sitting on a train for Chicago, en route to the Siebel Institute of Technology, fondly called “The University of Beer”… and the rest is history.

It has been a while since the official opening of The Silver Peak Restaurant and Brewery on February 3, 1999 but I'll never forget what a journey it was to reach this goal. Many of my best memories are a result of this project and all the adventures it has spawned over the last 10 years:

  • living on a sailboat in San Diego and commuting to work on my Norton motorcycle, which I later sold to finance brewing school
  • meeting and romancing my beautiful wife in sunny San Diego
  • driving cross country with 3 people and Fester the canary in a Ryder truck, only to discover it would've been cheaper to fly and have someone move us
  • sucking heads and smelling earth farts in Catfish Town, Baton Rouge, LA.
  • renting a mansion guesthouse for $500 a month and being scared silly half the time because we were convinced the big vacant house was haunted
  • a Mardi Gras party to end all parties in a New Orleans float making factory
  • stinky Dave in his hometown of Boulder Colorado for the Great American Beer Festival
  • flying 50 lbs of crawfish to Portland for the 1995 Microbrewer's Conference
  • learning that the highest and best use of computers is computer golf
  • at one point being the highest paid microbrewer in the lower 48, per barrel, with an annual overall production volume of 5.5 barrels
  • let's not forget all of those demanding research missions in numerous cities and states
  • and finally, wearing my shoes out trying to get a business loan in this town.

So now that I'm here, what is it like to make beer for a living?

Being a brewer is a unique job that keeps me on my toes. I constantly juggle the different aspects of my personality and profession. Artist, scientist, critic, grunt laborer, cook, engineer, and chief bottle washer are a few of the roles I get to play. If I ever get cocky and think I know it all, the beer gods humble me with the quick slap of a pump failure, or perhaps an anxiety attack about tiny microorganisms finding a way into my beer and making it taste like a sweat sock.

It has been a hard road to travel, but I'd do the whole thing over again, because otherwise I wouldn't have met my lovely wife Julie, I wouldn't have my spunky daughter Natalie and I wouldn't be the co-owner of The Silver Peak Restaurant and Brewery, the best restaurant and brewery in town.

Trent Schmidt