If you look at craft beer now, it seems almost like a no-brainer to open a brewery. Massachusetts alone has seen a huge boom of new craft brewers in the past year, many focusing on specialized niches and most thriving. Smart move, right? Sure appears to be. But go back almost twenty years to 1995. Then tell people you're going to open a brewery focusing on Belgian-style ales. That's exactly what Allagash Brewing founder Rob Tod did. Now fast forward a bit and see yourself as a young brewer who, after the brewery had seen years of growth, convinced the founder to hire you. You grow into the role of Brewmaster over time. You're the top brewer at one of the most prestigious breweries in North America, perhaps the world. You've helped your brewery pump out some of the super-innovative, and delicious, beers. You have a Belgian-style coolship at your disposal. Your brewery is exploding with growth. Congratulations, you're Jason Perkins of Allagash Brewing! Now can you see why we wanted them at Drink Craft Beer Fall to Winter Fest so bad?! I was lucky enough to get a bit of time from Jason to talk about beer, how he got here and more. So let's dive right in!
Drink Craft Beer: How did you get into craft beer?
Jason Perkins: Like many craft brewers, I started with homebrewing. After college, I moved to Montana and after a few months, noticed that the place I was buying my homebrew supplies (a small brewery) was hiring. It seemed too good to be true to make beer and get paid (kind of) for it. I haven't look back since.
DCB: What was the turning point (a beer or moment) that made you love craft beer?
JP: There have been a bunch. I remember smelling wort and hops while I played soccer in high school (the origional Catamount Brewery was right next to the field) and loving the smell and the idea of a product being made small and local. I also often say that Sierra Nevada's Celebration Ale got me started, as I still remember it as the first craft beer I truly fell in love with. I still love that beer.
DCB: You walk into a magical beer shop with every beer currently available. You can put together one six-pack. What do you walk out with? Only one beer can be from your brewery.
JP: This is not an easy question. There are so many great options out there, and my decision would change immensely depending on mood. Right now (keep in mind it is 7 AM) would be: Orval, Firestone Walker Pale 31, Smuttynose Robust Porter, Sierra Nevada Celebration, a fresh DeDolle Arabier and Russian River Temptation.
DCB: You have one night in your favorite beer city. What city are you in and where do you go (it doesn’t all have to be beer)?
JP: Gent, Belgium. Beer at the Waterhuis, Waterzooi at Chez Leontine and a nightcap at Velootje, the strangest bar in the world.
DCB: What would you be doing for a career if you weren’t in beer?
JP: I suppose I could work in a shop of some kind, doing freelance selling of some sort of product. Maybe in a habadashery or a Chapeau shop or something.
DCB: What do you drink when you’re not drinking craft beer (or beer at all)?
JP: Locally Wood-Roasted "Matt's Coffee". A good Malbec or Cabernet.
DCB: Where do you see the craft beer industry going in the next year? And, in that vein, can we get a sneak peak at what new to expect from you in the coming year?
JP: I think the sky is the limit for the craft beer industry. There are tons of people discovering craft beer every day, so the demand will continue to rise. The only issue we will have as an industry is the ability to keep the overall quality strong. With all the new breweries opening, I hope the focus continues to be on great quality beer, first and foremost. Allagash is continuing to expand our brewery to keep up with growing demand, with some increased fermentation and a new brew house coming on line in 2013. We will also be expanding our team, to maintain the quality levels that have been a cornerstone for us since our founding.
DCB: Thanks so much for your time, Jason! Looking forward to seeing you guys at Drink Craft Beer Fall to Winter Fest in November/December!