There’s no shortage of talented brewers in the craft beer world, and Tyler Guilmette is no exception. Guilmette founded Brewmaster Jack in 2011, and has three brews on his roster thus far, with several more more in the works. Guilmette took the time to chat with us about his grandfather, embracing YOLO, and who the Stray Dog is.
Are you originally from Northampton?
I was born in Enfield, Connecticut, grew up in East Longmeadow, Mass, went to college at Stonehill in North Easton, Mass, then moved to Northampton in 2009. And I’ll probably never leave.
Brewmaster Jack is named after your grandfather, right?
Yes, Jack was my great-grandfather. It was only within the past few years that I found out he used to homebrew (back in the ’30s). I remember poking around his house when I was a kid. It was an old house up in Vermont with a big barn in the back. It felt like it had been there since the 1700s. In particular I remember how the basement used to feel like a cave, which is terrifying when you’re a little kid. The walls were made of stone so it was very cool and dank down there. When I moved to Northampton, I ended up living in a house that is probably just as old . the result of being a poor recent college grad. That was about when I started brewing. Once I started brewing lagers I figured out the basement was great for fermenting those styles of beer. It really reminded me of being back up at his house. So when I found out that he used to brew in the same type of work space it made me feel a bit of a connection to my family history.
How did you “decide” to become a brewer?
When I decided I was going to go all-in on the brewing company I was working in insurance out of an office in Westfield, Mass. It was a tough decision because it wasn’t a bad job. I set my own hours, I was always out on the road, and I had the greatest bosses and co-workers you could imagine but I still wasn’t happy. I’m a big fan of the saying “Life isn’t a dress rehearsal.” You have to do what makes you happy. Or as a wise man once said, YOLO.
What are your five favorite beers right now?
This is tough. Founders Breakfast Stout, King Titus from Maine Beer Co, Night Shift Somer Weisse, High and Mighty Divine Brown, and, of course, The Alchemist’s Heady Topper.
Is there a particular beer style that you’re personally more fond of than others?
After studying my check-ins on Untappd it looks like I prefer stouts.
What new brew(s) are you currently working on?
Lately I’ve been working on polishing up a pale ale recipe and will hopefully be releasing that one this spring or summer. I’m also working on a saison table beer, a brown ale, a stout, and another IPA.
Where can people currently find Brewmaster Jack on tap?
I have yet to take on draft customers east of Athol so my beer is not on tap in the Boston area at the moment. If people are really desperate to try it though (or for people near western Mass), my beer is currently on at the Dirty Truth in Northampton, Hinge in Northampton, Apollo Grill in Easthampton, and the Blind Pig in Athol.
What’s the craft beer community been like in your experience?
The craft brewing community is the greatest group of people you could pack into an industry. I participated in my first beer festival in March of last year and met a few brewers from around the state. Every single one of them gave me their card and said, “If you ever need help with anything give me a call.” It’s especially interesting contracting out of Paper City because there are so many of us in one place. Everyone is very supportive of each other. I think that’s evident in how many collaboration beers there are on the market.
What are some of the challenges to being a small brewer?
As long as you don’t mind working every minute you’re awake with little to no income there is nothing tough about being a small brewer. It’s honestly the most fun I’ve ever had.
Are you hoping to expand eventually?
Eventually I’ll expand a bit more. It’s tough to say how much though.
Who’s that handsome black lab on the Stray Dog Lager label?
The dog, Luke, belongs to a woman I used to work with. He was a Katrina rescue. The picture was taken on the rail trail bridge over the Connecticut River between Northampton and Hadley.
Tyler Guilmette will be in-store tonight for a Brewmaster Jack tasting from 5 to 7 p.m., so come join us and meet the man behind the beer!