When it comes right down to it, I got into the beer world purely because of my dad. Until about four years ago I had no idea there were more than two categories of beer. There was beer I would tolerate and everything else lumped into the other category; beer I wouldn’t touch. To be fair, the only beer I’d tried back then was a few domestic and import beers that you can find everywhere: Stella Artois, Blue Moon, Corona, etc. I’ve been active duty U.S. Air Force since 2011. While stationed in South Korea from October 2015 to October 2016, I never even bothered with beer because mixed drinks with Soju was just so cheap.
After my time in South Korea, I got stationed near home at Travis Air Force Base in California. That’s when I found out my Dad, Troy Todd, had been brewing beer for quite a few years at that point. I had no idea. So while beer didn’t excite me, it would have been rude not to try his homebrew. Turns out this filial obligation was a revelation for me. His beer was essentially my gateway to a new way of life. I started making a point to go to every brewery in and around Sacramento and the Bay Area to try craft beer and see what it was all about. I started attending beer festivals and release parties trying all styles of beer. Drinking alcohol was no longer a means to get drunk. I enjoyed socializing with a well-brewed beer.
Also I started brewing beer with my dad. Now full disclosure, he is the real expert and his brew system has come a long a way even since I started helping him. Every time I come over for a brew session he’ll have some new toy or some fancy innovative way to make a process better from just things he found at Lowes or Home Depot that he repurposed. I always found it to be very impressive. I learned quickly that brewing is a lot of janitorial work, but it’s worth every second for a quality product. When I left for another deployment, my dad retired and started working as a brewer at a local brewery, Heretic Brewing Company. Coincidentally, the owner of Heretic, Jamil Zainasheff, is the Honorary Commander for my squadron, the 60th Mechanical Squadron (MXS). Needless to say he picked up a few neat tricks and wealth of knowledge working with Jamil.
During my next deployment to the Middle East I started getting into designing labels and other artsy things during what little time I had off. I would send my dad some labels for holiday beers, like one we came up with as “Santa is Alive!” because Heretic had a beer called Dead Santa. I also designed a military challenge coin while I was there that got a lot of positive feedback and convinced me to keep doing design work.
Inevitably, brewing beer with my dad and designing homebrew labels became a way to bond with my dad. What better way is there to do that than over a beer? This led us to join a local homebrew club. Through the brew club we had some opportunities to pour our homebrew for charity at a couple small brewfests. For this reason, you can imagine my excitement when there was a homebrew competition on base in October 2019. My dad and I entered two beers including our Peanut Butter Banana Time Stout. At 8.2% ABV, it was the strongest beer in the competition. Unfortunately we were out of labels and ink for printing, so I ended up printing the labels in black and white and on paper. I basically just cut out the paper and taped it around the cans for the competition. It sure looked tacky, but it was still delicious. As it was a popularity contest for best beer, it was quite humbling when our Peanut Butter Banana Time Stout took first place.