“Instead of just using Black culture, get our people involved in the industry.”
By Kevin Blodger Published on 6/10/2020 at 12:03 PM
Kevin Blodger has a long track record of leading the way. While his career started out in education, he’s worked his way up the beer ladder and is now the co-owner and director of brewing operations at Union Craft Brewingin Baltimore, as well as the chair of the Diversity Committee for the Brewers Association. And, of course, there’s his role as dad. Blodger talks about how fatherhood, inclusion, and recent global issues have all factored into his brewing career. As told to Jess Mayhugh.
I started home brewing in college in the late ’90s. I got a kit from a liquor store and started messing around with it. But I honestly didn’t think it could be a career. After school, I became a crisis specialist at a non-public school run by a church in Silver Spring that would take kids the school system couldn't handle. I did that for almost two years. They asked me to be principal, but at the same time I had interviewed for a job at Frederick Brewing, now Flying Dog. They offered me $10 an hour. The school was going to give me a lot more money, but I took the job with the brewery. I told my girlfriend at the time, now my wife, that my parents might not be too happy with that decision. Overall, my parents were actually pretty supportive. I think it was more like they saw me floating around for a while, they just wanted me to make a smart decision and wondered if it really could be a career for me. Oddly enough, my dad had worked on the line at a brewery in Detroit to put himself through school, so he was at least familiar. I always enjoyed the idea of working with my hands and making a tangible product. The first beer I homebrewed was a porter and everyone liked it. I loved that feeling of everyone digging it. I got engaged to my wife while I was still working at the school, she was a teacher there. This was the summer of 2004 and we were married in 2005. Around that time, I reached out to Jason Oliver at Gordon Biersch and he was looking to fill a head brewer position in Naperville, Illinois -- just outside Chicago. We didn’t have kids yet, so my wife and I thought, why not? We had so much fun out there, just hanging out with everyone at the restaurant. We were in our early 30s with no family pressure just yet. Naperville is beautiful, aside from the brutal winters. If Union hadn’t become this idea and I didn’t have the opportunity to come back to Maryland and build something from the ground up, we probably would have stayed.