In the summer of ’69. Jim Schwarz was an eager, high school sophomore who took his first summer job at the Chilton Malthouse. “I was the youngest guy there, by seventeen years, at least, which meant I was the rookie who got to carry all the bags,” Jim remembers. He came back the following two summers and upon graduating in 1972, Jim accepted a full-time job with Briess.
“When I began with Briess in the 70’s, things were a lot different. We were much smaller back then, with only 16 people in the plant and 3 in the office, which used to be the small brick building out front that’s now the lab. There was no such thing as craft beer or craft malting. A lot of what we did here was 110 lb. bags and rail cars. You couldn’t get 50 lb. specialty malt bags in the industry, it just wasn’t heard of.” Jim recalls.
“Roger [Briess] was real sharp and saw early on the need for specialty malt. We were one of the first malthouses in the country to get a K-ball roaster and we started with just a few caramel malts. I remember when there was this small customer who no one heard of out west called Sierra Nevada and they would order a couple 50 lb. bags at a time. That was one of the neat things, growing with the industry and watching all the unknown breweries become what they are today. And Briess was always there for them.” Jim explained.
“I’ve done a lot with Briess over the last 45 years. I spent a good amount of time in the elevator, 25 years to be exact. I really liked working the elevator because you got to work with the customers and orders and you kept busy going up and down the stairs 10 to 15 times a day – it kept me in shape too. But I’ve done it all in the plant and the last eight years I’ve been running the roasters. I think what kept me around for so long was the people I worked with. I mean, we all have our spouts of time that we don’t get along with someone, but overall it’s been a really great place to work.”
“I think, too, over the years, Briess has been very adaptable. The 50 lb. bags are one of the greatest examples of this. But also, when we suddenly lost Roger [Briess], we were very fortunate to have Mrs. Briess take over. She brought all the right people in and kept Roger’s vision alive. I honestly don’t think we would still be standing without her,” Jim remarked.
Jim experienced firsthand the changing landscape of the craft brewing industry from the malting side. After 45 years of dedication as a full-time maltster, Jim retired on Friday, April 21st. Jim has played fundamental roles in the malthouse operations, helping craft what Briess is today. His years of service are greatly appreciated.
So where will Jim be headed now? “I’m hitting the road with my wife come Monday [April 24] and we’re taking Route 66 to the Grand Canyon. We have no plans and don’t know how long we’ll be on the road, but we’ve got all the time in the world to explore.”
Congratulations Jim! We wish you the best in your retirement, from all of us at Briess.