Five Years After Study Abroad: IES Abroad Alum Isaac Rysdahl, Craft Brewer

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IES Abroad
December 8, 2017

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While studying abroad in Argentina, Isaac Rysdahl (IES Abroad Buenos Aires, Fall 2012) was inspired by the human connection he experienced over food and drink throughout the semester. Today, Isaac is a Brewer at Sisyphus Brewing Company in Minneapolis, Minnesota. We caught up with Isaac to hear how this IES Abroad Scholarship recipient’s study abroad experience helped him confirm his interests in brewing, and helped him with his language skills that he continues to use today. 

IES Abroad: As a student at St. Olaf College, what led you to study abroad in Buenos Aires?

Isaac Rysdahl (IR): I had previously worked in Peru and was interested in increasing my Spanish language ability. Studying abroad in Buenos Aires provided a wonderful opportunity to live in a large city and work on my language skills. Additionally, they have a great ultimate Frisbee culture, which allowed me to play on a championship winning team!

IES Abroad: What impact did the IES Abroad Scholarship and study abroad have on your career path and journey to where you are today?

IR: Without the IES Abroad Scholarship I wouldn't have been able to study abroad. I had already been working for a nonprofit in Peru the summer before moving to Argentina and without the scholarship I wouldn't have had enough savings to make it through the six-month program, let alone afford the extra tuition.

In terms of my career path, I had already started researching working in a brewery/owning my own. Studying abroad in Buenos Aires helped confirm my interests in this area because of the culture of building relationships over food and drink I experienced while I was there. Every night I'd come home and sit with my host father for a copa de vino. Even though we'd often sit in silence, those interactions helped shape my appreciation. I still remember his favorite wine! I also explored some craft breweries in Buenos Aires. Beer is everywhere!

IES Abroad: What inspired you to become a brewer, and how did you get started?

IR: I've always loved building things. In addition to brewing at Sisyphus. I currently work for Habitat for Humanity and own a few rental properties in Minneapolis. Brewing beer is all about taking raw ingredients and building them into something we can enjoy. I also appreciate the community that is built over a beer with friends.

I started homebrewing while in college. It was wonderful making something all my friends could enjoy. After moving to Minneapolis I started working at a few different breweries on the business and front-of-house side of things, but eventually I got hired to wash kegs at Sisyphus. From there I worked my way deeper into the process and was eventually hired as a brewer.

IES Abroad: Tell us about your typical day.

IR: As I mentioned earlier, I currently work a few different jobs. The folks of Sisyphus have been wonderfully flexible and have allowed me to step into a more managerial role at the brewery. That being said, I am still involved in every aspect of bringing beer from grain to the glass. Sisyphus is a two barrel system which means we brew four kegs of beer at a time. It is an incredibly intimate experience. I wash kegs, clean tanks, brew the beer, sweep the floors, clean toilets, and design recipes.

IES Abroad: Are there any lessons or skills you developed abroad that you continue to draw upon in your career today?

IR: Human connection through food and drink was a big lesson I learned while studying abroad in Argentina. Take strangers and sit them down with good food and beer and they have the chance to become lifelong friends. And if not then they still got to drink and eat some beautiful things.

IES Abroad: Do you have any advice for students who are thinking of studying or interning abroad?

IR: Speak as much Spanish (or the equivalent language) as possible. I use Spanish daily in my work and wouldn't have the skills I do if I chose to speak my native language while in Argentina.

This article was originally published in the IES Abroad alumni magazine Exchange. The “Five Years After Study Abroad” series features alumni who received an IES Abroad scholarship, and explores how studying abroad shaped their life and career.

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