Oregon State University Libraries and Press

Tobin Family Oral History Interview, February 28, 2017

Oregon State University

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0:00 - Interview introduction

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Partial Transcript: Okay, so we'll start with names

Segment Synopsis: Jeff and Gillian Tobin introduce themselves, provide their birth dates, the current date and the location of the interview.

Keywords: Belgian beer; Brewery taprooms; Craft beer; Taprooms

Subjects: Beer Beer and brewing Brewing Brewing industry

0:41 - Jeff Tobin's childhood memories

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Partial Transcript: So, where were you born?

Segment Synopsis: Tobin describes his impressions of growing up in West Branch, Michigan, where his ancestors homesteaded a while before. He discusses the different industries contributing the local economy, and how his father was involved as an accountant for one such industry. He also recounts the family gatherings he had with his relatives at his uncle’s dairy farm. Tobin goes on to detail his mother’s employment with the Girl Scouts, and how that related to his interest in nature and the boy scouts. He ties this story into how his brewery got the name Mazama.

Keywords: Acrophilia; Independent accountants; Mt. St. Helens (Wash.)

Subjects: Agriculture Dairy farms Girl Scouts Homesteading Mountains West Branch (Mich.)

7:29 - Jeff Tobin's academic interests

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Partial Transcript: So you liked camping. What are some of the other things

Segment Synopsis: Tobin describes his dual interests in science and music growing up, and how his experience and passion as a musician was influenced by the musicality of his family. He details the different genres of music that he liked to listen to, and how that’s shifted in his adulthood. He also notes his interest in technical theatre. Tobin then discusses how he ended up pursuing education and a career in electrical and electronics engineering, and how his passion for science shaped his passion for brewing.

Keywords: Brewing science; Fermentation science; Music genres; Science and mathematics; Technical theatre

Subjects: Electronics engineers Music MUSIC / Genres & Styles / Rock Science and music Sound engineers

12:45 - Beer culture in Michigan

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Partial Transcript: So the upper Midwest being obviously a seat of a lot of brewing culture

Segment Synopsis: Tobin discusses the influence of nearby brewing towns in Michigan and Wisconsin, and their presence in midwestern beer culture. He describes the beer preferences within his community growing up, and how most of it was based in domestic beers from macrobreweries. Tobin notes how some of his friends even raced cars emblazoned with the labels from their favorite brands. He states that people in his old community still stick to their preferences, despite many domestic beers tasting similar.

Keywords: Beer preferences; College parties; Domestic beer; Light lager beer; Race cars; Strough Brewing Company

Subjects: Beer Beer and brewing Breweries Detroit (Mich.) Milwaukie (Wis.)

15:20 - Attending college at the Michigan Technological University

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Partial Transcript: So when you were thinking about going to college

Segment Synopsis: Tobin explains his lack of knowledge about engineering going into college, but his desire to pursue an engineering career for sound technician work in the music industry. He describes the various classes and clubs he participated in to prepare for a career in sound engineering, and how he ended up switching to electronics engineering after learning about the lack of roles available in music production for engineers. Tobin notes where he went to college, and the different locations students came from. He describes the general industrial environment surrounding the university, along with the access to nature. He finally notes where he ended up getting a job after graduating from college.

Keywords: Industry services; Recording engineers; Student demographics; Universities and industry

Subjects: Audio Engineering Society Electroacoustics Electronics engineers Engineering International Business Machines Corporation Michigan Technological University Skiing Sound engineering

21:05 - College culture at Michigan Technological University

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Partial Transcript: So what was your first- well, actually, let's take a step back

Segment Synopsis: Tobin describes the political turmoil surrounding the Iran hostage crisis while he was in college, and how that perpetuated certain stereotypes about people from the Middle East. He discusses how his interactions with peers from the region taught him about the other side of the international issue. Tobin also details the various activities he had at Michigan Tech, including skiing and doing sound design for the school’s jazz band.

