Trumer Pils recently started distributing their Pilsner to Los Angeles, so I corresponded by e-mail with brewmaster Lars Larson, who earned a degree as a Diplom-Braumeister at the Technical University of Berlin and previously worked at McMenamins Hillsdale Brewpub and BridgePort Brewing in his hometown of Portland before signing on with Trumer Pils in Berkeley. Larson shared perspectives about his highly focused brewing process.
Was it a given that you would work with beer for a living, or did you consider other careers?
I got a B.A. in History, so no, I didn’t plan ahead for this career from a young age. It was right after college when I was drifting around a little that I became passionate about brewing, and it was the first career I was ever serious about: at that point I moved to Germany to get a degree in brewing science, so I did plan ahead at that point. I went to the Technical University of Berlin and got a degree as a Diplom-Braumeister.
How did you first become interested in beer? Also, tell me how your first job came about that involved beer.
I remember trying small tastes of my dad’s beer growing up and always liked it, even while quite young. I spend a year in high school as an exchange student in Germany. The legal drinking age there is 16, and that is when I became introduced to integrating beer into normal life… hanging out and having one or two with my cousin while we played backgammon. No binge drinking involved, just relaxing. With the rise of craft beers and brewpubs in the late ’80s I became fascinated with the new beers, flavors and varieties, and so started to homebrew on my own. This was in my hometown of Portland, Oregon, and I landed a job at the McMenamins Hillsdale Brewpub. They were looking for someone who knew a little about brewing, and that certainly described me at the time. I was given two weeks of training and let loose.
What’s the first beer that you ever brewed, and how did it turn out?
I can’t quite remember, but I think it was a pale ale, home brewed with extract from the Steinbart’s supply shop. I pretty sure we drank it all, but that was a pretty low bar to set in those days.
What brought you to Berkeley, and how did you end up working for Trumer Pils?
Trumer Brauerei brought me to Berkeley. I was working for BridgePort Brewing in Portland when I got the offer to come down to Berkeley.
What are the advantages and disadvantages of brewing a single beer?
One advantage is that we get the opportunity to really focus on the minutia of the recipe and flavor profile. This is great when you are trying to achieve perfection. Of course perfection is impossible to attain, but we can keep trying to get closer. Another advantage is that it simplifies the operational logistics. Disadvantages… we do get visitors who come expecting to see a full range of beers like a brewpub, or who only like dark, high alcohol or heavily hopped beers. Unfortunately we’re not able to always please everyone, but when we tell our story, we’re usually able to at least create understanding for why we choose to focus on just one beer.
What are some of your most satisfying moments in working with beer?