By Micah S. Kleid F & M ‘00
A joke about fraternity brothers drinking beer would be easy, but a $7.3 billion industry which includes over 9,200 breweries across the United States is serious business. The journeys of Jonathan Moxey Missouri ’01, and Tim Harbage Dayton ’04, is no laughing matter. In fact, although they are on opposite sides of the country and have not yet met, their journeys have been quite similar.
Jonathan is currently the head brewer at Rockwell Beer Company in St. Louis. After spending a year on the road for Phi Kappa Psi as an educational leadership consultant, he joined his wife, Lauren, in New York. He thought he would pursue journalism, but worked ‘soul crushing’ jobs for financial institutions. But a bottle of beer handed to him at a party changed the trajectory of his life forever.
“I thought it was pretty good and he said he had made it himself, and that if I wanted to learn how to homebrew, we could split the cost of the ingredients and he would teach me how to do it,” Jonathan said. “It was like a light went off.”
Jonathan read everything he could about homebrewing, took classes on how to judge beer critically, wrote professionally about beer, and even hosted corporate tastings. In 2009 he joined the New York City Homebrewers Guild, and among those like-minded people he realized he wanted to make a run at it professionally. After being offered an unpaid internship at the oldest craft brewery in St. Louis, Schlafly Beer, Jonathan and Lauren moved back home in 2012.
After Schlafly, Jonathan interned at Perennial Artisan Ales. He spent more than five years in a variety of roles, many of them finally earning him a paycheck! He left in 2018 intending to open his own place, but a friend from Perennial started Rockwell Brewing and explained to Jonathan that he needed someone to come in and focus on the brewing and the beer so he could focus on business and finances. For Jonathan it was an easy choice. He joined Rockwell Brewing in May 2018 and tapped their first beer that December.
“One of the appeals of coming to work for Rockwell was being able to really focus on the beer,” he explained.
For Tim, co-founder of Bright Spark Brewing in Ventura, California, his journey through the world of professional brewing was almost exactly like Jonathan’s. He studied mechanical engineering in college and ended up in San Diego. He worked for the defense industry, which he found fascinating but not “soul fulfilling.” It was Tim’s sister who encouraged him to get into craft beer in general, but it was his chapter brother, Craig Rossi Dayton ’04, who convinced him to get into home brewing. His sister then encouraged him to pursue it as a career and soon Tim was online looking for jobs.
Career Leaps and Hops
While Jonathan started his professional brewing career as an unpaid intern, Tim started his as a low-paid dishwasher for Rock Bottom Brewery in San Diego. Spending his days in the brewery learning everything he could about the industry, while washing dishes at night just to earn a paycheck and be covered by their insurance. However, Tim was offered jobs at several different breweries, ultimately deciding to join a startup brewery in Los Angeles called Golden Road Brewing. After four years, Budweiser bought Golden Rod. Not long after that, Tim’s wife (Linzy) convinced him to take the leap and open his own brewery. Two weeks prior to our interview, in November 2022, Bright Spark Brewing officially opened its doors with its first beers on tap.
In addition to their journeys, another similarity Jonathan and Tim share is their love for creating things for others to enjoy and the entrepreneurial spirit of crafting something new out of nothing.
“I’ve always loved creating things, taking something from an idea to something that you can hold in your hand and show people,” Jonathan said.
“Craig and I were the founders of Ohio Mu and I really enjoyed that energy, that collaborative environment, that excitement, where you get to make so many impactful decisions every day as something is growing around you,” Tim said.