All Skis, No ‘Z’s: Good Words with Ryan Holroyd of 10 Barrel Brewing

Photo: Whoever watched him do this at a White Castle in St. Paul at 3 a.m.

Before Ryan Holroyd was at 10 Barrel Brewing, he was home-brewing at 17 years old. You can blame a Minnesotan for that.

“I’ve got a buddy from Minnesota who got me into it,” said Holroyd. “At that time, I didn’t have the same definition of ‘good’ beer as I do today; however, I was fascinated by all of the classic Colorado craft beer and striven to drink that whenever I could get my hands on it.”

Holroyd was in Minnesota last month as 10 Barrel re-introduced itself to the Twin Cities market. The Bend, Ore.-based brewery began operations in 2006, and has grown to five brewpub locations on the western side of the United States in addition to its main location. In the three years since being sold to Anheuser-Busch, 10 Barrel has expanded to several markets in the Midwest and East Coast.

Holroyd joined the team in 2015. A Denver native, he brings a degree in Fermentation Sciences from Colorado State University. He was part of the program’s second graduating class.

“Most of my instructors at CSU were adjunct professors currently working at breweries – New Belgium, Coors, etc.,” he said. “In my opinion, that is what makes the CSU Fermentation Science degree so unique. We got to learn from industry professionals, from the people doing that job every day. Additionally, we were able to work very closely with all of the other breweries around Fort Collins.”

It was in Fort Collins that Holroyd scored his first brewing job. When the brewery folded, Holroyd packed up and relocated to Bend. Not long after, he punched in for his first shift at 10 Barrel.

Photo: 10 Barrel Brewing

While Holroyd acknowledges the strong opinions about AB-InBev’s ownership, he also says the impact of the deal itself isn’t necessarily felt at his level – in fact, many of the brewers listed on 10 Barrel’s website were on board before the purchase.

“I think the biggest misconception is that we have turned into some big corporate machine,” said Holroyd. “I have seen a lot of breweries, and met a lot of brewers, and I would say 10 Barrel is by far the most laid-back atmosphere you will find. Just like other brewers, we love to brew beer, talk beer, drink beer, and of course give each other a bunch of shit while we do it. I don’t see that changing anytime soon.”

Part of 10 Barrel’s network includes a brewpub in Denver. Other locations include Portland, San Diego, and Boise. Holroyd says the head brewers at each brewpub do a lot of their own recipe design in-house for draft offerings. Boise head brewer Shawn Kelso brought 10 Barrel a gold medal at last year’s Great American Beer Festival for a stout he made for that location.

While Holroyd’s focus at headquarters is on the flagships, he gets to have plenty of fun, too … and anyone who has brewed knows exactly what he’s talking about. When I asked him about his last good night’s sleep, he said: “The day before I came out [to Minnesota], so Monday.”

This interview was done on a Friday.

“When you first get into [brewing], you’ve got to pay your dues,” he said. “You learn to nap pretty good.”

Holroyd says no brewery, regardless of size, is safe from “those days”: everything breaks, the power goes out, brewers wind up on their third day in a row without sleep. And that’s before the canning of 10 Barrel’s sour beers gets brought up. For that to work properly, he says, they essentially take apart and rebuild the whole brewhouse.

He says it keeps things interesting, though, and explained there’s a bright side.

“Bend is great,” he said, “because you can get off work, get a great day of skiing in, sleep for a couple of hours, have a beer, and go back to work.”

One of Holroyd’s main projects is Joe, 10 Barrel’s flagship IPA. It was the one everyone drank at The Nook, while we sat in chairs at a lane scoring table and spoke, because Holroyd bowled the lowest score of the night. Anyway, Joe is a floral-forward (offering) with a hope presence your humble author would all “hoppy” but an Oregonian would likely call “normal.”

“The big thing is the hops we’re using,” said Holroyd. Joe is made with Simcoe, Amarillo and Mosaic hops. “[Oregon is] a big hop-growing region, and it’s where we’re getting a lot of our hops. It just fits with that west coast lifestyle.”

You can find more information on 10 Barrel Brewing on their website, including where you can find their beer in the Twin Cities.

Photo: 10 Barrel Brewing