An interview with Uli Gulje, host of the ULI WHO podcast and firefighter turned brewer
Interview by Jeremy Lux, article written by Eric Z. Gasa
If there’s anything Uli Gulje loves most it’s a good story and a tall glass of beer to go along with it. Such is the essence of his podcast, ULI WHO, a program dedicated to curating any and all stories that may cross Gulje’s path, no matter how big or small. An Alaskan oilman turned traveling fireman then craft beer brewer, and now professional podcaster, Gulje has quite the list of interesting titles under his belt.
He’s felt the frigid, -70 chill of the Arctic Circle, and experienced the fierce flames of California wildfires; from isolated oil rigs to the embrace of his two kids, Gulje has certainly lived a life that has garnered him a certain wisdom and charisma that makes him excel at conversing with people.
But in this latest episode of the Life in Motion podcast the roles are reversed! Putting Gulje in the hot seat is Jeremy Lux, as the two discuss Gulje’s life, passions, and why he isn’t just about to kick the bucket and work at Lowes anytime soon.
For a self-proclaimed old guy, Gulje certainly stays young at heart when discussing his passions.
“If you have a passion,” he says, “Don’t be afraid to chase it, especially with how much the economy is shifting today. There’s no more working at Dunder Mifflin for 40 years or whatever. That’s gone. Don’t be afraid to chase that and explore, but also know when to sunset it.”
It’s an especially good analogy for Gulje’s life too; a series of sunsets. For every door that closes, don’t fret, just find a new one. It’s a good mantra, and certainly one that matches a guy raised by surfers in Santa Barbara in the 70s. It’s no surprise that Gulje spent a lot of time in the water as a kid, but after completing college he left the Golden State behind for the Last Frontier to work on oil rigs.
It was a rugged stint, but after working the oil fields of Alaska, Gulje became fixated on being a fireman, a job that he says is as adrenaline pumping as it is satisfying, and really kept him in check.
“I just feel like it's kept me in line because I am such a wandering spirit. I needed that discipline, otherwise I’d be talking to you from some prison in South Dakota or something,” he jokes.
Gulje equates being a first responder as a “death wish,” a “young person’s game,” and also the source of some truly whacky stories. He recalls the times where he got calls to breakup neighbors fighting each other with weed whackers, and even delivering babies on his first day.
But all good things must come to an end, or at least slow down. Gulje later settled down in Springfield and worked his way up the ranks in firefighting, which allowed him to try his hand at other careers like real estate. As one sun sets, another rises. His next gig would come to him over a beer at 4 By 4 Brewing in Springfield.
“So paint this picture,” he says, “It’s a snowy day and it’s just two of the owners and I, Derek and Danielle Shimeall. We just start talking. I talk about starting a podcast and having them on to talk about their beer…”
What started as a friendly conversation at a bar, would blossom into a genuine friendship and business partnership. In fact, Gulje loved 4 By 4 and spent so much time there that the Shimeall’s wound up giving him a job behind the bar!
Professional brewers, Derek and Danielle have since taken Gulje under their wing to teach him the chemistry of brewing. And just like that, another sunset in Gulje’s life turned into a sunrise.
“I think it's easy to stagnate,” he says, “I know there's a lot of fire department retirees who now work at Lowes, but like just for the insurance. So they're like counting, bolts, or whatever all day. And man, I just can’t do that. I'm going to learn something new.”
Even at 46, Gulje’s wandering spirit keeps him as busy as ever. In fact, his life honestly couldn’t sound better. Now at the helm of a successful podcast, Gulje is able to do what he loves, which is tell and uncover stories. When he’s not recording he can be found doing his “Walter White” magic with Derek in the brewery, while his kids, now 15 and 17, are growing more independent by the day. Gulje also brags that his relationship with his cat, Guinness Lebowski is stronger than ever.
“It’s super fulfilling,” he says, “I feel like my art gives people something that they will listen to and come away from thinking differently. It’s great to be able to curate and contribute to these stories.”
But no matter good times or bad, Gulje’s hopeful and inquisitive attitude stays the same; life is a ride, and for better or worst he’s here to live it to the fullest. Hold your passions close, and those near to your heart even closer.
“So what makes you happy?” he asks. “Because you will find a way to pay the bills if it makes you happy. And when things run its course, don’t be afraid to sunset it.”
Don’t be afraid of sunsets, because with each one comes a new day.***
If you can’t get enough of Uli Gulje, check out his podcast, ULI WHO. When it comes to stories, Gulje is chock full of them. So many, that we couldn’t possibly fit them all into one article! For the full scoop on Gulje on everything from life advice, living in Alaska, crazy firefighter stories, to beer brewing, podcasting, and even polar bears, hear his full story on the Life in Motion podcast with Jeremy Lux on Apple Podcasts and Spotify.