Brian Coombs (Chemistry, ’11) puts his science background to work brewing up barrel-aged beers.
Crafting his own path: Coombs wanted to know the science of brewing beer. During an internship at Oakshire Brewing in Eugene, he helped establish a way to test the purity of beers and analyze chemical compounds that produce specific flavors.
Mad scientists: In 2015, Coombs, his brother Doug and Matt Van Wyk started Eugene-based Alesong, which specializes in barrel-aged beers. The trio place a high value on experimentation, constantly tweaking the brewing and aging processes as they try to come up with ever-better labels. For Coombs, it helps to understand how these beers come together–at the molecular level. “It’s more like a winemaker’s approach to brewing,” he said. “It’s like mixing the art with the science.”
Tanks for the memories: After graduation, Coombs worked for the US government, testing coolants, motor oils and other fluids that went into tanks and other military vehicles.
Cows and carving turns: A chemistry degree sets you up well for the pharmaceutical and petroleum industries but those aren’t the only options, according to Coombs. Manufacturers need chemists for quality control of everything from the freshness of milk to the strength of adhesives that hold snowboard components together. “If you are creative and approach the right people, you can get into just about any manufacturing industry with a chemistry degree,” Coombs said. “But beer is obviously the most fun.”
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