The Ruhstaller Brewery and Taproom is hidden in a small Nor-Cal town known as Dixon. Something that makes Ruhstaller special is its devotion to sustainability and using local products to brew their beer. Another thing that makes it special is the artistic mind behind the experimental beers Ruhstaller puts out. Somewhere in the back of the eight-year-old taproom, creative gears are turning in the mind of Tyler Way who had only been experimenting with beer for a month before he was hired on with Ruhstaller. When I first arrived to talk to Tyler about what he does, he cheekily said, “I fuck around. That’s my job.” But after spending over six hours watching the process behind brewing, I realized he was not giving himself nearly enough credit.
“How did you learn to brew?” I asked him.
“YouTube.” He laughed.
Tyler brewed his first beer in August of 2018 with the help of his friends Matt and YouTube. Then, in September of 2018 Tyler was working as the Research and Development Brewer for Ruhstaller. When I met with Tyler, it was hard to believe he had been brewing for less than a year, considering the terms he was using and the science he was explaining. While brewing definitely requires a certain scientific prowess, a huge part of the reason why Tyler is so perfect for the job is that he is an artist. Within such a technical craft, he displays all the characteristics of an artist: pride for his work, perfectionism, creativity, patience. Tyler believes the job would be wasted without the artistic side. Even the way he talked about the color of a beer convinced me that brewing truly is art.
There was a kind of pride in his voice when he talked about the color and taste of the beers he has made. “There is absolutely no feeling like getting drunk on beer that you made.”
Tyler explained how there are so many factors that go into making a beer look the way it does. In art, the medium one chooses to use is important and can give off a feeling that is intentional for its audience. For example, using watercolor can be an emotional medium due to its transparency and luminosity. Brewing seems to work in the same way. Tyler explained that grain plays a big factor in determining the color of a beer and the difference between clear and hazy beers.
“When I see a pretty beer, I get all stoked, ya know?” Tyler said. And the stoke only amplifies when they look at a pretty beer they made themselves. “I’ll be like ‘Damn dude. We did that.’”
However, like anyone exploring a craft or art, Tyler has been pushed to the limits of patience. Matt explained that the first time he and Tyler brewed together, everything went wrong, and Tyler was frustrated. But over the year, he has learned that the process is more important when it comes to brewing. There will be times where precision is amiss, and if Tyler has to settle for a good beer, instead of a great beer, he’ll take it. “I’ll drink any beer someone hands me.” He said.
Brewing can challenge patience levels and it is ultimately about learning how to emotionally navigate trial and error. From the story Matt told me about their latest brewing adventure, it seems Tyler has learned a lot about rolling with the punches. “The other day we had to strain beer through a t-shirt. And he was like ‘Fuck it! This is gonna be sick!’”
There seems to be an inner need humans have to create, and each person expresses this in their own way. For Tyler, brewing is not the end game when it comes to creating. He makes a fantastic brewer because of his artistic foundation, and while he finds creativity in coming up with a new beer, it is drawing and music that he falls back upon to satisfy that desire to create.
At a point during his time at Ruhstaller, Tyler told his boss he was quitting. His boss was shocked. Tyler was good at his job, seemed to enjoy it, and got along with everyone who worked there. But Tyler’s full-time job with Ruhstaller was not allowing him time to focus on his music and his art.
“I was losing my mind because I didn’t have time for these things, so I quit. I have to do the things that I really care about.”
There are people who know the importance of pursuing a passion and are prepared for the sacrifices that it involves. Tyler belongs to this group of people. Although he was making good money working full-time for Ruhstaller, he realized that he had to invest more time into music and drawing… which meant leaving a comfortable job.
Ironically, it was exactly Tyler saying “I quit” that made him that much more valuable to Ruhstaller. Tyler’s boss saw that he was willing to sacrifice his job to continue doing what he loved. And it was exactly his passionate attitude that helped Ruhstaller reach new and creative heights.
“So, I got a promotion after quitting.” Tyler laughed. His boss told him he could work whenever he wanted. This has allowed Tyler to more fully concentrate on the beer he makes on Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday. On his days off, you can probably find Tyler drawing at his desk, coffee in hand, or making music.
“I plan to work here for a while or until my art can make me enough.”
Brewing gave Tyler the “kick in the ass” he needed to realize he wanted to more fervently pursue his art. We are constantly being shaped and transformed by our experiences, new crafts, and hobbies. When I asked Tyler to tell me what he has learned about himself through brewing, he had a whirlwind of answers: the ability to get out of his comfort zone, patience, the importance of being laid-back, practicality, and confidence. Most importantly though: “This job sparked my feelings about my art.” And those traits he’s improved upon thanks to brewing can now transfer to his art.