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How To Be A... Mountain Brewer

BREWING BEER AND SKIING, MUST BE A TOUGH LIFE. FIND OUT MORE FROM CHRIGL LUTHY

15:42 28th February 2014 by Sam McMahon
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Chrigl Luthy brews beer in Morzine, France. Photo: Sam McMahon

Chrigl Luthy brews beer in Morzine, France. Photo: Sam McMahon

Let’s be honest – you’re never going to live a happier existence than when you’re a seasonnaire. You get to live in the mountains with a guaranteed group of friends, never-ending party scene and endless shredding. The only downside? The jobs. From cleaning floors to peeling potatoes, generally the work is, well, pretty shit. However, there are some lucky souls who land themselves dream seasonal jobs. This season we’re featuring some of the raddest jobs the mountains have to offer…..

Meet Chrigl Luthy – Brewer

JOB TITLE: Co-Owner and brew-master at the Bec Jaune Brewery in Morzine, France.
HOURS: Six days a week
PAY: TBC…
PERKS: I get to work with my favourite thing, beer! And I get to live in the mountains and ski when I want.
DOWNSIDE: Brewing is actually hard work; working and skiing every day makes you very tired…

Getting to brew beer after a day riding powder sure seems like the dream right? Can life really be that good? We spoke to Chrigl Luthy – co-owner of a new brewery/restaurant in Morzine, The Bec Jaune Brewey – to find out all about life as a mountain brew-master. After working in London for several years he made the plunge and moved to the Alps to pursue his true calling as a full time skier/brewer, here he is in his own words:

Describe a typical day ‘in the office’ for you.
I was brewing in the mornings, but then on a powder day I went skiing and realised that I could brew during service… **laughs** and that’s been working ever since. When I have the energy and when the snow is good I go skiing in the morning then come in around two, then I work until the bar closes and help everyone shut it down. I’m brewing about three days a week at the moment, which is great.

Where did the idea for a mountain brewery come from?
It hit me about six years ago, I was just sitting drinking some regular lager in a regular pub in a regular resort and I realised I wasn’t enjoying it as much as I was enjoying a lot of the beer back in England, or even the stuff we were brewing ourselves at home. I love skiing and can’t live without it, it’s the thing. I was always gonna live in the Alps in the end I think and my wife feels the same way, but there was an enjoyment that we were missing in the place we wanted to live so it just seemed obvious; that’s what we’ve gotta do, we have to make this happen. We followed the dream and made the jump and haven’t regretted it.

Chrigl with a satisfied customer. Photo: Sam McMahon

Chrigl with a satisfied customer. Photo: Sam McMahon

Why did you set up shop in the Alps in the first place?
You get to cherry pick the days you go skiing; I was sick of being a slave to being a tourist and getting dealt whatever the weather was, getting to know a place in a few days and then leaving. It’s nice being somewhere full time and really getting to know it. Morzine embraces and welcomes young enterprise, it’s relatively dynamic for a ski resort I guess. A lot of resorts have being doing the same thing for years and trying to hold on to that, but here they seem to have a bit more momentum.

It must be tough having to ‘sample the wares,’ is that the hardest bit?
Yeah, it’s definitely not easy. You do need to keep tabs on how good the beer’s tasting but you also need to keep tabs on how much you’re drinking. I have heard stories of other bar owners who avoid their own bars because they’re too good or too much fun! When people come here they’re doing so not for the sake of getting pissed, they’re actually thinking about the experience. The beer never sleeps – the process never finishes on the actual brew day it finishes when it comes out of the tap; you can ruin a beer between it finishing fermenting and it coming out of the tap. You have to really care and be conscious of what’s happening all the time, but it’s OK really… It’s a slow process so you can relax, but if you’re not relaxed you can just have a beer!

It’s a slow process so you can relax, but if you’re not relaxed you can just have a beer!

Is it challenging combining a restaurant with a brewery?
I hadn’t really foreseen that; it’s a shared space you have to share with your other employees, you share it with the chefs, the food and the clients. For me at least most breweries are a place where you can just retreat and focus on one thing: what’s in the glass. I’ve worked in dedicated brew houses and I love that complete unawareness of the outside world, whereas here it’s a very public place, but it’s great seeing people enjoy the beer.

Have you got any advice you’d give to someone thinking about starting a business in the Alps?
At the root of every business is your belief in what you want to do, a lot of what we’ve done has all evolved from a very core idea but we’ve managed to be very flexible. There are certain things where you cannot have your way, but as long as you have a very good idea of what you want to do, what you love and what you’re passionate about you can do it. In the end you get dealt what you’re dealt, the bank gives you as much money as they feel like giving you and you only have as much time to launch as you’re left with before the season starts. Be prepared and have plan Bs, but keep that core idea. That’s not mountain specific, but drinking sure seems like it is!

Sampling the wares. Photo: Sam McMahon

Sampling the wares. Photo: Sam McMahon

What would you be doing if you weren’t here brewing?
I think I’d still be back in London making beer, and holidaying here!

What would you say is the best thing about owning a business in the mountains?
I learned a lot from the people I worked with before at The Kernel Brewery; I once made the mistake of calling the beer ‘the product.’ They stopped me right away and said, “It’s not a product, it’s beer. It’s not a business, it’s a brewery.” The best part is not considering your business as a business, but considering it to be what you do. If it’s a good business it should feel like you’re doing something worthwhile, fulfilling and fun.

And the worst?
Is there a worst part? Not yet.

Putting the beer to bed. Photo: Sam McMahon

Putting the beer to bed. Photo: Sam McMahon

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