Home > The Brewers > A Frugal Life: The Brewmaster’s Apprentice, Mark Leavens

A Frugal Life: The Brewmaster’s Apprentice, Mark Leavens

Gilligan's Brewery Co. on the Burke- Gilman Trail in Seattle.

Well, let me preface this by first mentioning that I am no brewmaster.  I may be a master of frugal cooking or of resembling a homeless person without actually being homeless, but I am definitely not a brewmaster.  I consider myself a brewing apprentice and you know what; I am absolutely okay with that.  Every brewer has to start somewhere and every brewer should have the goal of becoming a master at his or her craft.   It’s all about making good beer and drinking it of course!  With that said, I’d like to provide you all with a little insight into how I got into the industry and why I am still a master of frugal cooking.

It all began on typical brisk and dreary autumn day here in Seattle while sitting at Hale’s Ales watching of all things a Penn State football game.  Then fate walked in slow motion through the door wearing a Penn State sweatshirt.  It was Seth Gilligan, a long lost, but not forgotten friend from high school!   We hadn’t seen each other in 10 years and had no idea that we were both about to embark on an incredible beer-brewing extravaganza, that was/is Gilligan’s Brewing Company.

Seth invited me over to the ActivSpace building adjacent to Hale’s to check out his tiny 2-barrel brewing system.  With shiny stainless steel equipment tucked into a 150 sq. ft. garage, it was indeed a glorious sight.  Doesn’t it seem that most magic happens in a garage?  Anyway, it was apparent that Seth had spent a considerable amount of time and money into shaping his brewing dreams into a reality and I wanted immediately to be a part of it.  But who was I to just step in and help out?  I didn’t know the first thing about brewing beer.  I mean, I thought that alpha acids were just really strong types of hallucinogens.  I had no idea that the term actually referred to the bittering compounds found in hops.  All I knew was that I LOVED to drink beer and that I was extremely curious about the process of making it taste so darn good.   Thanks to Gilligan and his passion for brewing, I was hooked and began volunteering my time helping him run his brewery and drinking his beer.  What more could an apprentice ask for?

Conveniently located within 10 feet of the most popular biking, walking, jogging, rollerblading, long boarding, and vomiting trail in Seattle, Gilligan’s Brewing Co. quickly became a popular place.  The Burke-Gilman Trail was absolutely flooded with beer enthusiasts, but we were only able to quench their thirsty palates two days a week.  This wasn’t our day job; it was our hobby, and let it be known that hobbies still cost A LOT of money, still require proper licensing, and still take up a ton of your time.  But we all pursue our hobbies because they fill up our inner happy holes and this is especially true when your hobby is brewing beer and drinking it.

With the prices of hops, malt, and specialty ingredients all increasing tremendously over the past few years, brewing good craft beer is by no means a cheap endeavor.  Coincidentally enough, neither is drinking it.  We have all seen the price of a pint or a six-pack of our favorite microbrew go up over the years and it may not stop.  However, one thing has always remained the same and will never change.  We love to brew beer and drink it regardless of the price.  Here in Seattle the craft brewing/drinking scene is enormous and it is only getting larger as more and more people are starting up their home brewing dreams and realizing that beer made with rice just isn’t all that good.  It may get you drunk for cheap and don’t get me wrong, I like cheap stuff that gets you drunk, but mass produced beer is just so boring.  Thanks to homebrewers, nanobreweries, and microbreweries around the country that are enduring the cost of producing good beer, we can all enjoy the liquid pleasure of a more complex beverage knowing that it was crafted by the hands and minds of passionate brewers.

Unfortunately, Gilligan’s Brewing Co. on the Burke-Gilman Trail was forced to come to an end this past September, but it will never be forgotten.  We made so many amazing friends down there and we want you all to know that we are actively pursuing our next venture and look forward to making even more friends in the future, all the while expanding our inner happy holes.  We don’t know where our next brewery will be located or how profitable we’ll be, but we can assure you that we are going to try to brew you the best beer possible regardless of the price to produce it.  In the mean time though, I’m going to continue supporting the craft brewing industry while eating traditional delicacies such as pasta with red sauce or rice and beans or fresh bread from the Essential Baking Company dumpster.  Remember, I may not be a brewmaster, but I am a master of frugal cooking and of foraging too I guess.   Cheers!


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