Sonder Stories Chapter 9: Jeff Parker

Chapter 9 - Jeff Parker

From bartending to brewing, Jeff has been one of the easiest additions to the team and is now family


Jeff is the third member of the brew team, but has more importantly quickly turned into part of the family. He started in the taproom, but phased into the back of house as Luke’s right hand man running the cellar. JP has always had a fondness for beer, and it started out of college bartending and serving. He never liked the typical beers getting drunk in those places, and was always the guy trying the new and unique stuff that would come in. In 2008 he got hired a BJ’s bar and restaurant, and was a front of house manager. He got noticed by the Director of Brewing Operations at BJ’s, and loved Jeff’s enthusiasm for beer. He quickly started growing hops and home brewing, and it wasn’t long before the brewing bug really kicked in for him. He decided to leave BJ’s, and start his own brewing project. It started with a farm in central Ohio where they were growing hops, and then started brewing at a brewery which they called Paradune. It was a three barrel brewery that built up an awesome community of people stopping in after work from local farms. Unfortunately they aren’t brewing up there anymore, but they are still growing hops and have future plans with the farm.

Chase and Jeff had met a couple weeks prior to Sonder opening at an event both of their wives were involved in. The event was actually prior to an investor meeting, so Chase and Jeff snuck out to the car and tried a couple of the crowlers Chase had prepared. Once Paradune was starting to head more towards growing hops and less from brewing, Jeff was interested in bartending at Sonder to get some additional income. It was an easy yes for the team, and Jeff’s personality quickly stuck out as a perfect fit for the team. Chase even remembers the conversation between the two where he basically gave Jeff two options of becoming a bar manager and being a huge part of the front of house, or coming back to the brewhouse and running the keg line. Chase was skeptical about the decision because getting promoted to a manager position seems a lot better than doing manual labor on the keg line, but Jeff knew where his heart was and saw an opportunity to work in the back where he enjoys himself a lot more. Jeff learned the keg line quickly, and showed off his ability to learn and adapt quickly which caught the eyes of Chase and Luke. They gave him a shot in the cellar where he would be flipping tanks, washing tanks, and monitoring the progression of beers over time. He now brews beer from time to time too, showing how valuable of an asset and person he is to the team being so versatile. Jeff now owns the cellar work, is Luke’s right hand man, and is ingrained in the brewhouse work that is pumping out some high quality liquid.

Going from working on a three barrel system at Paradune to a thirty barrel system at Sonder has been quite an adjustment for Jeff, but it’s a challenge he’s accepted and he continues to learn from Chase and Luke everyday.  Jeff picked up the cellar so quickly that it’s allowing Luke to really focus on brewing the beer and owning the brewhouse portion with Jeff’s help. Chase speaks to the versatility of a brewery and maximizing everyone’s skills, and he says, “Breweries often make this mistake where they delineate between the brewhouse and cellar work. I prefer to have all the brewers do multiple tasks and learn every aspect of the brewhouse. It’s important for the product itself, allows the brewer to know what’s going on everywhere, and they can catch mistakes to gain an advantage of attention to detail because of the training. A brewer is a brewer whether you are working in the brewhouse or cellar because every person is just as important as the other.” This allows for the team to be able to fill in for each other, and not be concerned with someone being out for an extended period of time.

It’s easy to spot the brewers around Sonder, and Jeff is typically the one with a stein of You Betcha! New England IPA. He’ll tell you that his favorite Sonder beers have been You Betcha!, Hunter’s Sword Double IPA, and Imperial Otto Double Tiramisu Stout. He’s a hop head who also dips into the heavy stouts too. His one beer for the rest of his life would be Head Hunter IPA from Fat Head’s Brewing. He also is a big music guy, and sometimes fills in on Acoustic Wednesday for a couple hours in the taproom. Music is a fun thing that he does with his wife and two kids, and you’ll often see the whole family at live music events.