Riley Seitz l Surly Brewing Company
For Riley Seitz, brewing beer is a family affair. Read on to learn more about Seitz’s journey to Surly Brewing Company.
Can you tell us a bit about your business and background?
Surly Brewing Company is an independent craft brewery that turns 13 this year. We currently distribute in 8 states, and one province. We have two production facilities that produce and package beer daily; the original facility is in Brooklyn Center, and the “destination” brewery is in Minneapolis in the Prospect Park neighborhood.
I grew up outside of Northfield, MN in a tiny township called Castle Rock. My mother has been an entrepreneur for most of my childhood and currently owns a company that sells and distributes traveling museum exhibits. My father has been in the beer industry for 20+ years and currently works for a malted barley supplier. I graduated from the University of Minnesota with a B.S. in Microbiology and had no clue what I wanted to do when I graduated. From my father’s career in brewing, I knew there was a science-focused career that existed in a brewing quality lab, but had put the idea on the back burner because I thought working in a brewery was a pipe dream (pun intended?). After graduation, I was hired as a lab analyst and did product testing on drinking water filters. After a year, I realized I wasn’t passionate about water filtration and needed to find something knew. While working as a lab analyst, I got my foot in the door at Surly as a hostess in the beer hall with the hopes of making it into the production space. I asked the right question at the right time, had relevant experience, and was hired as Surly’s first Lab Technician after 4 months of hosting. Fast forward to present day and I am now the QAQC Manager at Surly, and have a team of 4 that work within the quality department with me. I currently sit on the local Master Brewers Association board, and am part of the Minnesota Craft Brewers Guild Education Committee. I have been invited to speak at national brewing conferences and am continually trying to stay active in the brewing community, both locally and nationally.
How do you think living in the Twin Cities has shaped your business?
Surly has played a fairly large roll in the Minnesota beer industry with the passing of the “Surly Bill” back in 2011, so I think it is fair to say Surly has equally shaped the Twin Cities, as the Twin Cities has shaped the company. The beer industry in the Twin Cities is a relatively small community of folks and it is not hard to get to know each other if you actively participate in industry organizations. I think being in a smaller and relatively younger brewing community offers more potential to collaborate. Not everything is daisies and sunshine in any industry, but it is really amazing to be a part of an inclusive, collaborative, and creative industry that fosters the same culture with its market. Most people are surprised when they hear that breweries help each other out; whether it be sharing/selling raw ingredients like a bag of hops or malt, or helping with process and new equipment. Most folks in the industry will always offer a hand or an educated opinion if someone is seeking help or advice. There is competition, but at the end of the day, we all want to see beer succeed in our home state, and at our neighborhood breweries.
If you had one piece of advice for someone starting a business, what would it be?
I can only speak to new career paths. NETWORK. Know of someone who has a job that is interesting to you? Buy them coffee, take them out to lunch, or meet them at your favorite brewery for a pint. ALWAYS come prepared with a lot of questions, and do some research into their field of work. As the interviewer, there is nothing more uncomfortable than asking someone to lunch, then not having conversation. As the interviewee, there is nothing more frustrating than someone taking an hour of your busy day and not coming prepared.
LAB is founded on three key values: connect, create and collaborate. What are your three key values?
Positivity, honesty, collaboration.
What are some of your everyday essentials that you can’t live without?
A large water bottle, a pair of sunglasses, comfortable shoes, and good tunes!
If you weren’t doing this, what would you be doing?
Making things with my hands: gardening, building, knitting, cooking, fermenting. Traveling more. Maybe going back to school for Food Science? Dabbling with the hemp/marijuana industry.
I have a recent obsession with Bon Appetit magazine. The videos of their staff are hilarious, creative, and inspiring. Their recipes and vibe/style are SO COOL. It would be awesome to collaborate professionally with their team and ferment a bunch of weird beverages.
Favorite place to meet/collaborate in the Twin Cities.
Wherever has bright natural light, some color on the walls, and a lot of electrical plug-ins. I really enjoy the St. Paul and NE Dogwood coffee locations, I also really like the NE Five Watt coffee shop.
What’s currently binge watching or listening to?
Handmaid’s Tale, also reading Stieg Larrson’s book series (Girl with the Dragon Tattoo). Really into Radiolab Podcasts. Reading/watching anything Bon Appetit related.
Fantasy Dinner Party Guest List
Michelle Obama, Lizzo, Jonathan Van Ness, Dr. Ruth, Ilana Wexler, Abby Abrams, Megan Rapinoe, Lindsey Vonn, Michael Pollan.
Instagram accounts you love to see in your feed.
Last Adventure: Seattle/Vancouver, BC
Next Adventure: Maine – visiting a friend at the end of their full Appalachian trail hike
Voted Most Likely To: Ask strangers to pet their dogs
Secret Skill: Jumping out and scaring people (think Ellen Degeneres style)
Yes Please: Having open conversations about mental health
No Thanks: meatless “meat”
Spirit Animal: My dog Stella
Brand you can’t live without: Nike – it’s the one brand that has lived in my closet since I can remember!