Keywords: College culture; Cultural immersion; Islamaphobia--U.S.; Sound technology

Subjects: Iran Hostage Crisis, 1979-1981 Michigan Technological University Middle East Skiing Sound engineering Stereotypes

24:09 - Living in Vermont / Introduction to home brewing

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Partial Transcript: So what was it like to move to Vermont?

Segment Synopsis: Tobin describes the political and cultural atmosphere of Burlington, Vermont, and how he and his wife Kathy interacted with it. He discusses the origins of their interest and practice in home brewing, having learned from a friend in college. Tobin details the resources available to homebrewers at the time, including Charlie Papazian’s The Joy of Homebrewing, and the different tricks he learned to overcome a lack of brewing technology. He explains the relationship between the legalization of homebrewing in 1979 and the rise of the craft beer industry, and the availability of different ingredients for different beer styles.

Keywords: Brewing styles; Brewing technology; Catamount Brewing Company; Craft beer industry; Home brewing; Liberal views; The Joy of Home Brewing (book)

Subjects: Beer and brewing Brewing industry Burlington (Vt.) Liberal Papazian, Charlie Sanders, Bernard Tradition

33:38 - Available brewing information in the 1980s

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Partial Transcript: So at that point, there isn't- so you're talking about mail order

Segment Synopsis: Tobin discusses the various sources of information about the brewing process available in the 1980s, and how they were more limited than now. He notes his participation in the American Homebrewers Association, and how small it was when he joined. Tobin explains the sources of his recipe ideas during the 1980s, and how the rise of the internet has expanded access to the technicalities of brewing.

Keywords: Brewing resources; Brewing supply shops; Brewing Techniques (magazine); Home brewing; Zymurgy (magazine)

Subjects: American Homebrewers Association American Homebrewers Association. Beer and brewing Beer and brewing Brewing--United States

40:36 - Moving to Colorado

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Partial Transcript: So, you're working at IBM in the mid-80s

Segment Synopsis:
Tobin details how he moved to Colorado with wife Kathy to continue his career with, and how his interests started to shift away from brewing during that time. He notes, however, how his passion for homebrewing was reinvigorated through various activities in brewing competitions and conferences. He then describes how he decided to move to working at Hewlett Packard in Corvallis. Gillian Tobin adds how she and her younger brother were born in Colorado, and some of her memories from living there as a very young child.

Keywords: Bike racing; Family development; Home brewing; Woman astronauts

Subjects: Beer and brewing Beer--Judging Colorado Cycling Hewlett-Packard Company International Business Machines Corporation Siebel Institute of Technology

45:43 - Colorado v. Oregon beer culture

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Partial Transcript: So going back to Colorado, were you seeing other people

Segment Synopsis: Tobin describes the brewery activity present in Colorado during the 1980s, as well as the different business models breweries use. He goes on to detail the different amount of brewery presence in Oregon when he and his family moved to Corvallis, and his memories of visiting the Old World Deli. Tobin also discusses why the success of home brewing in Oregon is due to the availability of local resources, and how getting access to hops has changed over time. He recounts the different ways he obtained and cultivated yeast strains while he was home brewing in the 1980s.

Keywords: Boulder Brewing Company; Brewing industry--Oregon; Brewpubs; Home brewing; Production brewing

Subjects: Beer and brewing Breweries Hops Yeast

52:54 - Documenting the brewing process

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Partial Transcript: So what kinds of records were you keeping as a home brewer?

Segment Synopsis: Tobin describes the methods of recording recipes and process he used in home brewing, along with specific details like temperature and resultant taste. He notes how current brewing software differs from older recording methods, and how he’s learned more about his ingredients from it. Tobin explains how he’s maintained his brewing records over time, and how those notes often have beer or water marks on them.

Keywords: Beer recipes; Brewing process; Brewing recipes; Brewing--documentation; Home brewing; Record keeping

Subjects: Beer and brewing Brewing--Quality control Brewing--Software Water quality

55:26 - Gillian Tobin on moving to Corvallis, OR and home brewing

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Partial Transcript: So taking a bit of a right turn, bigger turn, what was it like to move to Corvallis?

