Bringing Life to the Brewery with Alma van Dongen

Meet Alma van Dongen. Alma is 36 years old and resides in the Netherlands. She has been working at Rapid Circle as a Functional Consultant for over 4 years, but she started her career in the hospitality industry with a diploma in art and economics. Perseverance and stability motivated her to grow both professionally and personally. In her free time, Alma has some unique hobbies. Not only does she brew her own beer, but she is also learning the Japanese language, overcoming her fear of flying, and expressing her passion for music. Are you ready to meet our creative multitasker?

Let’s start from the beginning. How did you end up in the IT industry?

“I started in IT because I was working full-time in the hospitality industry with a flexible contract and felt the need for more stability. So, I started thinking about what I wanted in the future and where my interests lay. IT quickly came to mind, and my father had also worked in the IT industry. I started looking around, knowing that it’s very challenging to find work in that field because my diploma stated that I studied art and economics at the School of Arts. To compensate for that, I obtained some certifications at home to demonstrate that I had some knowledge. That’s how I ended up at an organization that provided internal training to become a developer. The idea was to place me with a permanent client after the training. I liked that idea. After meeting with the client, it turned out they were looking for someone who was strong in communication and willing to learn the technology. From there, things started to progress.”

And besides your passion for IT, you have a unique hobby: brewing your own beer. How did that start?

“It all started as a farewell gift from my previous employer. My colleagues gave me a starter kit, which contained all the basic ingredients needed to brew beer. I gave it a try, and I actually enjoyed the process. I love experimenting with new flavors, and brewing beer allows me to do that. It’s similar to creating recipes, and based on my knowledge of certain ingredients, I can estimate which combinations would work well together.”

Did you have a good understanding of flavors beforehand, or did you learn along the way?

“No, I learned about beer flavors along the way. What I find exciting about brewing beer now is taking that extra step in terms of ingredients. You can determine the quantities and types of grains based on the beer style you want to brew and what is typical for that style. It allows for experimentation. In beer brewing, the taste is primarily determined by grains, yeast, and hops, along with water. You can vary these elements and see what works and what doesn’t. Ultimately, your personal preference is the most important factor.”

Do you have a signature style for your own beer?

“I really enjoy IPAs, and they’re also my favorite to drink. Although I have to say, I made a wheat beer last year that turned out to be delicious and was well-received by friends. Recently, I conducted a test for a beer I want to make for this summer. It’s a Hefeweizen, a German wheat beer. It has a sweet, fruity flavor with a hint of banana and cloves. It’s perfect for a hot day.”

Are there specific ingredients you enjoy using for brewing certain beer styles?

“IPA is my favorite, and it has several sub-styles. I lean more toward the fruity and juicy IPAs rather than the purely bitter and piney ones. So, if I want something drinkable on a summer day, I go for more tropical hops. My favorite hop variety is called Nectaron. It’s a relatively new hop from New Zealand, and it creates a full tropical flavor explosion. I think that’s the recipe I’ve been most pleased with so far—a New England IPA brewed with Nectaron hop, among others.”

What does your beer brewing setup look like?

“When I’m testing, I brew 5 liters. For new recipes, I first check if the proportions are right, especially when experimenting with things like fresh fruit or unique ingredients like different tea varieties. These elements can quickly become overpowering or completely fade away. On a small scale, I use pots on the stovetop. Once I have a recipe I’m happy and satisfied with, I brew it on a larger scale using a brewing kettle. It’s an all-in-one system that guides you through the different brewing steps. It’s like a large pot that you plug into an electrical outlet, with an LED display where you can set the temperatures you want to use. Then, the system takes care of the process, and you just need to add the ingredients at the right time based on your recipe. The fermentation stage, where sugars are converted into alcohol, is mostly about patience. I have buckets with airlocks in my closet for that stage. They bubble and ferment during the process.”

Sometimes people think that if I brew something on Saturday, it will be ready by Monday. They don’t realize it’s a process that takes several weeks.

Alma van Dongen, Functional Consultant at Rapid Circle

Can things go wrong during the brewing process?

“Yes, definitely. I’m also dependent on room temperature and how the fermentation goes. Since I do it at home and haven’t invested thousands of euros, the temperature can vary. Sometimes it’s 20 degrees Celsius in the room, and in the summer, it can go up to around 26 degrees Celsius. All these factors impact the beer’s flavor. I don’t have temperature control, so for me, it’s just ‘it is what it is.’ Sometimes it tastes better than others. Working hygienically is crucial for the final result, so as long as you do that, the risk of infection, for example, is low. If something is really wrong, you can smell or taste it immediately. It might smell like rotten eggs or taste like vinegar, and then you know it’s not right.”

Has your beer brewing hobby ever come in handy in your work as a Functional Consultant?

“Yes, because I talk a lot in my work. So sometimes it’s a fun topic of conversation that helps establish a good connection. It serves as a great icebreaker, which ultimately contributes to the work relationship. It’s a subject that resonates with people, and they often want to know more about it. I also frequently get asked if I can bring some beer. Sometimes people think that if I brew something on Saturday, it will be ready by Monday. They don’t realize it’s a process that takes several weeks. But it’s something enjoyable, and it’s certainly nice to give to colleagues. I also enjoy receiving compliments because people often have the misconception that homebrewing is nothing special. That’s not necessarily true. The people I share my beers with are often pleasantly surprised and say things like, ‘Wow, it’s just as good as the beer from the supermarket. I didn’t expect that.'”

How does your beer differ from other commercially available beers on the market?

“I do it purely for fun and for myself. I also often give it away. It’s a kind of creative outlet in that sense. I try to create beers that I would enjoy drinking myself. I also design the labels using Adobe Illustrator. Most of the beers I’ve brewed so far are named after my favorite songs from my favorite bands. So, all my beers are music-related. Depending on the chosen song, I try to create a label that matches the title or the message of the song.”

Can you tell me more about your other passions, such as music?

“I can’t live without music because I can’t stand silence. I also play musical instruments. One primarily, and one on the side. I didn’t grow up playing music; it’s something I started doing later in life. I play the bass guitar primarily, and I also have an electronic drum kit at home. I always thought it would be cool to learn how to play instruments, so I bought them. I took an online course and tried to play along with songs. After a lot of practice, it becomes second nature.”

What else?

“Additionally, I really want to visit Japan, but I have a fear of flying. Still, I want to see if there’s something I can do about it so that I can go within the next two years. I’m taking steps now to learn the language. It would be a shame to learn a language and never have the opportunity to use it. This way, I’m kind of giving myself an ultimatum. If I learn the language now, I’ll have to go there to truly apply it.”

Let’s reflect on your biggest success so far. It could be in your career or personal life. What stands out?

“I don’t think it’s a huge success, but I’m proud of where I am today, both in terms of work and personally. I feel fortunate, but I also think it’s a result of perseverance and my own efforts. I’ve been able to find stability even though I didn’t have a background in the industry. Nowadays, people are more open to that, but a few years ago, it was completely different. You needed a diploma for everything. So, I’m proud that I was able to achieve that at that time. Personally, I feel very content. I’ve been able to buy my own house, have a steady job, a great social circle, and I can pursue my hobbies. It may not seem like a big deal, but for me, it feels like a privilege.”

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