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How the Pfriems Built a Real Family Brewery

Whether Peterson's or the Pfriems' children ever enter the family business is anybody's guess, but their parents' efforts and their brewery's ensuing growth look as if they'll keep Pfriem around long enough for them to make that decision. Josh and Annie Pfriem were kind enough to take some time out of a visibly hectic Friday afternoon of meetings, event-room setup, planning and brewing to talk with us about their family brewery. While their motivation and approach still seem novel in a fast-growing craft beer industry that seldom checks its rearview mirror, the importance of their legacy to the business around them makes us wonder why more brewers haven't taken a similar approach:

Josh, how did you start brewing and what eventually inspired you to start Pfriem Family Brewers?

Josh Pfriem: My brewing career started when I was in college. I was studying business marketing at the time at Western Washington University and absolutely fell in love with craft beer. So much so that I started homebrewing immediately thereafter. At 20 years old, after the first batch I brewed, I knew I wanted to own my own brewery and become a brewmaster.

After that, I geared my business degree to that and picked up science on the side and kept home brewing. After I graduated, I dove into brewing literature and brewing science and landed my first brewing job down in Utah. I was ski bumming down there at the time and though it would be a good time to start my career in brewing, and I got a great first brewing job at Utah Brewers Cooperative in Salt Lake City doing production for Squatters and Wasatch beers. I got to work with a very talented group of guys and gals and they really took me in, brought me up and let me shine.

Meanwhile, I kept building up my little test brewery at home: Experimenting with things, tweaking things, trying to push the limits of what you can do with beer from raw ingredients to engineering to science while brewing day-to-day.

After we left Utah we went back to go up to Bellingham, Wash., to help Will Kemper get started on the Chuckanut Brewery. That was great experience. Will had about 30 years of brewing experience at the time with a strong chemical engineering and brewing science background. I was the head brewer there and we did a lot of great things pushing the limits of beer. Our big claim to fame that first year was that we won Small Brewpub of the Year at the Great American Brewers Festival in our first year entering, which is one of the highest honors you can win in brewing.
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