Bryan Donaldson ’09 on how he created his own path in the beer industry.
What’s on tap at Lagunitas? Ask Bryan Donaldson ’09. As brewing innovation manager, Donaldson helps develop what’s next for the Petaluma, California–based brewing company— everything from improving production processes to brainstorming with brewmasters as they develop new recipes for beer. He doesn’t just want to make popular beer but something that fits the company and its customers— exploring the latest in hops, barley, yeast. He can even suggest fruits or other natural products the brewmasters can play with. “That is really the fun part of the job,” Donaldson says. Getting a palate like Donaldson’s is a long path.
Heading into his senior year at SCU, he worked a summer job at a biochemistry lab and met a guy who home-brewed. He did some research and found he could study brewing through a master’s program at UC Davis. After graduate school, he worked at Lagunitas before becoming a brewer at Sierra Nevada. He returned to Lagunitas four years ago to work as a sensory manager, a new position that teaches people to taste beer for quality purposes. “They let me go free to build this program,” Donaldson says. “There were a lot of challenges, but it was also very rewarding.” So what beer does Donaldson’s palate prefer? He likes “A Little Sumpin’ Sumpin’,” but says his favorite brew is whatever is in his hands.