When Jan Schneider first walked into Bayern Brewing nearly six months ago, his experience as a brewer was largely limited to operating a computer at Germany’s expansive Jever brewery or “maybe pulling some hoses through the tank farm.” But since coming to Missoula, the Bayern intern has developed a fondness for the hands-on aspect of smaller brewing operations he’d had little exposure to prior.
“Here, I’m actually more in contact with the product,” says Schneider, who attended professional brewing school in Bremen and also briefly trained at the E.C. Dahls Brewery in Trondheim, Norway. “That’s what I like to do. It’s more like crafting.”
Schneider sits in the Bayern taproom next to fellow intern Christoph Stiller, who attended professional brewing school in Munich and arrived here just one month ago. The two are, respectively, the third and fourth German-born and trained interns to pass through Bayern’s brewhouse since owner Jürgen Knöller and brewmaster Thorsten Geuer established an official apprenticeship program three years ago. Geuer says the concept was partly a way to strengthen the German-style brewery’s connections to its stylistic roots and “keep us up to date.”
For the interns, the experience promises exposure to a booming American craft beer industry. Bayern does maintain an adherence to the German purity law, but Stiller notes the atmosphere in the brewhouse is much more laid-back than at the fully automated Brauerei Josef Schimpfle in southern Germany where he trained previously.
“In Germany, you work by the clock,” Stiller says. “Here, you look at the watch, but it’s more relaxing.”
Schneider and Stiller have also enjoyed the increased access to a wide variety of craft beer styles. Schneider in particular has appreciated the opportunity to brew more than pilseners, which Jever brews almost exclusively. It’s nice to experience the constant change typical of smaller craft breweries, he says.
“It doesn’t get boring, because every time, you do something different.”
In a few months, Schneider will conclude his internship and move on to another job—most likely, he says, at another brewery in North America. Stiller will overlap with Bayern’s fifth intern, who Geuer says is due to start this summer. Making beer is “a hip thing” in the United States right now, Geuer says. “Riding that wave and being part of it … It’s just different from what they would experience over in Germany.”