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Dream job? Meet a guy who gets to help come up with crazy, ancient beers for a living

Travis Rupp bounces between CU-Boulder and Avery Brewing almost every day of the week. These two full-time jobs combine his love of history, and beer, into an "only in Colorado" profession.

BOULDER, Colo. — Beer archaeologist. Yeah. That’s a thing.

A full time job, in fact, for Travis Rupp, the wood cellar and innovation manager at Avery Brewing in Boulder, CO.

“I never thought I’d be doing what I’m doing now,” Rupp said. “I never thought I’d be doing anything like I’m doing now, and what I’ve become known as.”

Rupp is known as Avery’ Brewing’s beer archaeologist, but also as the lecturer in Classics, Art History, and Anthropology at CU-Boulder. He has a passion for the past, and that shines through in his lectures.

“I love being involved on a student level, especially an undergrad level because I remember what it was like to be an undergrad,” Rupp said. “The individuals that had the biggest impact on me were the ones that were really engaging.”

Rupp is teaching 400 undergrads during the spring 2019 term. Trevor Rizor is one of them: he is in Rupp’s class about Pompei.

“I really like it, it’s so much fun, you learn something new every day, and he knows so much about the subject,” Rizor said. “Having professors who physically go to these places and they’re looking at them and actually know what they’re talking about is absolutely amazing.”

Rupp bounces back and forth between his job at CU-Boulder and his job at Avery, where he combines his passion for history and beer. He is the wood cellar and innovation manager, and has helped Avery with their Ales of Antiquity series. Rupp travels all over the country, and world, researching ancient civilizations—and their beers. The recipes he finds get recreated to the best of their abilities.

“It’s kind of a crapshoot at times,” Rupp said. “I can put it all together, and I can figure out what they’re using, and I can take all the research and conduct it to figure out what the recipe is.”

That is not an easy task with recipes that have been up to 3,800 years old. Sometimes Avery’s modern brewhouse does not like those recipes and their ingredients.

“He definitely breaks things sometimes,” said Fred Rizzo, the director of brewing operations at Avery. “It’s pretty awesome to have him on the team, coming up with these very random, archaic recipes that are super fun but very challenging to make.”

Credit: Anne Herbst

An ancient beer from Peru almost shut the brewhouse down because corn is not an ingredient that modern brewing systems can handle. Rizzo said the ingredients combined to make cement in the pipes.

“After the second time we almost broke our brewhouse, yeah, I kind of got a little more worried,” Rizzo said. “I think we know what we really can’t do anymore so we try and stay away from that.”

Rupp said he does not plan on having any more recipes like that for Ales on Antiquity, nor does he plan on leaving either of his full-time jobs in the near future. He said he loves the connection with his students, and he loves that he gets to research something not many others have.

“There is an element of, ‘Pinch me, is this actually a reality?’” Rupp said. “There really aren’t many people that get sent around the world to just study culture and how beer and alcohol have affected those cultures.”

Credit: Anne Herbst

He is not only teaching those 400 students—his partner-in-crime with the Ales of Antiquity, Colin Quinn, has also learned about history and beer.

“Working with Travis the past couple of years he’s kind of proven that almost everyone in history drank beer,” Quinn, who is Avery’s special projects brewer, said. “It’s been an interesting experience.”

Rupp said the history he is delving into now, is something many people can understand and get on board with.

“It’s a way to have tangible history. Drinkable history,” Rupp said.

Click to learn more about the Ales of Antiquity and Avery Brewing.

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