Meet the Instructors: Dean Priebe, Mastering Beer Styles

[Meet the Instructors is a series intended to introduce you to one of the greatest resources the University of Washington Tacoma Professional Development Center has to offer: its diverse team of veteran, industry-tested professionals. The Center’s professional development programs are designed to be rewarding, challenging and cutting-edge. Our instructors play no small part in that, ensuring students are exposed to the most current industry trends while remaining well-versed in the tried-and-true best practices of their professions. We’re excited to share our instructors with you, and their stories are a great place to start.]

In this installation of Meet the Instructors, we’re pleased to introduce Dean Priebe. Dean is Brewmaster at Icicle Brewing Company in Leavenworth, Wash., and the instructor for our newest Mastering Beer Styles in Bothell, Wash. Read on to learn more about Dean and sign up to attend class at Beardslee Public House!

Tell us about yourself and your experience working in the beer industry?

Wow, that’s a big, open-ended question.

In 1988, I brewed my first batch of beer in McMahon Hall on the UW Seattle campus.  As I studied and later practiced forestry, I brewed in my spare time.  Early on, I focused on brewing flavorful beers that exemplified the classic styles of Europe.  Later, I enjoyed brewing beers that used newly available ingredients and mirrored newly popular styles.  My efforts landed me the head job at Icicle Brewing Company, where my beers have won 138 awards in 28 different style categories.

As Icicle Brewing has grown into one of the top 20 producing breweries in our state, my job has evolved.  Now, I oversee the creation of our craft beer and assure that it is enjoyed by our customers.  I organize tasting panels to evaluate new ingredients, new recipes, flavor match, beer faults, and beers from other breweries.  I meet with our brewing and packaging staff to provide guidance and seek feedback.  Much of our beer is served in our brewpub and in our sister restaurant, Munchen Haus.  Every few months, I meet with the serving staff from both establishments to teach about the beers we make and answer questions.  This is in addition to informal support that I provide almost daily.

While my bachelor’s degree is in forestry, the UW provided me a deep, multifaceted education that has allowed me to succeed in forestry and brewing.  I would like to give back to the school that fueled my achievements by teaching the Mastering Beer Styles course.

What is the biggest difference between a head brewer and a brewmaster?

It depends who you ask.  In Europe, there are more formal definitions, but it’s a free-for-all in the U.S.  I’ve seen nano brewers selling beer from a homebrew system that identify themselves as a brewmaster.  Conversely, there are nationally distributed breweries that are run by head brewers.  In my opinion, a head brewer runs a smaller operation and a brewmaster is in charge of a more complex brewing and packaging operation.  A brewmaster needs to have significant experience and is more likely to have formal education.  When I was hired at Icicle Brewing, the owners offered me the title of brewmaster, but I refused the title because the brewing operation was simple and I didn’t have very much commercial experience.  More recently, they offered me that title again and I accepted.  The brewery has grown significantly and my abilities have grown with it.

You’ve done both for Icicle Brewing Company – what’s your favorite part about working in the industry?

I’ve always enjoyed things with depth.  When fly fishing, you can explore the biology of fish and the art of fly-tying along with the mechanics of catching a fish.  The beer business offers an amazing array of opportunities from microbiology to pairing food with beer. When our company was smaller, I posted social media and worked on branding in addition to my brewing duties. Now that we’re bigger, I spend most of my time on beer making tasks. That includes traveling to Yakima to select the hops we buy, working with the other brewers to assure quality and designing brewery expansion projects.  I love that I get to do dozens of different things every day.

What’s one thing that surprised you when you entered it?

No two craft breweries make the same beer.  The mass-produced American Light Lagers of the last half century are all so similar, that one would think that some of the beer produced by the more than 300 Washington State breweries would taste the same.  The opportunities for new beer is limitless!

You haven’t always been a professional brewer – you also led rafting trips and worked as a forest engineer. What changed your career path?

I started learning about forestry and brewing at the same time.  I earned a UW bachelor’s degree in forestry, but my brewing education was self-directed.  For 17 years, forestry was my profession and brewing was my hobby.  When the sawmill I worked for closed, I decided to swap those two vocations.  Now, I brew for a living and enjoy the forests on my own time.

Moving on to teaching, is this something you’ve done before, leading courses about craft beer?

My first teaching job was in high school, ski instructing at Snoqualmie Pass for the Issaquah School District.  In college, I taught skiing at Stevens Pass for Edmonds School District in the winter and guided whitewater rafting in the summer, which included training new guides.  I helped start a local homebrew club and spearheaded an education segment.  At Icicle Brewing, I have conducted dozens of beer dinners over the last decade.  These meals are a great opportunity to teach people about the creation and enjoyment of craft beer.  Much of Icicle’s beer is served in our brewpub and at Munchen Haus.  Every few months, I meet with the serving staff from both establishments to teach about the beers we make and answer questions.

What got you interested in teaching this course in particular?

Mastering Beer Styles explores the things that make beer what it is.  It’s the foundation that supports a career, further education or a lifetime of enjoying beer.  This is a course with depth that attracts students with a wide range of experiences and goals.  I really like the challenge of covering the many facets of beer in a way that connects with a diverse group.

How do you feel about this upcoming class – is there anything unique that you’re especially excited for?

This is the first time Mastering Beer Styles has been offered on the north end of Seattle.  I’m excited to provide this opportunity to those that can’t make it to the other class locations (Tacoma and Bothell).  I will be teaching the class at Beardslee Public House, adjacent to the UW Bothell campus.  This will allow us to sample the delicious beers they make, tour their brewery and distillery and meet their award-winning head brewer, Drew Cluley.

Who should want to take this class and why? Who do you think would benefit most?

Anyone who likes beer!  We will be tasting classic examples of beer from around the world and honing our senses to get the most out of every sip.  The University of Washington certificate looks good on a resume, but the main benefit is a better understanding of beer and a greater ability to appreciate it.  And we have a lot of fun doing it!

Tell us about the best beer you’ve ever made.

As we discuss in class, “best” can be defined in different ways by different groups of people at different times.  The most distributed beer is Bootjack IPA, an American-Style IPA.  The most award-winning beer is Dark Persuasion, a beer that mimics German chocolate cake.  The best-selling beer at our restaurant, Munchen Haus, is Crosscut Pilsner, a German-Style Pilsner.  The staff favorite is Kickstand Pale Ale, an American-Style Pale Ale.  The beer I’ve made the longest is Priebe Porter, an American-Style Porter.  The beers that sell for the highest price are bottles of Decline Barleywine and Darkest Persuasion.

Interested in meeting Dean in class? Visit our website to learn more and register!

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