Living the High Life
International pilot, homebrew master, business co-owner, and pianist Chuck Green
By Eric Cox | March 9, 2019
Chuck Green is halfway to James Bond.
He’s an international man, but not so much a mystery.
The facts: The 43-year-old Traverse City bachelor travels the world as an pilot for United Airlines. And when he’s not aloft, he’s likely hanging out on Cass Road, sipping and selling his own brews while chatting about the art of microbrewing with other local enthusiasts.
It’s quite the life — maybe not 007 status, but pretty darned good.
When we caught up with Green, he was preparing to catch a flight to Chicago. Out of O’Hare, he said he’d be piloting a massive Boeing 777 — his regular ride — to Sao Paolo, Brazil. Just another day at work for one of Traverse City’s up-and-comers.
Green understandably loves his commercial pilot career and all the interesting places it’s taken him. (The 777 holds his heart: “It’s a beautiful plane — a pilot’s plane,” he said. “Lots of automation, but also lots of hands-on. A great mix.”)
But Green discusses flying very little and instead launches into his other passion: microbrews and homebrewing. His blue eyes get wider and his enthusiasm bubbles up like the head on a great lager when he talks about brewing great beer.
“Making a beer, putting it on tap here, and selling it … and having someone go ‘This is really good.’ It makes everyone here feel good!”
His exhilaration is well paired with his part-time, earthbound job: co-owner of UBrew, a “nano” brewery, brewing school, tasting room, and retail space with a very nondescript facade, sandwiched between a storage facility and a tire store. The front of the place is packed with shelves and refrigerators and rows of plastic dispensers, displaying almost 80 malt varieties, their sundry brown shades foretelling the degree of roast in each.
Clearly, this is the lair-haven of a garden variety home brewer.
UBrew sells all the equipment, all the grains, the various yeasts and hops, and all the other little items and gadgets that make home brewing possible. Brewing classes, offered about six times annually, are offered, and thirsty geeks of homemade beer from far and wide congregate here, elating the excitable Green, who we suspect would rather sit and chat with his fellow beer brewers than jet through the wild blue yonder hauling humans.
In the back of UBrew, 3054 Cass Rd., Suite D, is a small bar and a few tall tables where locals and others from far off gather to sip the potions and gum over the secrets and lore associated with quality home beer making.
Beyond that, tucked in a back corner, is Green’s own brewing system — one he built with UBrew co-owner and fellow aviator Aaron Spangler. Spangler, another Traverse City native, flies for a competing airline (Delta), but when it comes to their joint venture, the emphasis for both entrepreneurs is on the Team UBrew’s ground game.
Almost a year and half in, things are going well, according to Green, who said interest in the business and its beers has grown steadily.
Green, a bachelor with a longtime girlfriend, said the whole shebang got started when, a few years back, his current roommate asked him what he had planned for some empty basement space at a house they share.
“Homebrewing has always been a hobby I wanted to get into,” Green said. “So I went down to the store (the now defunct Bad Teacher), bought the equipment and took a class. That class happened to be taught by a good friend of mine, Marty Mack. He taught me how to brew from extracts (a simplified brewing process featuring a ready-made mash mixture).”
Green absorbed much more knowledge from his childhood friend, namely, how to perform all-grain brewing (making a mash mixture from raw components like malt, hops, yeast, etc.).
“From there it was just reading and reading and reading,” he said. His research that still goes on today. “I started reading everything I could find about brewing different kinds of beer and the sciences behind it … the water science is a fascination, too.”
This is where Green’s two interesting jobs collide. But, it’s a happy collision in which no one gets hurt, unless one overindulges. The travel he does for work, Green explained, “has formed my brewing exponentially. Instead of reading about a style and trying to recreate it, I can hone my brewing to match the tastes of some of these old breweries.”
Put another way, Green has tasted beers all over the planet, a fact that helps him guide his own recipes, as well as help new brewers dial in their own.
As such, Green and Spangler offer brewing classes at UBrew, with experienced brew masters guiding students through the processes.
Some might conclude, after all this, that Chuck Green is not very Bond-like, that he does not measure up to that hero’s graceful, refined worldliness.
But, consider this: Green not only brews great beer and is an enviable international aeronaut who pilots gleaming, ultra-modern aircraft all the way around this gorgeous globe — he also (almost sickeningly well) plays the guitar and piano, sings, and writes his own songs.
As if that weren’t enough — and to wilt the even the most towering egos, Double-O UBrew also snowmobiles all winter and boats all summer, his large, white teeth gleaming, his gorgeous Russian girlfriend waving. Cue: Bond theme playing.
Then there’s the snowboarding and the commercial drone flying, the “little” property management company he dabbles in, and the junkets with girlfriend, Anya, to exotic locales most of us only see in YouTube videos.
Green shrugs it all off, though. Who wouldn’t love his life? He clearly digs it with every shovel in the shed. But, he’s not some spoiled rich kid; he’s worked for what he has and he seems aware of the good fortune he’s found.
But, for as far and wide as he’s traveled — to Sao Paolo’s beaches to Hong Kong’s New Year’s fireworks — gravity always seems to push Green back to Traverse City, back to Cass Road, back to the hobby and the microbrew community he holds so dear.
Why? With the entire world within one’s reach, why would they set their sights on UBrew, Cass Road, Traverse City, Michigan, USA?
“It’s beautiful here,” said Green. “Plus, I think it’s the joy of watching people expand their horizons. It’s turned into kind of a community, and that’s fun. It’s cool to create that! I know [UBrew co-owner] Aaron enjoys that, too. He likes having this little establishment that, in the evenings, you might have 10 or 15 people, most of whom like to brew themselves — just sitting here chatting about brewing and having a brew. They often bring some of their own for others to try. ‘Here, try what I created!’"
For Green, that’s what really puts the wind beneath his wings.
Find out more about UBrew, 3054 Cass Rd., Suite D, Traverse City. (231) 943-2016, www.ubrewtc.com.
Hone Your Homebrew
UBrew offers classes, each generally lasting four to six hours, that allow all levels of brewers to quickly learn the art of homebrewing. Participants pay $30 per class, but are provided with everything they need to make a five-gallon batch.
According to the American Homebrewers Association, there are two basic kinds of do-it-yourself home beer-making.
All-Extract Brewing: This is the most basic of home brewing methods, requiring minimal knowledge and equipment. A good option for those with time, budget and equipment restraints, the all-extract method relies on pre-mixed, malt extract syrups that provide a timely shortcut.
All-grain Brewing: More advanced brewers may opt for UBrew’s all-grain class, which sees students creating their own recipe from the ground up. They choose the malts and add the other ingredients, the basics of which are malt, hops, yeast and water. This method requires more equipment, more time and additional space. But, again,UBrew provides students with all necessary ingredients and equipment to brew a five-gallon batch.
Green said that in the realm of small-batch brewing, this method is known as “brew in a bag,” in which the ingredients are placed in a mesh bag, then boiled in a pot. Once complete, the bagged ingredients are then simply pulled out, leaving behind the liquid.