Behind the Beer: Jake Gee with Switchyard Brewing Company!

Born and raised in Valparaiso, Indiana, Jake Gee eventually moved to North Carolina in 2009. He had attended Valparaiso High School and took a degree in Anthropology from Indiana University, Bloomington. He then worked as an archaeologist for a couple of P1000576_Momentyears, primarily on pipeline surveys where he looked for anything of historical interest. He grew weary of the requisite travel around the country and staying in hotels that the archaeology business entailed. So, he saved some money and spent it at the widely respected Siebel Institute of Technology taking their concise course in brewing. Having homebrewed from college on, he had become enamored of making beer and was determined to pursue brewing as his life work.

After a brief stint working for a beer distributor, Gee got a response to the resume he had posted on line at looking for a brewery job. It turns out that his soon to be employer was also an anthropology major, as was his previous brewer, as well as his office manager. The job (assistant brewer) was in Hickory, North Carolina at Olde Hickory Brewery, nestled in the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains. Olde Hickory was a great fit. He stayed on five years, working his way up to head brewer. About a year after Sierra Nevada opened their new brewing facility just south of Ashville, NC in Mill’s River, Gee “jumped ship” and worked there first as a brewer and later managing plant utilities.

When an opportunity presented itself for Gee to move back to Indiana and continue his brewing journey, he gladly accepted the head brewing job at Switchyard Brewing Company in Bloomington. He came on board several months before they opened and was able to assist with the tail end of the demolition work at the brewery/taproom site and then participate in the renovation, especially the design and installation of the brewing equipment, an American made fifteen barrel system from Craftwerk in Detroit.P1000579_Moment

Naturally, Gee had developed many of his homebrew recipes. His time in North Carolina afforded him the opportunity to write and brew some of his own brewery scale recipes. As a result, he was well prepared to move into the head brewer position at Switchyard and keep the taps flowing with a variety of different brews. Batch Number One for him on the new system was an American Pale Ale that turned out very well and is a special memory for him. On opening day the taproom boasted four Switchyard brews, two of Gee’s recipes ( the pale ale and a farmhouse ale) along with two others from recipes belonging to the owners (a lavender blonde and an oatmeal IPA). With sixteen taps to keep busy, the plan is to have thirteen house brewed beers available along with a couple of ciders and a nitro coffee.

Although Gee was well schooled in the science of brewing at Sierra Nevada, he definitely has an affinity for the artistic side of the craft. The subjective elements of recipe development and taste are aspects of creating beer that are special to him. While a lager is a brew he enjoys when it is hot out, Gee is basically a “hoppy” guy and gravitates towards IPAs. That does not keep him from brewing up a wide variety of beers. For example, he is doing an Imperial Brown with sweet potatoes and pecans.
When he is away from the brew deck, Gee loves being a dad to his three year old daughter. He also plays the guitar when time permits and hopes to get back to the distance running he enjoyed in the Blue Ridge foothills.P1000577_Moment

Jake Gee’s path has taken him from his early days in Indiana, to digging into history around the country, to brewing beer in the shadow of the Blue Ridge Mountains, and back to Indiana where he is currently plying the craft he has so assiduously developed. Rather than delving into the hills of southern Indiana looking for vestiges of times gone by, he is quite busy above ground in the here and now making some of the freshest beer around.

Categories: Brewers

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