Drew Kostic, Brewing Science and Operations alumnus, was recently hired to serve as the new Head Brewer and On-site Manager at the New Realm Brewing Company – Auburn microbrewery set to open Friday, Aug. 18, inside the Tony and Libba Rane Culinary Science Center – home to the College of Human Sciences Horst Schulze School of Hospitality Management.
After graduating from Colgate University with a bachelor’s degree in psychology in 2008 and then Duke University School of Law in 2012, Kostic decided to follow his passion for brewing and graduated from the College of Human Sciences Brewing Science and Operations program in 2017. Since then, Kostic has worked at a number of breweries throughout New York and North Carolina and his knowledge and passion for brewing made him the ideal fit for the new microbrewery.
I know you went to Colgate for you bachelor’s in psychology and Duke University for Law School. What exactly made you want to get into the brewing industry?
Kostic: “At the age of 21 I was a home brewer for eight years before I became a commercial brewer and I really got fascinated with it. I ended up moving to Poland to do a Fulbright Scholarship in Warsaw where I met the Barts. The Barts are two of my best friends both Flemish/Belgian and both are obsessed with beer and have a lot of knowledge and pride. The moment where I fell down the rabbit hole essentially was when they went on a trip back to Belgium and picked up a bunch of their local beer and brought it all back to Poland and got so excited. This is 2008 and I’m the first American they’ve ever met in their life and they are going to teach the American about beer. I’m sitting there watching them and they are screaming at each other in Flemish not because of the beer they’re pouring or the temperature, but the angle at which he’s pouring the beer into the glass because one thinks it’s wrong and it’s not tall enough and the heads not going to be good enough. I’m watching and I just knew there’s got to be something to this whole world of brewing that I didn’t even know about. That happened, then I went to law school and listen, practicing law is not for everyone and I don’t think it’s for most people if I’m being honest because it’s a very difficult, challenging profession. At the end of the day, I realized I wasn’t happy. My psychology degree led me to the process of understanding and recognizing we only have an opportunity to live on this planet once and am I going to spend that limited time that I have doing something that I don’t love?”
You are a 2017 graduate of the College of Human Sciences Brewing Science and Operations program. Describe that experience and how you believe it prepared you for the position you’re in now?
Kostic: “It was absolutely integral. Everything I learned was applicable and more so the practicum aspect of it. It was a huge component not only with my confidence in brewing but my ability to brew and sell on a commercial level which is a large leap from the home brew community. This program provided me the opportunity and education to get to a brewery where I can do an internship and learn that practicum side of things. Fast forward to today, and now I get to give that back quite physically. Not only will I be teaching in the classroom, we have a practicum right here built by Auburn ready for Auburn students and that to me is just another link in a long chain of success that this program has created. Going from master’s certificate to master’s degree and now having a fully functional brewery on campus the sky’s the limit. The graduates coming out of the Auburn Brewing program will be above and beyond everyone else.”
New Realm Brewing at Auburn is something that is completely unique in higher education where the taproom and classroom will coexist. In your mind, what are some of the most exciting things about this collaboration?
Kostic: “Everything honestly. The sheer ability for our graduates to come out and hit the ground running in a brewing environment I think it’s above and beyond any other program out there because of this facility being here and the collaboration with New Realm Brewing. We are fully committed as a company to integrate with Auburn. We are happy and excited to integrate every bit of knowledge that we can at New Realm that will fit in with the school here and on the flip side, New Realm wants to be the first ask for people graduating because we know and trust in this program. If you’re coming out of the Rane Center from Auburn Brewing we want to know because we want to hire you. We’re always looking for brewers, work within our award-winning kitchens, front of house, managers and we want this to be a holistic experience. We’re here on campus and when you graduate, there’s a great company you can come work for across the southeast.”
What were some of your main reasons for accepting this position of Head Brewer & General Manager at New Realm Brewing at Auburn? Describe some of the things you’ll be doing in this role.
Kostic: “I call this the dream job because there is nothing like this in the country and I don’t think there’s ever been anything like this in the country where the opportunity for interaction and engagement is just never ending. My position is just so unique because I get to run the front of the house, I’m brewing all the beer that we produce on these taps and I’m teaching in the classroom as part of the Auburn Brewing program which is why I’m even in this industry to begin with. Not only did we build a brewery from the ground up here, but also it’s a whole other level of education and ability to educate people in this space. On a personal mission of mine, Auburn changed my life and there’s no short way to put it in that statement. I was able to leave a career that made me very unhappy and pursue my absolute dream. It was something I could only consider a hobby five years before that. When I had the opportunity to come back to Auburn and do that for somebody else I couldn’t turn that down.”
You also received affiliate faculty status within the Horst Schulze School of Hospitality Management. What will that role look like in addition to the head brewer and general manager side of things?
Kostic: “Once we are up and running, I can take a step back a little bit and focus on the teaching as well. My goal would be possibly teaching two classes per semester one of which being how brewing works and how the business of brewing works and that type of stuff. On top of that, I would love to participate in beverage appreciation classes because I think that’s fun and I get to talk about my own beer and share it with people. There’s classroom work for sure but then there’s going to be everything outside of the classroom and the practicum aspect. I’ve looked as far as possibly someday dedicating one of these tap lines to research and student work that is being done at Auburn that I can collaborate on recipes, research on a certain yeast brand, testing and if a student has an idea for a recipe pursuing that entire brewing process with them from start to finish.”
Auburn Brewing Science and Operations continues to make huge strides in the growing multibillion dollar brewing industry. How do you think this latest collaboration with New Realm Brewing further elevates Auburn compared to other universities that have brewing science programs?
Kostic: “This is light years above and it’s on another level. For the new bartenders I’m hiring I’ve told them ‘I need all of us to be at the top of our game because not only are we doing this for ourselves, for New Realm and for Auburn but we’re doing this for every other school that wants to invest in something as special as this in the future. If the University of Wisconsin wants to do this in five years or Florida State wants to do this in six years, they’re going to be looking to Auburn and we need to be the best citizen of the town and the university that we possibly can be.’”
Describe the actual microbrewery space and what it will include? Roughly how many beers will be on tap? Will it be open to the public?
Kostic: “There’s going to be six taps here and then three other taps where I will probably be pulling unique and fun beers from our other locations to bring a little spice of life from outside. The main six taps will be dedicated to beers made solely here and it will be almost entirely recipes written specifically for this location as well as interactions with the student, university and community. There will also be New Realm beer in keg and canned format to give a diversity of options. We are opening to the public Friday, Aug. 18 and I’m hoping to have lines around the block. My goal once we have TVs set up is that this becomes the place where if you can’t go see Auburn play away, you come here and cheer Auburn on and this becomes your home stadium. Our hours of operation will be tentative because hopefully we will be more successful and want to be open longer hours but currently we will be open Monday-Friday from 4-11 p.m. and then Saturday-Sunday we will be open 3 p.m.-midnight with a possibility of moving up to noon or earlier on a game day.”