Brewing Perfection

Photo By Rob Chron

Co-Founder – Briggs Original

Reading Time: 4 minutes

W  hen I’m not doubting myself, I know I’m not trying hard enough. Think about it this way; the more you know, the harder you need to work to achieve desired results.

My name is Neil Quigley, and I’m a brewer by trade. I started brewing in high school and have pivoted to different parts of the beverage industry since. For the past six years, I’ve been focused mainly on learning about brewing, fermentation, and the science behind it.

People say that knowledge is power and ignorance is bliss. To me, it’s not that simple. Throughout my life, I’ve found happiness in knowledge. But experience has taught me that the other side of the saying is also true: ignorance feels easier than the constant struggle for perfection.

Photo By Rob Chron

Over the years, I gained skill and a deeper understanding of my craft through repeated trial and error. The more I experimented and learned about the intricacies of brewing, the less satisfied I was with my finished products. I held myself to a higher standard, and came to recognize the errors I had made in the past: problems with things I didn’t know existed before.

When I was starting out, I would mash some grains, boil some wort with hops, ferment it, bottle it, and the end product was always a delicious beer. With the skill set I possess now, I wouldn’t be able to detail every step of the scientific process I follow when brewing without filling this entire page.

After this increasingly nuanced process, when the beer is packaged, the minor faults are glaring. I give the product to friends and family because I won’t drink a “bad” beer.

From their perspective, I’m crazy.

They think the beer I brew now is better, tastier, and in every way superior to what it was before. And of course they’re right. But from the new perspective I’ve gained through knowledge, I see how far I still have to go.

Around the time of the Tribeca Film Festival a few months ago, I visited New York to debut a test batch of my newest product at parties. I was just about to launch Briggs Original Boston Cranberry with my business partner and longtime friend, Michael Kurson. We had cases upon cases of it. Having brewed it, I knew every little issue contained within each can. Every time I drank one, I cringed; I could only focus on all of the off-flavors I wanted change before eventual launch. Michael brought seemingly endless amounts of these cases to New York. For the entire weekend, every person we partied with drank these cans.

I made sure to get really drunk, really fastI couldn’t bear watching people drink our product. I thought there was no way they could like it. There were so many production issues I still had to fix! Anyone paying attention could have caught me staring, trying to interpret facial reactions as people took their first sip. To my (unreasonable) surprise, everyone loved it.

I’ve been developing products for commercial production for a few years and have come to realize that nothing is perfect. Things always look good from the outside, but from the inside minor flaws are impossible to ignore. To this day, I’ve never been able to live with imperfections in my products. Everyone loved the product in New York, but I knew it wasn’t perfect. I could only think about how it could be improved.

Photo By Paul Parker

“I made sure to get really drunk, really fast—I couldn’t bear watching people drink our product. I thought there was no way they could like it.”

Knowledge is a power that allows us to build, create, and invent, but power isn’t happiness. With knowledge comes heightened internal critiquing, and an understanding that end-results will never be perfect. Maybe I’m just a perfectionist, but it’s what drives me forward.

When I’m not doubting myself, I know I’m not trying hard enough. If I ever think something is perfect, or feel an absence of issues, I know I must be missing something. Nothing is perfect. The closest you can get to perfect is the lack of understanding of what is wrong.

Although I never feel satisfied with my work, I’m happy with it because the work is its own reward. This cycle of constant disappointment and lack of satisfaction sounds torturous, but I’ve come to realize it’s what keeps me going, makes me happy, and presents me with new and exciting challenges.

Satisfaction is pleasant, but tiresome. Enjoy the challenges and embrace the disappointment. If you’re like me and need a constant stream of new experiences to stay happy, staying critical is the best way to make sure you’ll never get bored.

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  • Neil was born and raised in Newton, MA. After a short stint at The University of Vermont, Neil attended the UK’s Brewlab Institute where he received his Diploma in British Brewing Technology. Neil is also a Certified Cicerone, and, having received this certification before his 21st birthday, he was written up as a “beer prodigy” by the Boston Globe. After working in the restaurant and beverage industry for a few years, Neil teamed up with Michael to bring their vision for Briggs Original to the city of Boston.


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