Rogue Brewmaster John Maier
Rogue Brewmaster John Maier is a living brewing legend who has helped lead the craft-beer revolution since joining the seminal Oregon brewery in the late 1980s. There are few styles he hasn’t brewed, but his personal palate leans toward classic expression
is a living brewing legend who has helped lead the craftbeer revolution since joining the seminal Oregon brewery in the late 1980s. There are few styles he hasn’t brewed, but his personal palate leans toward classic expressions of intense flavors.
LET’S GET THIS OUT of the way first— yes, John Maier’s beard was the source of the yeast that Rogue used to ferment their quirky and unique Beard Beer. But no one is more uncomfortable with his face on a beer bottle than the unassuming, soft-spoken Maier. He’d rather be logging miles on his bike or walking along an Oregon beach with his wife, Stacey, and dogs than performing a cameo in beer coolers across America.
But that pioneering spirit of trying something “because he can” has served Maier well over his 28-year tenure at Rogue. The beers in his 6-pack naturally express that diversity of interest, intensity of flavor, and a classic timelessness that transcends trendiness.
Anchor Steam Anchor Brewing (San Francisco, California)
“Number one on my list is the beer that got me into brewing originally—anchor Steam. It’s one of the only truly indigenous American styles of beer, and it’s the beer that really changed my life. When I took that first sip, I asked, ‘What makes this beer different?’ It had so much flavor from malt and the hops, and I wasn’t used to it because I’d only been drinking everyday lagers up to that point.
“I got to meet Fritz Maytag one time, and I was intimidated by him. I saw him in the brewery one time and said, ‘Well, I’m not going to go up to the guy,’ but I
saw him at the Craft Brewers Conference after that and got to talk to him a little bit, got a picture with him.
“I have a lot of respect for what he did with that brewery, and he was very influential. It was a dying brand when he took hold of it, and look at it now. The brewery has changed over the years, but Anchor Steam was one of the first all-malt beers in the United States, and it’s been a favorite since I first had it in the early 1980s.”
Celebration Sierra Nevada Brewing Company (Chico, California)
“In 1985 I was working in Los Angeles for another company, and we went up to Sierra
Nevada for their 5th Anniversary party, which they held in their brewhouse in the warehouse. Ken Grossman let us all crash in the warehouse after the party, and the next morning, he sold me a half-barrel keg. He pulled the keg out himself and sold it to me, and I think it was $68. But that beer is just a classic. Now they call it a ‘Fresh Hop IPA,’ but back then it wasn’t called an IPA, just a strong ale. But, again, at the time it was considered a pretty extreme beer at 60 IBUS and 16° Plato. It’s a classic.
“Every year I buy about five cases of it through the distributor—it’s one of my go-tos—and it’s bottle-conditioned so it will last a long time. But I like to drink it fresh; I don’t like to age it for very long. I get it around November first, then drink it through the spring.
“Plus the hops—i think there’s Chinook and Centennial, two great hops. It’s a dynamite beer, and I look forward to every year.”
Aecht Schlenkerla Rauchbier Rauchbierbrauerei Schlenkerla (Bamburg, Germany)
“I’ve been brewing rauchbiers since I started brewing in the early 1980s, and the world standard in my mind is Schlenkerla. I’ve been to Bamburg, Germany, many times. You go to the tavern and it’s just classic— they pour it out of a wood cask (not that it influences the beer, that’s just how they serve it), and they just gravity flow it out, and it’s not expensive. I’ve been there when they tapped an Urbock, in November, and they have an oak-smoked beer now.
“We stumbled around town—it’s an easy town to get lost in—but we walked by the brewery and you could identify it by the smell. During the kilning process, they put the wood chips on there themselves.
“Some people think it’s overdone, but to my palate it’s perfect because I like a heavier smoke. My palate can tolerate that. I did a beer once where I took some wet hops and smoked them to make an IPA. It was so heavily smoked, I couldn’t drink it for a year, and then it was great! I’m not kidding. It still tasted great—wasn’t oxidized or anything because that smoke will hide any oxidation that might occur. But Schlenkerla is a world classic in my book.
“The Spezial in town is also not a bad rauchbier—it’s a lighter smoke. Nice place.”
Köstritzer Schwarzbier Köstritzer Brewery (Bad Köstritz, Germany)
“Last summer, Stacey and I cycled from Copenhagen to Berlin with a group on a two-week trip, and at several stops we found Köstritzer Schwarzbier. It’s fantastic. It’s a session beer, pretty much, but it’s got the nice roasted character and only 5 percent alcohol—just a fantastic beer. Kick back and just enjoy, without having to worry about too much alcohol or too much of anything. I love the beer style.”
Wisconsin Belgian Red New Glarus Brewing (New Glarus, Wisconsin)
“When I started with Rogue in 1989, our 15-barrel brewhouse was a JV Northwest (JVNW), and it was installed by Dan Carey, who worked for them back then. What a success story New Glarus is! Belgian Red is a classic, just packed with tons of cherry flavor without it being cloying. No extracts or anything like that. It’s been so solid the past few years. We have quite a few in our cellar, but I have to ask for permission before I can open one because Stacey prizes them. We have a friend who goes up there every now and then—big Al, the president of Rogue Nation—and he brings them back for us.
“Serendipity, the new one they came out with that was a ‘happy accident’—we tried that one the other day, and it was cool. I have a lot of respect for Dan Carey—he’s
worked his ass o for a number of years. I’ve never been there, but one of these days I’ll make it to New Glarus.” Oude Gueuze Brouwerij 3 Fonteinen (Beersel, Belgium)
“I’ve been to the brewery outside of Brussels a few times—ate at the restaurant a bunch, then finally made it to the brewery a few years ago. Armand Debelder’s gueuze is just the world standard in my book. It’s just unbelievable. Those are the sours I really like. It’s quenching, it’s probiotic, it’s a good digestif, it’s got everything. It’s complex, and it’s hard to make. The year we were there in the winter, they brewed one batch and had to wait to brew again until it got cold enough to start brewing again. Armand told us that story about how the refrigeration went off in the warehouse and all the beers got too warm and overcarbed, and he just about lost his ass and went broke.
“Brussels is a strange town—i’ve been there a few times, but it’s a strange town with some rough neighborhoods. Last time we were there, I was walking through, and I heard ‘John.’ Somebody must have been saying my name, so I turned around and looked over, and it was Gabe Fletcher [of Anchorage Brewing]. It’s a small world.”
Rogue Brewmaster John Maier at the 2017 Craft Beer & Brewing Magazine® Brewers Retreat: Astoria Rogue pairing dinner relating the story behind a beer he recently brewed.