Behind the Bush: Scott Sullivan

A rare sight: Scott actually getting to small batch.

What can I (Jill) say about Scott Sullivan? A.K.A. El Jefe. A.K.A “The Man.” Scott’s the head honcho around here, a partner, a boss, a friend. We all know that at the end of the day, Greenbush is his magic carpet and we’re all pretty darned lucky to be along for the ride. Whether he’s blasting “High on Fire” at a very early hour, hanging from our rafters on a Friday night, rocking an “I Love Cheese” t-shirt, or planning for our future, he’s here. He’s present. You can’t miss him; his energy knows no bounds, and he’ll do just about anything to keep this place moving forward. Lucky for us, Jen somehow managed to finagle some personal information about him for this month’s “Behind the Bush.” Read, absorb, and learn a little bit more about El Capitan.

1. What do you do at Greenbush?
I’m one of the owners and technically the head/morning shift brewer, but at this point I’m more like the maintainance guy. I clean, move walls, build bars, move equipment and put things up and take them back down again. Then I get to do my other job, which is answer lots of email, plan for the future and just about anything else you can think of. Pretty glamorous.

2. How’d you get involved with the brewery?
I thought up the idea back in early 2008 and then sold Justin on the viability of it. I had hurt my hand on a woodworking job and couldn’t work for 6 weeks. I don’t sit around well, so I killed time by learning to homebrew with one hand. Then I spent 3 years brewing incessantly and self-promoting us into existence.

3. What time is happy hour for you?
Oh, I’m always happy. Didn’t you know?

4. You’re on a deserted island and can only have one case of mass-produced domestic beer dropped to you—what do you pick?
Grain Belt Premium. It says premium right on the can.

5. Redeem yourself—what’s your favorite non-Greenbush beverage to drink?
Anything Dogfish or Dark Horse.

6. What’s been your most memorable experience with Greenbush thus far?
Running out of beer on the 4th of July weekend and having to close for 5 days still takes the cake, but hearing that somebody was in a hotel in Iowa and saw us on the news was pretty strange too.

7. What does your family think about all this madness?
Shock. Nobody thought we’d take off this fast. I think a lot of them are also shocked that the first ninety days didn’t kill me. With a few exceptions out in the extended family, everyone’s been very supportive as well.

8. When you were a kid, what did you want to be when you grew up?
I think it was an ice cream man first (???), then a firefighter. I kind of changed my mind every few months right up to opening the brewery.

9. If you were a Greenbush beer, which would you be and why?
Rage. Boy, um….

10. What’s your favorite food?
Texas-style brisket. Or Moroccan. Maybe Indian.

11. Where do you think you and Greenbush will be in 5 years?
If we keep doing what we are doing we’re going to turn a few heads. We can keep our “fire the gun in all directions” approach to brewing regardless of our size. It’s a matter of philosophy, not capacity.

12. If you only had one item you could take with you to work at Greenbush, what would it be?
Sadly (and this will shock Kristen), my iPhone.

13. What’s the most exotic place you’ve ever visited?
Turtletown, North Carolina. Kristen and I went there in 1996 and I’ve still never forgotten it.

14. Chicago or Michigan sports teams (or Indiana if you’re crazy)?
Chicago. I’m told there’s another baseball team in the South part of town that won some sort of competition a few years back, but in the spirit of embracing self-loathing and misery I remain a Cubs fan.

15. Did you have a favorite brewery before Greenbush opened? If so, what and why?
Besides Grain Belt? Yeah, Dogfish. They’re what made me want to start brewing and they prove that getting bigger doesn’t mean quality loss (supply might be a different story).

16. What’s on your nightstand?
Five or six books I’m three-quarters of the way through. William Riordan – Plunkett of Tammany Hall, Jane Jacobs – The Life And Death of Great American Cities, Anthony Flint – Wrestling With Moses, Elkins/McKittrick – The Age Of Federalism and Bo Burlingham – Small Giants (on loan from Cleetus).

17. How many beers do you drink in a typical day?
Depends on the day. I test samples from the fermenters and sort of take small pours of this and that. Part neurosis, part wanting to have a beer.

18. Rhapsody Hero (where you try to pick the WORST song for everyone to enjoy)—what’s your pick?
Well, Steely Dan is definitely the worst band ever (apologies to Bob Seeger among many others) so I guess I can play spin the bottle of suck and randomly pick that song which I think is called “Do it Again” or something  I will be most pleased if they never “do it again”.

19. What advice do you give fledgling homebrewers for transitioning from using recipes found in a book or online to developing their own creations?
Wing it. Experiment and experiment and use everyone you know as guinea pigs. Basic recipe formulation follows a practical path, but MOST importantly is meticulous note taking on every aspect of what you do. Hop variations, grain variations, what you did/didn’t like, gravity readings, fermentation oddities, etc. There are lots of homebrewers out there who are better than me, but many make non-replicable beer because they don’t remember what they did batch to batch. I made Red Bud nineteen times before I locked it down.

20. Are you a beer wizard?
No, I’m a careful idiot with very, very good luck and only one speed.


3 thoughts on “Behind the Bush: Scott Sullivan

  1. Scott has always been the most inquisitive of our 5 children. His son Elliot is showing these same traits. As a family we have all been excited and supportive of this venture. Each of us has helped, in our own modest way, to see Scott and Justin (and their families) succeed in this jpurney. We look forward to continuing to help them. Of course, the Sullivan Clan are anxiously waiting for the true family beer recipe which is ROOT BEER to be developed and mass marketed. We already have a name for it: LOGSPLITTER.

  2. Seriously, you’re from Michigan and are comparing Bob Seger to Steely Dan and one of the worst bands ever? I’ll try not to hold that against you next time I’m indulging in your brews 🙂

  3. hum…new in sites to my son-in-law! :). Way to go Scott so happy that your multi talents found a voice!!!! Having fun and supporting a wonderful sweet family. What more can a husband and daddy ask for?

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