You know that super nice, kind of quiet guy who’s always behind the bar when you show up early on Thursdays and Fridays? The guy with glasses, who knows more about beer than you ever thought a human being could know?
His name is Justin Holden. And he’s super nice, kind of quiet, and he knows more about beer than I ever thought a human being could know.
Justin is a Cicerone, which is the official designation for beer experts. Much like a Sommelier with wine, a Cicerone is a person who understands how a beer is created, the various flavors that combine in the brew, and how to help guide a person toward the perfect beer for their taste. Honestly the guy knows his stuff when it comes to beer. Whenever I’m working with him, I will immediately refer all beer related questions to him. I can talk a decent game about our beer, but Justin’s knowledge dwarfs mine (and many of the other bartenders).
His decision to become a Cicerone came after some soul searching about his career path.
“I decided to pursue the certification after realizing that I was burned out and honestly disinterested in my career of 15 years in human resources,” he said.
“For quite some time, I had thought that it would be interesting to work in the beer industry, but it seemed impractical. Fortunately, I have a supportive wife and she helped convince me that it's okay to make changes and pursue things that I feel passionate about. The Cicerone program was my first step in getting some credentials, because after all, I needed something backing me besides saying that I was passionate about beer.
“After several months of self-study, I took the exam and passed. I will say that I didn't just learn the content of the exam in a few months; my 20+ years of drinking craft beer was part of it also. Not long after that, I came across the Brewing and Beer Steward Technology program at Dakota County Technical College and decided to enroll. “
That was early last year. Coincidentally, a certain Northfield neighborhood brewery was about to open up just as he was starting to look for work with his shiny new education and title.
”I finished the program just prior to Imminent opening,” he said. “The timing was excellent.”
It was so good for everybody involved, in fact, that shortly after we opened, Justin was asked to come on full time as the Assistant Brewmaster. If Randy is the mastermind behind all of the delicious, amazing, unforgettable beers at Imminent, Justin is the guy who executes the plan.
“In the Assistant Brewer role, I'm involved with much of the processes, beginning with raw materials, to brewing, to fermentation, and then taking proper care of the beer until it's ready to pour into a pint glass. There are a lot of things that take place in between those steps, such as taking measurements and readings, yeast handling, and quite a bit of cleaning and sanitizing.”
Yes, he gets to do a lot of cleaning and sanitizing. It just goes to show that no matter how good one gets at something, nobody is above cleaning up the mess they make.
But he doesn’t mind, and we’re very fortunate to have a guy like Justin working with us. His work ethic is beyond reproach, and he is always plenty eager to help out with any situation wherever he can, from sweeping up a broken glass to discussing the types of hops we use in our Quick and the Red IPA. Moreover, he clearly cares about the experience people have at Imminent, and wants to be sure that every beer we pour is as good as it can be.
“The quality of beer that we are producing and serving is very important to me.”
So, next time you’re sitting at the bar with a Gateway Cream Ale, or a Question Mark Hill Wheat (or any of our beers, really), ask Justin to tell you a bit about the beer. He’ll be more than happy to talk to you. He’s super nice. He’s super smart.
He’s just that guy.