Segment Synopsis: Gillian Tobin lists the different places she and her family lived in and around Corvallis, along with describing the various remodeling efforts put in to improve their family house. She states that she and her younger brother gained various construction skills in assisting their parents, and how this influenced her brother’s professional interest in construction. She then recalls her memories of watching her father home brewing in the backyard, and participating in Heart of the Valley Homebrewer picnics. Tobin discusses how the craft brewing industry has influenced the beer preferences of young people, and how being around home brewing taught her about responsible drinking. She and her father than compare interests in the process and products of home brewing.

Keywords: Brewing--Experimentation; Craft beer; Craft brewing; Home brewing; Responsible drinking; Widmer Brothers Brewing Company

Subjects: Construction engineering Corvallis (Or.) Home improvement Home remodeling

61:41 - Food and agriculture in Corvallis, OR

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Partial Transcript: So what about Corvallis as far as food goes, as far as agriculture

Segment Synopsis: Tobin admits that he didn’t know about the agricultural or food science research going on at Oregon State when he moved to Corvallis. He describes his various experiences in the Heart of the Valley Homebrewers club, and how it connected him to various researchers from the university. Tobin then discusses the impact that Oregon State’s hop research program has had on the craft brewing industry, and the strength of the fermentation science program on campus.

Keywords: Fermentation science; Home brewing; Home brewing clubs; Shellhammer, Tom; Tensithe equation

Subjects: Agricultural research Corvallis (Or.) Hops Oregon State University Yeasts

70:58 - Working for Hewlett Packard in Corvallis, OR

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Partial Transcript: So back to the thing that was paying you at the time

Segment Synopsis: Tobin describes the scope and notability of the Hewlett Packard Corvallis facility, and the different products they were developing at that location. He discusses his roles in the company, and how he was continually moved into subsidiary companies under HP, like Agilent and Marvelle. Tobin then details the atmosphere on the Corvallis campus, and the diversity of employees there. In a tangent before introducing his wife Kathy, Tobin summarizes his experiences as a bike racer in Colorado.

Keywords: Calculator development; Corporate subsidiaries; Employee diversity; Printer development

Subjects: Calculators Hewlett Packard Company Hewlett-Packard Company. Agilent Technologies Hewlett-Packard Company. Corvallis Division Subsidiary companies

79:52 - Kathy Tobin introduction / Starting the brewery

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Partial Transcript: So, Kathy has joined us. So, you are getting to the end of your

Segment Synopsis: Kathy Tobin discusses her career at the Corvallis facility for Hewlett Packard, along with her birth date, birthplace and how she transitioned into working at the brewery. She describes how she and her husband discussed their options of opening a brewery after deciding to leave their engineering careers. She notes her husband’s renewed interest in homebrewing around when their daughter graduated from college, and explains how she convinced him to visit Belgium for beer exploration. They state how they found their niche in craft brewing through learning about Belgian styles.

Keywords: Belgian beer; Brewing styles; Corporate burnout; Home brewing

Subjects: Beer and brewing Corvallis (Or.) Hewlett Packard Company Subsidiary companies

85:55 - Mazama as a family brewery / Community impact

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Partial Transcript: Well I'm thinking also, the old world way includes them being family-based

Segment Synopsis: Kathy and Jeff Tobin discuss the prevalence of family-owned breweries in Belgium, and how they intend to pass on the brewery as a family legacy. They discuss the importance of community connection in their business values, and how this was inspired by the business ideology held by Ben and Jerry’s ice cream while they lived in Vermont. They analyze the impact of business values and passion on beer quality, along with how they’ve incorporated family-style seating in their taproom. They also detail the various ways they try to connect with fellow breweries in Corvallis, and how important the local brewing community is to tourism.

Keywords: Ben & Jerry's Homemade Holdings Inc; Brewing community; Brewpubs; Family breweries; Family legacy; Passion in business; Zwickelmania

Subjects: Beer and brewing Community involvement Corvallis (Or.) Family businesses Passion

100:07 - Family roles in the brewery / Connecting with Nectar Creek Mead and 2 Towns Ciderhouse

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Partial Transcript: What about deciding roles?

