‘I'm First’ continues with Jason Lavery

Category:  News
Friday, October 25th, 2019 at 10:55 AM
‘I'm First’ continues with Jason Lavery by Amber Chisholm
(Middle) Jason Lavery, brewmaster who runs Lavery Brewing, spoke as part of the university’s ‘I'm First’ series.

Students and faculty gathered for, asked questions about, and even shared some laughs over one particular topic — beer.

Jason Lavery, a brewmaster and Edinboro alumnus who runs Lavery Brewing Company in Erie, presented the story of his business as part of the “I'm First” speaker series on Friday. The series highlights individuals who were the first in their families to earn a bachelor’s degree. The speech was held in the Dr. William P. Alexander Music Center.

Allison Flynn, director of regional development at Edinboro, provided an introductory statement about Lavery, saying: “he graduated [high school] in 2000 and decided two months before graduation to attend Edinboro University.”

Before going into his story, Lavery showed a brief YouTube video, “Lavery Brewing Craft Lager Fest 2018,” which showcased one of their events held every year.

Born and raised in Albion, sporting a blue-collar background, Lavery graduated from Edinboro in 2005 with a bachelor’s in history, while then earning a master’s in communications studies in 2008.

During high school, college was not initially part of his future plans, yet his girlfriend at the time, who had an educational background within her family, convinced him to apply to what is now his alma mater.

Although his father paid the $100 application fee, Lavery financed his education the rest of the way; it’s something he is proud of.

After starting his education, another change of mind was his major.

“I came to Edinboro [and] I didn’t really know what I wanted to do. I liked German culture, music, um…beer, so I decided to do foreign languages. I quickly realized that wasn’t gonna work out too well, and my stepdad was a real big history buff, so I ended up going into humanities and history,” explained Lavery.

He also switched his major in order to graduate a semester early, and although it took him five years given his work and class schedule, he only failed one class during his undergraduate time.

During his second semester, he began working at L’Arche Erie Inc., which helps those with intellectual disabilities, and it was there that he met his current wife of 15 years.

He labeled 2005 as “a really big year” for him, as he graduated, bought a house and then realized he needed further education. He thus returned to Edinboro to pursue his master’s in communications studies. He decided to chase this after receiving input from his bandmates and doing public relations work for the moderately successful local group at the time.

During his graduate career, he had a daughter and took up home brewing on weekends and “really got into beer culture, beer making.”
Finding a job after graduation was a struggle, and after his wife was turned down for a job in Ireland, shortly after, in February 2009, they decided to stay home and start a brewery.

Two months later, he began working as the development director of L’Arche, eventually leaving in May 2011 to focus on the brewery.

“We’ve just been going through expansion after expansion since,” he said, saying that the company started as a tap brewery in 2013, but recently opened a second location and now has 31 employees. They are expecting to produce around 60,000 gallons of beer in 2019.

He shared his beer-selling philosophy. “You either go deep or you go wide.” Their product distribution happens only in Crawford and Erie counties to help them stay in the former.

Lavery states that his history degree helped develop historically themed names for his beer, given that his family is Irish, and that the Dúlachán India Pale Ale (IPA) is their top seller.

Other options include the Ulster Breakfast Stout, Belfast Black Ale, and 1847 Rye Stout.

Despite the struggles, he thinks he would do everything the exact same way again.

“I’m really happy with where my life is. I’m having a blast right now,” he said.

Advice to his younger self would be, “don’t take out the max loans,” and he believes a liberal arts education helps make people interesting to talk to, which allows him to appreciate his.

He also claims to have never been a quitter, and that the payoff is immediate, especially in the beer world.

After answering many questions from the audience, Edinboro professor Nathan Armatas of the chemistry department shared some details on the recently adopted fermentation science program. The program will eventually include a yeast and fermentation lab in Cooper Science Hall, thus allowing the university to take part in the cluster of breweries known as the Lake Erie Ale Trail.

The next “I'm First” lecture will take place on Friday, Nov. 1, and will feature Fred Hodges, director for the office of multicultural services at Robert Morris University. This lecture will take place in the music center recital hall from noon to 1 p.m.

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