John and Exile Brewing Co. have been in communication for a few months. We were initially put in contact with him through a friend. We exchanged emails and information a few times, but got to know him best when he recently flew back from Scotland to meet us in person. Soon after our first meeting, we knew he was the one. Utilizing a background in chemistry at Iowa State, John is currently completing a masters in Brewing and Distilling at Heriot-Watt University in the U.K, and will soon join the team full bore to start creating beers in our lab like a mad scientist. We recently talked with John to hear his thoughts on kilts, brewing, and beer loving Germans (yes, ze Germans).
What is your favorite part about being in Scotland?
Definitely the people. Mostly because they always offer whisky to guests, which is nice. Edinburgh is a beautiful city, too, but the highlands and western islands have some of the most beautiful landscapes I’ve ever seen. The whole country really is an impressive place.
Have you picked up any of the accent?
No, thankfully, although after my first few nights here out at the pubs I found myself developing this awful, awkward, hybrid accent. I remember one night after a few pints I stopped mid-conversation after my buddy from the highlands started looking at me funny. I’ll never forget the face he made and thinking, “man, I sound like a complete idiot right now.”
What first got you interested in brewing?
I was studying chemistry up at Iowa State, so naturally I was in lab… a lot. On top of what I was doing for my classes, I did some biorenewable research the last couple of semesters, which is great stuff in theory, but man, some of those lab spaces are a black hole - where happiness goes to die. I had intentions of going to grad school, but I knew I would be miserable. Anyways, I was really getting into craft beer at this time and brewing was clearly the best application of chemistry that I could think of, so I checked out a few brewing books form the library and the rest is history.
When wearing a kilt, boxers or briefs?
What excites you the most about being the head brewer at Exile Brewing Co.?
Well the brewery itself is going to be incredible. When I first went through the site with R.J. I was really impressed, so I’d say the environment I’ll be working in is pretty exciting. I suppose I’m most excited to tap into the new equipment and start creating some incredible beers. I really like to experiment as well, so I’ll be using a lot of my free time working on some new and existing ideas and recipes.
When people think of beer cities throughout the world, there are many that come to mind. What is your favorite city for beer and why?
Probably Munich, not only because the beer is so good, but I’ve never really experienced anything else that rivals the environment of the beer halls there. And there really isn’t anything better than a sausage platter and kraut with a liter of dunkel. The Germans are doing it right!
Name your favorite beer to start the night and your favorite beer to end the night.
To start I’ll go with something sessionable so I’m not falling over halfway through the night. Usually something hoppy because I’m always drinking dark beers by the end of the night. The best night cap would definitely be a Belgian strong ale like Rochefort 8, or even a weizenbock like Schneider Aventinus, although I usually end the night with a dram of whisky. Single malts are my second love.
Your favorite food to eat after a drinking session?
Doner kebabs, but only the ones in Berlin. And with extra crushed red pepper, of course. It’s not spicy enough if it doesn’t hurt.
Last but not least, your thoughts on light beer: horrible or terrible?
I was going to say superior drinkability… haha! Let’s just stick with “pretty damn awful.”