Featured Alumni Interview | Johnathan Mrak

Assistant Tasting Room Manager | Trading Post Brewing | tradingpostbrewing.com 

2017 graduate

What inspired you to follow a career in brewing?

JM: Before I decided on a career in the brewing industry, I considered a variety of paths, such as joining the RCMP, becoming an archeologist, and obtaining a degree in human relations. Nothing seemed to really feel like a fit though. I knew what my strengths were and wanted to do something unique. I also knew that whatever I did had to involve hands-on skills and lots of human interaction. The brewing industry seemed like a perfect fit!  

What made you decide on the KPU Brewing Diploma program?

JM: I decided on the KPU Brewing Diploma program mainly because of two things: the on-campus teaching brewery for the hands-on learning; and the fact that the Brewing Diploma would give me university credit that I could use towards a Bachelor’s degree in Chemistry or Business. The business side of the brewing industry really appeals to me, so I started taking Business classes each summer and am working towards completing my BBA at KPU.  

What are the most important things you learned from the program? What is most relevant to your job now?

JM: For me, the most important learning was in the sensory analysis courses and the hands-on brewing. The sensory analysis really opened my eyes to how complex beer can be, how key it is not to create bias when tasting, and the importance of being able to produce a consistent product. What might seem like a minor change in the brewing process or fermentation can drastically alter the flavour of the final product. The in-depth knowledge I learned about the science of beer and the experience brewing every week at school has definitely been the most valuable in my current job position. I love educating customers about the beers they’re tasting and taking their experience to another level. It’s genuinely rewarding.

Did your Brewing Diploma/Education give you any advantages in the industry?

JM: Besides my unshakable confidence and exceptional social skills, just being able to say I was part of a two-year brewing program was enough for Trading Post to hire me. It basically gave me an advantage over anyone who didn’t specialize their education in brewing but still had a small amount of experience. Lots of people in this industry don’t have an education in brewing, but have apprenticed for many years making them both experienced and knowledgeable.

What is your job like now that you have graduated from the program? Walk through a typical workday?

JM: Since graduating both my hours and responsibilities have gone through the roof, especially since my promotion. A typical workday consists of lots of growler fills, good conversations, changing a keg or two, cleaning and clearing tables, and talking about beer!

What excited you most about your job/career path?

JM: It’s exciting how much room there is to grow with a new company in a booming industry. Plus,   after completing my Business degree, it will open more doors and opportunities for me. I love that I get to meet new people every day and work in collaborative industry. I feel privileged to do what I do.  

What are some work related highlights since you graduated?

JM: Being interviewed on TV and 102.07 The Peak radio with my boss Lance Verhoeff to talk about our West Coast IPA. They were a lot fun and it gave me some new experiences to add to my resume.

What are your aspirations for the future?

JM: I am really curious to see where my Brewing diploma and business degree will take me!

What advice/tips/wisdom would you share with anyone looking to get into a career in the craft beer industry?

JM: Make sure you like people because this industry is very people-driven. I’d also encourage anyone who’s considering a career in brewing to take some formal schooling because it’ll help you stand out from the competition and you’ll only benefit from everything you learn. Check out a KPU Brewing info session, meet some of the faculty and students, ask lots of questions. And don't forget to stop by for a beer at Trading Post and say hi!