Segment Synopsis: The Tobins discuss the different roles they have in brewery operations, finances and marketing, and how they’ve incorporated employment and internships into their business. Gillian Tobin recounts how she went back to school for graphic design in order to create labels and artwork for the brewery. The family also describes the kinds of interactions they have with Nectar Creek and 2 Towns Ciderhouse, and the benefit of having neighboring businesses in event planning to improve inclusivity.

Keywords: Brewery internships; Brewery marketing; Brewing community; Business marketing; Product feedback; Summer internships

Subjects: Beer and brewing Brewery workers Graphic design & illustration Linn-Benton Community College Marketing Product quality

110:33 - Family relationships within business partnership

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Partial Transcript: I kinda love that about Corvallis, that you will get these little complexes

Segment Synopsis: The Tobins explain the benefits and disadvantages of running a business with your family members, and how those two overlap. They discuss the biggest problems they face as a family within a business, and how they overcome it with their specific dynamic and remaining independent in their specific business areas. They also note how they include Gillian Tobin’s younger brother in their business community, and the importance of time away from work.

Keywords: Adult siblings; Business community; Business partnership; Family arguments; Independence from family

Subjects: Adult children and parents Autonomy Engineering Family businesses Family relationships Siblings

116:47 - Reputation as a small business / Collaboration with Belgian brewers

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Partial Transcript: Well I was trying to think about how the- so you're name isn't actually on the label

Segment Synopsis: The Tobins reflect on the motivation involved to open a small business, and the difference in recognition compared to working for large companies. They discuss the frustration and reward of receiving feedback from customers, and the importance of being authentic to European styles. They then recount how they did a collaboration with brewers from Belgium, and the process involved in developing a beer with them.

Keywords: Belgian beers; Belgian brewing; Business collaboration; Business reputation; Employee anonymity

Subjects: Artistic collaboration Beer and brewing Brewing--Belgium Feedback Reputation Small businesses

126:16 - Rewarding moments from working in craft brewing

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Partial Transcript: What are some other favorite stories that you have

Segment Synopsis:
The Tobins note specific highlights in their careers with the brewery, including receiving their first brewing award and collaborating with the Belgian brewers. They discuss the origins of the name Mazama for the brewery, and how they had to change it from a different name. They describe how they got involved with selling beer in Japan, and the positive reception they’ve had from consumers there.

Keywords: Beer--Japan--Sales; Brewery names; Brewing achievements; Brewing awards

Subjects: Beer and brewing Beer--Japan--History Beer--Japan--Marketing International sales Social media

135:49 - Future of the craft beer industry

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Partial Transcript: Something you didn't ask, and this has kind of been on my mind lately

Segment Synopsis: Jeff Tobin discusses his insights about the recent buyouts of craft breweries by larger companies, and the spread of craft beer to the international market. He explains his efforts to talk with people about purchasing products based on their sources, and how Oregon consumers are conscious of where their products come from.

Keywords: Brewing--international sales; Business values; Craft beer; Craft brewing; International markets

Subjects: Beer and brewing Breweries Corporate buyouts Microbreweries Microbreweries--United States

146:57 - Concluding thoughts on brewery impacts

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Partial Transcript: So what about- I always like to end interviews with

Segment Synopsis: The Tobins reflect on their impact in the craft brewing industry, namely in raising interest in production of authentic Belgian beer. Kathy Tobin compares the rise of Belgian beers to that of traditional German lagers in Oregon. They also discuss the family they’ve built with past and present employees, and the pride of watching their former staff moving forward. They conclude that their biggest reward in running the brewery is in connecting with a broader community.

Keywords: Belgian beer; Brewing--Education; Employment legacy; Fruit beers; Ingredient authenticity; style authenticity

Subjects: Authenticity (Philosophy)--Social aspects Community involvement Diversity Employment opportunities: Beer and brewing