Imagine doing what you love in a serene setting amid old growth fir trees overlooking an immaculate emerald-green golf course. That describes Sean Burke’s daily routine as one of the head brewers at Von Ebert Brewing in Portland. Von Ebert opened two locations in 2018 — one in Portland’s Pearl District and the other at the Glendoveer Golf Course where Burke spends his time.
Burke developed a curiosity about beer at a young age, probably younger than he should have, he admits. But his interest got him started with home brewing and much more when he reached the legal drinking age. Recently Von Ebert won a gold medal for Obeisance in the Specialty Saison category at the Great American Beer Festival in Denver. This was the first beer Burke spearheaded as part of the brewer’s heritage program. Sip Northwest sat down with Burke to learn more about his schooling, bottled beers and how to overcome the challenge of working in Portland, an over-saturated beer market.
1) What did you learn about brewing beer at the school you attended?
My time was split between the Siebel Institute in Chicago and Doemens in Munich, Germany, at the World Brewing Academy’s Master Brewer program. We leaned everything from malting to packaging and every step in between, but all on a small scale. I learned quite a bit with all the microbiology, chemical analysis and other lab work. We even had to make a pilsner fit for our instructors to drink. Interestingly, U.S. craft beer was first influenced by European brews and now American craft beer is influencing Europe so the influencing has come full circle.
2) Why did you decide to go in the direction of bottled beers at Von Ebert?
I feel our beers at Glendoveer show best in bottles. So, we brewed a couple of farmhouse ales in bottles. To Obeisance we added etrog citron, calamondin citrus (like a Cutie, but a bit more acidic) and long pepper for its warming character. We have three other beers bottle conditioning now. I’m very happy with them.
3) How tough is it to compete for customers in Portland, which is also known as Beervana?
It’s incredibly difficult because the bar has been set so high. You must produce the highest quality and there’s little room for error. Luckily Portland is very neighborhood-centric; people like to stay in their neighborhoods. They also like to get behind locals and support them. For breweries that’s fantastic. That’s also why we’re constantly trying to be unique.
4) What kind of experience does the team at Von Ebert have on its resume?
We have five brewers split between the two locations and each one has run their own brewery before. It’s an amazing group. I have to give them a shout out because not one of us could do this alone. We also have a chef who prepares good food to go with our brews.