How Did I Get Here?
by Keith Villa
Some people say, “do what you love, and you’ll never work a day in your life”. Well, if that were the case, I guess I’ve never worked. My passion for creating new beers that millions of people enjoy, and travelling worldwide to expand these beers’ distribution, is what I love.
But how did it all begin for a Hispanic kid who grew up in North Denver in the 1960’s and 70’s? From Altar Boy to Microbiologist. From earning a Ph.D. to Brewmaster?
Two of the things that shaped my life happened in high school. First, I met my future wife, Jodi. Second, I decided I wanted to become a pediatrician. While the prior began as simple as a first date, the latter required that I get some education. After high school, I attended University of Colorado (CU) at Boulder where I was a pre-med student majoring in Molecular, Cellular and Developmental Biology. I was set to follow that with a medical degree, but the sound of the beer world was calling me.
I responded to an advertisement for a research position at Coors Brewing Company and, having already published scientific articles and worked at CU’s Molecular Biology Laboratory, I got the job at Coors! This was in 1986, and I was 24 years old.
About one year after working at Coors, Jodi and I moved to Brussels, Belgium where I spent another four years researching and working on my Ph.D. in Science with a Brewing Specialization at the University of Brussels, CERIA campus (bonus points if you already knew where our name originated!). In addition to earning a Ph.D., I gained a huge appreciation for Belgian beers, including the history of Belgian beers, how to pair beers with food and the many ways the Belgians brew their unique beers. It was then that I returned to the states and, in 1995, created Blue Moon Brewing Company, an operating unit of Coors Brewing Company.
This was the time the craft beer industry was just emerging, and Blue Moon was one of the first of what would become a huge market segment. So many times people tell me that they remember where they were when they drank their first Blue Moon beer with an orange garnish (I started the orange slice garnish in 1997!) When I retired from MillerCoors in 2017, Blue Moon was (and still is) the largest craft beer brand in the world.
This was the time the craft beer industry was just emerging, and Blue Moon was one of the first of what would become a huge market segment.
So, how did I get here? How did I get to the point where Jodi and I started CERIA Brewing Company, a brewing company that makes non-alcoholic beer, both infused with cannabis and non-infused? It was the perfect storm of the highest degree of education, decades of experience, and the pure love of everything related to the craft beer industry.