Why Ron Doesn’t Like Boats (or Being Stuck on Islands)
“During the Culmination Festival (Anchorage, Alaska) last year, Henry [Nguyen] from Monkish and a few of the other brewers got into town a little bit before me. Gabe [Fletcher], who owns Anchorage Brewing, and I have this thing where he loves going out on his boat, and he always wants me to go out on his boat. My response has always been, ‘I grew up with boats; Laurie [Ron’s wife] grew up with boats. Boats break. I’m not going out on your boat. I respect you, but I’m not.’
“Gabe’s response has always been, ‘My boat doesn’t break.’ I believe Gabe—he’s a very talented man. So they all get into town a few days before I do, then I get into town and they’re going to go out on the boat the next morning. Henry says, ‘You have to come out on the boat with us.’ I told him that I was just going to kick around town and maybe get some falafel, but I was not going out on a boat.
“So they all go out on the boat, and what happens? Sixty miles out in the ocean, the boat breaks. And they’re kind of screwed, but Gabe has a radio, so one of his friends—i think it was Crazy Ray, but I’m not sure—happened to be in the area and towed their boat to a little island way out in the ocean that happened to have a lodge and happened to have rooms available. All the brewers drank all the beer on the boat and then proceeded to drink all the beer at the lodge, which happened to be some hipster beer like Pabst. They all went to bed, then Gabe got up the next morning really early along with a couple of the brewers—i think it was Chase Healey [American Solera] and Jean and Julie from Tired Hands—and they were going to head back to port to get a part to fix Gabe’s boat. They took Crazy Ray’s boat back to the port, and Henry and a couple other brewers were stranded on this island with no beer for at least a day if not two. They had cell service, so Henry was texting me a lot. I was empathetic but had to say, ‘I can’t airlift you out of there. I can’t send you beer, but I can tell you that I told you so.’ ’’
“That didn’t make it any better for him, but I’m going to pass on the deserted island thing.” IPA.’ Those beers are so absolutely delicious that I don’t think I could live without them anymore. We did one together called ‘Diverted Dreams,’ and the one he released recently called ‘Heart Turns Cold.’ He has a lot of creative names, and these beers are absolutely delicious. I have a name for the next one that we brewed together—i’m not going to say it because I want it to be a surprise for him.”
Russian River Brewing, Santa Rosa, California
“Vinnie and Natalie [Cilurzo] are so nice, and I love Blind Pig. It’s a phenomenal beer. When I go to a place that’s supposed to have Pliny, and they have Blind Pig instead, and they’re like, ‘Oh, I’m sorry; all we have is Blind Pig,’ I’m like, ‘Fuck yeah, I like Blind Pig—not to be blasphemous, but I like it more than Pliny.’ ”
Stone Brewing, Escondido, California “Stone IPA is an iconic beer, like Sierra Nevada is an iconic beer. I’ve been drinking Sierra Nevada Pale Ale, shoot, since the eighties when it came to Michigan? Ken Grossman and his technical approach make sure the beer is consistent and great. But we’re not talking about Sierra Nevada Pale Ale; we’re talking about Stone IPA. Equally iconic, equally great. It happens to be my wife’s favorite IPA, and so it makes the list because I like it and she loves it. I’m hoping, if I’m not on this so-called deserted island, she’s going to be with me.”
New Belgium Brewing, Fort Collins, Colorado “I put La Folie on the list because when I was going over this list earlier today with Lauren [Salazar, of New Belgium Brewing], she said, ‘This is basically just a list of your friends.’ Yeah, all these brewers are my friends. So I sort of hemmed and hawed, and she said, ‘You don’t have to put one of my beers on your list,’ so I said, ‘Well, you just said this was about my friends, and we’ve been friends for a while.’ I have some great memories of La Folie and Le Terroir when she was developing them, and they were coming out in champagne bottles. The fun and the joy we had drinking them means it has to be on the list. She didn’t argue.
“The first time I tasted La Folie was when we were starting Jolly Pumpkin, and it was so great to see somebody else who found such joy in flavors and blending. I knew Lauren before I knew Vinnie, before I met Tomme Arthur, or Andy [Parker] from Avery. Lauren was the first other sour-beer maker that I got to know. It was really exciting to find another person who was as excited as we were about that kind of thing—mixed-culture stuff.”
Jester King Brewery, Austin, Texas
“Another person who’s just as excited about mixed-culture beers is Jeffrey Stuffings. Spon is the best Jester King beer I’ve ever had. I’ve had a lot of different versions of it—fruits that they’ve done— and Jeffrey and his team have really nailed the art of spontaneous fermentation. Spon is their coolship beer, and every single bottle I’ve had has been so incredibly awesome. All the flavors are balanced and just perfect. I’m a pessimistic optimist, and I really think that every bottle probably isn’t perfect, but every bottle of Spon I’ve had has just been phenomenal. I like the straight-up Spon just a bit more than the [fruit variations]. When I was down there in April, Jeffrey was really generous and pulled out a whole lot of versions that I hadn’t tried before, and I was blown away by every single one. We took a short video, but I don’t know if it was posted online. We were tasting all the Spon, and there was a shot of all the bottles, and I said, ‘Jeffrey, thank you so much for inviting me down here. It’s been a phenomenal time brewing with you, but I just have to ask—what do you do in your spare time?’ And Jeffrey said, ‘In my spare time, I just like to listen to gangsta rap.’ So we have that in common, too.”
Jolly Pumpkin Brewing, Dexter, Michigan
“This last one is a surprise, and it’s a beer I brew called “Libida.” Libida Improvisationalle is a beer I brew for my wife. It’s a testament to our willingness to live an improv life and deal with life’s challenges together as they come up. It’s something that’s really special to me—our relationship and that beer that I brewed to celebrate that relationship. It’s a hops-forward saison that’s moderate in ABV. I’ve done two different versions of it so far, and because it’s about improvisation, every batch is different. The one we just released is super Amarillo-heavy.
It’s been really fun for me, now that the rest of the world is finding out about whirlpool and late-addition hops, to be able to do something like that and bring out those huge tropical fruit notes from the Amarillo hops—the apricot and peach. It’s an ever-changing saison and a testament to our relationship and our life together.” “Those are my six (or seven) beers that I would not drink on a deserted island because I do not want to be stuck on an island. I would definitely be happy to simply have all six of those in my refrigerator.”