Nothing antiquated about this history and beer expert
By Dylan Hochstedler
Photos: Neill Pieper
As a history professor at the University of Colorado Boulder and brewer of Avery Brewing Co.’s Ales of Antiquity Series, beer historian is the perfect title for Travis Rupp.
Rupp teaches four classes at CU while maintaining his roles at Avery as brewer and research and development manager.
Rupp’s primary focus is brewing the one-of-a-kind Ales of Antiquity Series, which closely replicates historical beers — some dating back to 1200 B.C.
So far, Avery has created six beers in the series, which launched in September 2016.
Rupp’s career path toward libations was no accident. His father crafted mead and cider throughout Rupp’s childhood and gave him a homebrew kit for his 19th birthday. While studying English for his undergraduate degree at the University of Iowa, Rupp would regularly make trips home to help his dad brew and bottle their beer, which he took back to school to enjoy with buddies.
After obtaining his English degree, Rupp jumped into the Ph.D. program at the University of Iowa for comparative literature. Shortly after starting, he was approached by one of his old history professors, who convinced him to completely change his career field. The next chapter in Rupp’s life was studying classical history at CU Boulder.
In addition to archaeology and art history degrees, Rupp also has degrees in English, secondary education, ancient history and classical languages. Even with five degrees, he found himself at a crossroads.
“When I graduated in 2010, I honestly had no idea what I was going to do,” he said.
Upon graduation, he was offered a job as a part-time history professor at CU Boulder, but he needed another source of income.
“Beer was sort of on my radar and I applied to Avery after I first graduated,” Rupp said.
Former Avery chief operating officer (now Ska COO) Steve Breezley advised him to go get some experience in smaller breweries and try again later. However, the experience he picked up during the next two years had more to do with IT than IBUs. After some success at Apple working as a B2B salesperson, his boss eventually suggested that he should go do what he loved.
“I don’t know why you’re doing this job,” he told Rupp. “Apply at a brewery, it’ll make you happy.’”
He took the advice and applied at a few breweries, including Avery, where he was a regular. The Avery crew knew Rupp was a history professor and successful sales rep at Apple. Many were surprised he wanted such an extreme change.
But he took a job working in the taproom for 10 months and building his knowledge of Avery brews. Then he switched roles and worked in bottling and kegging. He was in charge of moving the bottling line from the former headquarters at Avery Alley to the large new facility in Gunbarrel in 2015.
Once in the new brewery, Rupp worked in packaging, special projects and eventually signed on as manager of research and development, where one of his main focuses is the Ales of Antiquity Series.
A deeper look at the Ales of Antiquity Series
While working in the production department at Avery, Travis Rupp was challenged to come up with ideas for going deeper into beer and its history.
Rupp took it seriously and spent time preparing PowerPoint presentations for his colleagues on ancient beer history. His studious approach paid off as he eventually landed the research and development manager position and launched the Ales of Antiquity Series.
“The cool thing about the series is it can go anywhere, and my ideas are endless,” said Rupp. “I think I have about 30 ideas written in my notebook and we plan to start releasing about eight beers per year (starting in 2018).”
He said researching and producing historical beer comes with a cost, primarily finding and using the correct yeast.
“Yeast is probably the most critical component of these ancient beers, especially because they didn’t use hops back then,”
He points out that for a Viking beer Avery produced, he scraped up some yeast for wild fermentation from goods he had imported from Sweden and Finland.
His expertise has garnered attention from other parts of the world. “I get so many emails from people all around the world asking me to brew unique beers from all over,” Rupp says.
While presenting at a recent World Beer Conference, he caught the attention of Umbrian monks, who invited him to their brewery in Nursia, Italy. Rupp took them up on their offer and he went to their brewery to learn about their traditions and to collect the yeast strain they’ve used to produce “Benedictus” and “Nursia,” two beers in the Ales of Antiquity Series.
A recent Metro State University of Denver graduate, Dylan Hochstedler enjoys the craft scene throughout Colorado.