Apprentice Spotlight: October 2020
Updated: Oct 21
MEET ZANDER PROPES
Hometown: Conway, AR
Apprenticeship: Lost Forty Brewing
MY BACK STORY
I grew up in Conway. Actually, my parents were divorced so I kind of switched back and forth. Dad lives in Little Rock, Mom lives in Conway. I lived with my dad through high school.
I went to Catholic High in Little Rock. I loved it, it’s a great high school. After graduation, I enlisted in the Army as a private. I did a few years with that and then joined the ROTC program at UCA, where I got a degree in biology last August—August of 2019. I’ve also been in the National Guard for six years as of this past May. Six years and change. I was commissioned when I graduated from college. My rank is second lieutenant. They call my position Platoon Leader.
MY WORK LIFE
Everything has been moving kind of fast since college. I got the job at Lost Forty Brewery last October, and that’s been a dream come true. It’s always cool using your degree, especially when you get to taste beer for a living.
I also got married last December. I met my wife in college, and we just moved into our first home in Conway last spring. So everything’s moving fast, but it’s exciting for sure.
At Lost Forty, I’m a lab technician. My sole job is pretty much to collect as much data as I can throughout the brewing process. That means all the way from when they put the grist—the wheat and barley—into the kettle, through the actual canned product. There are several different tests you can take throughout the process, and I run those tests and collect whatever data I can. I put it on an Excel spreadsheet, and then just have to eye it, at this point, to see trends. So it’s not a perfect system. It’s kind of rudimentary, really.
MY TURNAROUND MOMENT
Going in, I didn’t realize how much science was in beer, and how much data could actually be collected on the product. So when I first got there and Grant—Grant Chandler, the quality control manager—showed me the log he keeps on every beer, it was kind of overwhelming. It was, Oh, wow—okay, we can do all of that.
Then moving on, I expressed to him how much I had enjoyed the statistics piece of things in school. After that, he left me to my own devices when it came to the database. And then all of a sudden he pops up with the idea of a data analyst apprenticeship, and I was all aboard.
It's going really well—I’m learning a lot. We started in July and the actual coursework comes to an end November 3, so we’re definitely toward the end of it. We've moved on to our capstone project now, applying what we've learned.
For my capstone, I’m working with the managers here at Lost Forty to make an Excel spreadsheet for canning projections. I'm taking our production numbers for 2020 and then predicting what those numbers will look like in 2021, so hopefully that will be able to tell them when and what brand of cans they need to order and then have them ordered in time for us to be able to package them. The idea is to buy these cans more efficiently, so we’re not just sitting on cans that we're not going to use for six months.
When we first started, it seemed like an easy task. And then, as you can imagine with a production brewery, things inevitably kept changing. So trying to have a program in place that’s able to change on the fly, like we need it to, has certainly made it more of a challenge.
Grant and I are fully aware that Excel is limited in what it can do data wise. Because Lost Forty is the largest brewery in Arkansas, it's hard to base off of what another brewery in Arkansas is doing for what we’re doing. So Grant is looking at out-of-state breweries and realizing that they're able to more finely tune their process via these programming languages. He's certainly looking toward the future of Lost Forty as a whole and trying to get something going in this realm. In the meantime, both of us are going into this with open minds, to see what it can do for us.