RH: I’m from Lake Forrest, Illinois. I spent my summers in South Carolina, lived in Belgium and Saudi Arabia for a few years, and then went to a liberal arts college in Minnesota. After college, I lived in the Twin Cities for three years working a job as a city planner. During that time, I spent a lot of time home brewing and drinking beer. By the time I was twenty five, not much seemed to be going on with the city planning job, so my wife and I moved to SF—jobless. So, I went to different pubs trying to get a job and eventually landed a job at SF Brewing Company as the assistant brewer. I learned quite a lot about beer and brewing on the job.
DM: When you were growing up, who did you want to be or do for a living?
RH: I had no idea what I wanted to do. I thought I was going to be a banker like my dad.
DM: Tell us a bit about the process of becoming a Master Cicerone.
RH: Well, I was accredited in 2010. I took a long test that was rigorous and intense. I took it twice and passed it the second time. The exam was more than what you should know about beer and brewing beer. It was two days of writing about and interviewing with an investigative panel about beer. I had to orally defend—much like a dissertation thesis—my stance about beer from brewing beer to business and operations knowledge like how to fix a draft dispenser at the bar. Then there was an hours-long blind tasting of beer to identify where a lineup of unlabeled beer comes from, what style it is, the process and so on behind the making each beer, if the beer had gone bad, the metrics of what determines what the beer is…
DM: That’s quite a test. How did you prepare for it?
RH: Participating in the brewing process allowed me to taste well over one thousand beers alone and I had spent a lot of time taking notes from bars and books. You really have to be obsessive to get this title.
DM: What do you like to enjoy when you’re not working with beer?
RH: Home cooking. Curing things. Pickling things. Learning about new cooking traditions. I also love to travel.
DM: What are some current beer trends you are seeing?
RH: Three trends I see are: a restaurant trend towards beer and food pairings; more marketing about how to enhance the enjoyment of beer with the right food, rather than the way it makes you look or feel; and lower alcohol high quality craft session beer. The alcohol content of session beer is 4-5% as opposed to the usual 7-8%.
DM: If you want to get away or be alone, where do you go?
RH: I head to unnamed bars. I can’t tell you where or which bars they are because I like to lay low and get away from talking about beer. I usually don’t introduce myself at these places.
DM: What are your go-to beers?
RH: Bohemian pilsners (Czech style) and Belgian Trappist ales.
DM: What are a couple of your personal or professional core values?
RH: I work hard to cultivate and nurture my curiosity, and to have the ability to help people interpret their appreciation and tastes for beer. I would like to think of myself more of an ambassador for beer rather than an expert of beer
DM: Where do you see yourself in twenty five years?
RH: Sitting on an amazing hop farm in Belgium drinking beer that I brewed myself in the basement.
DM: What about in three to five years?
RH: I would like to be on the faculty of an educational center devoted to food and libation, and running a brewery again.
DM: What would you say is your greatest achievement to date?
RH: Landing my incredible wife who has been keeping me happy for the past thirteen years.
DM: If you could have just one do-over, what would that be?
RH: To have remembered to turn the cooling on to fermenter number three when I brewed that Kolsch.