By Lenn Thompson, Editor-in-Chief
DJ Swanson, head brewer at Greenport Harbor Brewing Company, should be inspiring for anyone working in a corporate job who has dreams of following his or her passion and making a career of it.
DJ started homebrewing about 15 years ago, when he bought homebrew supplies from Carl Burnham, the head brewer at Union Station Brewery in Providence, RI.
At the time, Burnham knew about DJ's interest in brewing professionally and in September of 2000 he hired DJ away from his accounting position at a finance company. A little over a year later, DJ was offered the head brewer position at John Harvard's Brew House in Lake Grove, NY, where he worked for almost five years.
After a brief break from brewing, during which he worked in pharmaceuticals, DJ then spent a year distilling professionally on Long Island before joining the new brewery in Greenport last April.
And now, our standard set of questions:
What (and where) was the first beer you remember drinking?
I was always the kid sneaking sips from my dad's beer — usually Old Milwaukee. My first brewery visit was as a Boy Scout on a camping trip in New Hampshire. I loved the smells and the tanks. Can you imagine stopping at a brewery with a bunch of 10 year-olds today?
I really started to explore good beer at the Mews Tavern in Wakefield, RI after I turned 21. They had 69 taps and always something new to try.
What event/bottle/etc made you decide that you wanted to be in the beer industry?
My wife and I went to Fenway Park for a Red Sox game and did lunch across the street at Boston Beer Works. They were brewing the day we were there and I knew I had to try brewing my own. That first batch was good and it all went from there. An interesting journey from Boston to Greenport!
Which of your current beers is your favorite and why?
I waver between the Disorient IPA and the Black Duck Porter. It depends on my mood but they are both, I think, so flavorful without being over the top. I try to brew the kind of beers I'd want to drink.
What has surprised you most about being a member of the New York beer community?
It has changed so much since I've been here. I really love the diversity and camaraderie of it, especially here on Long Island. It's a great group of brewers and really the whole beer scene on Long Island is full of great people.
Other than your own beers, what wine/beer/liquor most often fills your glass?
If I'm buying beer I usually reach for one of three breweries: Sierra Nevada, Smuttynose or Allagash. There are so many good ones but those are my standbys.
Is there a 'classic' beer style or beerand food pairing that you just can't make yourself enjoy?
Hefeweizen! I can appreciate them, but I'll never like them. People have tried but can't make me.
Beer enjoyment is about more than just the beer itself. Describe the combination of beer, locations, food, company, etc. that would make (or has made) for the ultimate beer-drinking experience.
One of my favorite experiences is sitting outside at the beginning of fall in the back yard with a fire going, making some s'mores with the kids and some friends and a growler of Black Duck Porter. Low-key and relaxing and the beer and everything went together perfectly!