FORBES MAGAZINE: A CONVERSATION WITH JERAMY BIGGIE
Learn a little more bout Commonwealth & our Annual Common Grounds Festival in this awesome Forbes article.
Jeramy Biggie is a man of many talents. He surfs. He brews. He used to work on nuclear submarines. Today, he’s most easily recognized as the founder of Commonwealth Brewing Company in Virginia Beach, Virginia, one of the country’s most respected craft breweries, but each new conversation with the man reveals a new and fascinating bit of personal history.
In addition to their stellar liquid and brewer-focused collaboration festival, Commonwealth is known their artistic cans, designed by the British company Thirst Craft under Biggie’s direction: “I want to be able to see the flavors I can taste inside the can.”
Kenny Gould: What’s your background?
Jeramy Biggie: By education, I’m a structural engineer. My first job out of college was doing nuclear submarine and future concept design for Northrop Grumman. That job took me to Newport News, Virginia, and I chose to live up on the Chesapeake Bay. That’s how I came to know the area, and I fell in love with the location. I did that for a number of years. I got an MBA while I was doing that.
KG: And how’d you get into beer?
JB: I met my wife, Natalie. She was a student at the University of Maryland. She was studying abroad in Germany. We met on a summer break and I began visiting her whenever I could. I took three trips over and that was the spark and start of my interest in beer. She took me to Bamberg and Schlenkerla Beer Hall and different houses. I fell in love with the culture, the communal gathering, and how celebratory any occasion with beer was. That, plus the flavors and pairings with food sparked an interest that I wasn’t really aware of.
KG: I’m guessing you took that interest back home.
JB: I was always the friend that wanted to travel 45 minutes to a bar because it had a beer I wanted to try. I did that for four or five years and then took the usual path toward homebrewing. I took it pretty extreme. I moved to all-grain brewing pretty quickly and filled up all my bathrooms. My basement and garage filled with equipment and barrels. I was making way more than I could consume. I became the neighborhood drinking spot.
KG: Did you ever think you’d run a brewery?
JB: All along, I had this feeling I could do it. The dream gradually crystallized. That all started around 2000. In 2014, I was at a point where I’d brewed most major styles. I’d been doing passive research for that entire time. Anybody that knows me knows that If I have a hobby, I get super deep. This was one I could go deep and not get bored. I loved the creativity, the social aspects. I just really like being able to create something new and express myself through it.
KG: How’d that dream become a reality?
JB: When I left structural engineering, I worked in software for a number of years and loved designing and creating. The only downside was government contracting was an abysmal process. I was more than ready to take the next step and the idea to start a brewery had been germinating for years. My family and I relocated back to Virginia Beach and searched for a location.