Beer has always been part of Sam Byrd's life.
"My mother's father started a beer distributorship in upstate New York right after the end of Prohibition," says the 36-year-old rep for Clayton's Deep River Brewing Company. He sips on a Riverbank Rye pale ale on a gloriously sunny day in Durham while recalling his beverage beginnings.
"I remember being brought to work and climbing on palates, messing around on the forklift," he says. A pause and chuckle precedes a confession: "I remember playing hockey in the warehouse and breaking bottles with hockey pucks."
By fifth grade Byrd knew his future.
"I told my mom that I couldn't wait to grow up so I could drive a beer truck," he says. Did that come true? He nods with a big grin and emphatically states, "Oh hell yeah."
Byrd moved here eight years ago, lured to North Carolina by the weather and the promise of opportunity. He quickly landed a job working for Mims Distributing Company in Raleigh servicing accounts around the Triangle.
Recently, the two-year-old Clayton brewery needed a sales person. During its search several accounts mentioned Sam Byrd's name. By January of this year, Byrd had joined the Deep River team.
"I turned a lot of heads by taking a job at a virtually unknown brewery in Johnston County," he says. "But at the end of the day it was an opportunity I would have hated to pass up."
One thing he has at Deep River that he didn't at his previous job is autonomy. "You get to use your own mind and you don't run into the hurdles of the chain of command," he says. Byrd handles a lot of grassroots events from tastings and tap takeovers. And, because the brewery self-distributes, he is not handcuffed by strict guidelines. "I have a lot of flexibility," he says. "And as long as I produce, nobody is breathing over my shoulder."
Of course, to paraphrase the Spider-man mantra, with great autonomy comes a great workload.
"I start my day around 9:30 a.m. It could end anywhere from 5:30 p.m. to 9 p.m.," he explains. "I call on accounts, throw in some sampling, do some cold calls, schedule tap takeovers and pint nights. In other words, a lot of running around like a madman."
His hard work is paying off. The iconic canoe paddle tap handles of Deep River Brewing are beginning to pop up at various bars around the Triangle and the Clayton brewery is making a name for itself in the area's somewhat crowded craft beer scene.
"I love what I do," he says. Remember, "I was born to do this job."
This article appeared in print with the headline "Can't fight destiny."