Name: Sean Miller
1 How long have you been a part of the Duck-Rabbit family?
A little over a month
2 What inspired you to work for a craft brewery?
Honestly, it was happenstance. I had no idea that a beer scientist was even a thing. I was a pharmaceutical chemist and really didn’t like much about my job. One of my co-workers knew I wasn’t happy and that I home brewed and she mentioned that Dogfish Head Craft was looking for an HPLC chemist. Since I ran an HPLC almost every day, I applied and got the job. After a bit of time there I knew I wanted to make a career out of the brewing industry.
3 What is one piece of advice you have for someone wanting to get into the craft beer business?
If you want to be a brewer go to UC Davis or Oregon State. The best brewers I know went to those schools. Once you get out, work for a “big” craft brewery. There are really smart people to learn from there and chances are they make good beer which means they have good brewing practices. Theory is all well and good but you need practical experience.
If you want to work in the lab, you have a lot of paths. I would recommend get a degree in chemistry or microbiology. Work in a lab outside of the brewing industry for a few years. Really hone those lab skills in and then work for a “big” craft brewery. Again, it’s the same thing. They should have a lab that has been around for a while and you can learn what they do and why they do it.
One thing to note: Work somewhere you can be proud of the beer. That’s super important.
4 What is your main job/role at the brewery?
I am the head of quality. I test our beer for microorganisms that could potentially spoil the beer, I lead taste panels to make sure the beer tastes good, and I test beer in our packaging to make sure we are doing it right.
5 What is your favorite food?
This is a tough question. I think I’ll have to go with sushi.
6 What is your favorite beer to pair that food with?
It depends on the roll. If it’s a really spicy roll I’m going to have Hoppy Bunny because hops and spice go together like peanut butter and jelly. If it’s more of a delicate flavor roll I would go with the Amber because its complex in flavor but not intense, so it won’t overpower the sushi.
7 Who is/are the person/people you admire the most?
I have a lot of friends who have influenced me but two that have more than others are Jayson and Booty (it’s a nickname). Each of them have had significant impact on my worldview and have had hours of conversation over beer and pipes challenging each other’s worldviews.
8 When you aren’t at work, what are some of your favorite hobbies?
Cooking and music. I really enjoy making massive 7 course dinners with a beer/mixed drink paired with each course for friends. Playing music is huge too. I play bass, guitar, banjo (sort of) and mandolin (poorly). When I’m not in a band it hurts.
9 What is the most interesting thing about you/something most people don’t know about you?
When I’m in the car alone, I almost never listen to music. Most of the time I am listening to a podcast, a debate, or lecture on theology. It started with the “Reformed Pubcast” which talks about beer and theology and then I just went down a rabbit hole. I love then to talk to my friends (over a beer of course) about theology and have debates and provide arguments for why we believe what we do.
10 What is something you absolutely cannot live without?
Water? But seriously, it’s a tossup between good friends and playing music.
11 Anything else you’d like us to know?
I am a chemist through and through. I love the science of beer. I love to explain how and why we test beer. If I give a brewery tour, I often see people’s eyes glaze over. I now start tours with “Sorry guys, I don’t have fun stories. I’m a chemist and I like science so that’s the tour you get. If your eyes glaze over ill just try to move faster.” I’ve been told “Sean, we are not making pharmaceutical grade beer.” My response is “We are the quality lab not the half-assed lab.” The quality of the beer is directly proportional to how much a brewery invests in a lab. Anyone can make a good beer once. It takes an exceptional brewery to make that good beer the same 100 times.