Brian Destree, a 2002 UW-Madison graduate with degrees in biochemistry and chemical engineering, is the new brewmaster at Capital Brewery in Middleton, Wisconsin.
He succeeds longtime Capital Brewmaster Kirby Nelson and while dedicated to preserving the character of Capital’s popular line of beers, he’s looking forward to expanding the brewery’s offerings.
“In the industry, the big breweries are holding steady or shrinking and craft brew is exploding,” he says. “There is a lot of competition but because the market is growing, there is also a huge opportunity. The number-one thing we’re asked when we talk to craft brew bars, or liquor stores that go through a lot of craft beer, is what do you have that’s new? So there is freedom to push in lots of directions.”
Right now, Wisconsin Amber is Capital’s biggest brand, behind that is the line of seasonal brews such as Miabock, Fest, Octoberfest, and Winter Skal. One area the brewery has not been participating is the IPA scene, Destree says.
“It’s flying off the shelf. If you look market share in dollars by style, IPA and pale ale are by far the strongest. People haven’t thought of us for our ale so we’re working on an IPA to change that image. We will roll out an IPA in April and we see that moving quickly to the top and being one of our major brews,” he says.
Destree says brewing new and interesting beer is a creative challenge that pulls from an artistic side, but close by are the skills learned through his formal education including the master brewers program at UC-Davis.
As a freshman, he prepared to go to medical school and participated in the honors biology program. Sophomore year, he changed his mind. He knew he loved math, biology, chemistry and beer; the question was how to combine them into a career.
He considers his engineering education particularly valuable in understanding and running an efficient brewery.
Prior to Capital, Destree worked for Jacob Leinenkugel Brewing Company and later in brewery maintenance and scheduling for MillerCoors. He worked his way up to assistant brewing manager and was in charge of all aspects of the brewhouse on a 24/7 basis.
“There is a lot of heat transfer and pumps and filtration systems in a brewery,” he says. “We heat with steam and cool with glycol. Understanding those systems is a huge advantage. Everything learned in the classroom is applicable in this environment.”