Greetings, my name is Bo Lytle. I once lived an entire lifetime brewing craft beer. In recent years, I followed my heart, reinvented my personal path, and now making cheese as a profession. My purpose for the reader is to highlight some beer and cheese combinations that I think you will like. Let me be clear, I am not a salesman. The views that I present you are my honest own and come from that of a professional brewer and cheesemaker. Here’s my background so that I can build trust between we, the producer, and you the customer.
At a very young age of 16 I realized that I wanted nothing more but to become a brewer. Nothing in my life was ever more certain. Now I just needed to convince my family to buy me a home brew kit. I led with, “Welp, I could save us some money and brew dad his stout,” as an innocent way to set bait. Surprisingly, that’s all it took and a glorious new era emerged…I was making beer as a young teenager and making a mess of my mother’s beautiful kitchen. By age 19 I was a professional brewer having worked at a couple local spots in my hometown of Rochester, Michigan. I was building up my resume to convince my favorite and soon-to-be Brewmaster George Murphy of Arcadia Brewing Company to hire me and teach me the art of brewing British-style ales. When he made a beer, everyone took notice. He never hid his craft, he openly taught others and kept no trade secrets, he was noble, I knew I had to work for him if I were to become a master myself. The stars instantly aligned as I told him I’d work for free until he saw that I was worthy of pay. He was my Mr. Miyagi, I was his Danielson, a great friendship was born. Together our focus was to brew the same way the English had for hundreds of years with very few technological advantages. We honored age-old technique rather than technology. It was truly handcrafted as our equipment was historically accurate and described as, “Just how the old timers used to do it.” We truly stepped back in time and replicated old-world favorites.
I fell in love with the craft, the history of beer production, and decided to attend brewing school at the University of Sunderland in England. There I furthered my education and got to travel all over the UK, working as far as the Highlands of Scotland and The Lake District of England. I was living out a dream life for a brewer. At one point I realized I needed to wake up and return to America. I landed a job at New Belgium Brewing Company in Fort Collins, Colorado. There I had a long career spanning over 18 years as a cellar-man and then as a brewhouse operator. When I first started, even with my experience, I was a fish out of water. The entire system was built on automation and the cellars were intricate, vast, pristine and absolutely gorgeous, a far cry from the archaic places I worked before. There I learned from another great Master, the fabled Belgian brewer, Peter Boukaert. He was considered a genius in the brewing universe and under his watch we blended the modern state-of-the-art brewing systems with old-world techniques to pump out very difficult brew styles in great volume. At that time it was considered an engineering marvel to make craft beer in great quantities. As such, we were innovators on the scene, producing some of the greatest beer recipes in the history of American craft beer. Years went by and we enjoyed great success.
Eventually we became so proficient at brewing that the processes became predictable and I soon craved new challenges elsewhere. I went off to the mountains and spent my summers climbing all the 14,000 foot peaks in Colorado…58 mountains in all. I became enthralled in big hunting trips to procure venison and small ones to “find wabbit”. I went to sea for weeks at a time on offshore fishing adventures to secure sushi-grade tuna and other pelagic species. I craved adventure. Brewing became stale to me mostly because of technological advances pushing the human element further away. I craved hands-on art but automation ruled the day. Even though I was working with some of my dearest friends the romance was dwindling and I was ready for a career change.
Luckily for me, I remembered my first love, cheese. Anytime I had a bad day at work I would tell myself, “There’s a cute little creamery right down the road from here who happens to make a beautiful wheel of Camembert. I bet they’d hire me.” I recalled my favorite Christmas way back in 1983 when my uncle gifted me a gigantic five-pound yellow block of cheese. Was there anything more beautiful? Absolutely no. Cheese was tangible, something you could slice, it was ate, not drank. Cheese could be melted, salted and placed on bread. At its very core, cheese was food alchemy…turning milk into a higher form. This was borderline magic to me, and I was hooked.
And then one day I was presented with an opportunity. The cute little creamery down the road, Mouco Cheese Company, was actually posting for a cheesemaking position. Their owner Robert Poland was one of the original brewers at New Belgium, “hey he had the same career path as me!” His cheese factory featured some of my favorite styles: Bavarian soft-ripened, aged cheddar, and Wisconsin-style cheese curds. His Camembert was tiny, delicate and savory and to this day my favorite breakfast cheese. We hit it off and he and his crew happily obliged to teach me their trade. I was now a Cheesemaker. Whoa, a fat kid’s dream come true. I doubled down on my new employment by heading back to the UK to rekindle some precious memories and take cheesemaking classes at The School of Artisan Food in The Nottinghamshire. This stirred my passion even more and I realized upon my return that I wanted to leave Colorado to make cheese for my family back in Michigan.
I applied to all the creameries in The Great Lake State and to my surprise, they all said yes. But there was one place that stood above the rest. Zingerman’s offered a VAST assortment of cheeses ranging from mozzarella, brie, fresh farm cheese, burrata(!), feta, and a dozen or more hand-hewn products. Just looking at the lineup I could tell Zingerman’s was different. Most companies play it safe as cheesemaking can be very finicky. Zingerman’s was different and thus the only option for me. The problem was that they had very happy employees and therefore not much turnover. Only once in the past couple years did I see a job hiring.
Sometimes the universe likes to reward the bold, so I put on my Sunday’s best, combed my hair, printed out my resume, and headed to Ann Arbor for a cold call. I met the friendliest staff, and Lexi who ran the joint allowed me to sell myself for a few minutes as I handed her my resume. Through serendipity an opportunity arose the following week and I was hired.
That’s my story and here I am proud as hell to represent such a courageous impactful company, run by great leaders and followed by strong folk who make delicious food. The setting allows me to truthfully recommend some great options for beer and cheese lovers.
Having a vast background in the brewing world I want to share some beer that is truly unique, then pair with a gorgeous cheese appropriately. Let it be very clear that I am not a salesman. These views are that of a proud veteran brewer and a young fledgling cheesemaker. The cheese and beer that I offer are worthy of your time. I will not put my name behind anything that I don’t think you will love. I am here to build trust between we the makers, and you, the consumers. This is how trust is built.
- Cheesemaker, Zingerman’s Creamery Ann Arbor, Michigan
- Cheesemaker, Mouco Cheese Company, Fort Collins, Colorado
- School of Artisan Food, Advanced Cheesemaking Course, Nottinghamshire, England
- University of Sunderland, Brewlab, British Brewing Sciences, England
- Institute of Brewing & Distilling, General Certificate of Brewing, London, England
- Enrolled in The Academy of Cheese, Level 1
- Western Michigan University, Food Science Program
- Brewhouse Operator/Cellar Lord
- New Belgium Brewing Company Fort Collins, Colorado
- Brewer, Arcadia Brewing Company, Battle Creek, Michigan
- Brewer, Fieldstone Brewery, Rochester, Michigan
-Climbed all of Colorado’s 14,000 peaks
-Procurer of sushi grade tuna and venison
-Captain of Rochester High’s football team
-Victory over Rochester Adams in 1997 by score of 20-14
-Son of Bob