At first glance, Brett Joyce, President of Rogue Ales, and Eric Wallace, President of Left Hand Brewing, don’t appear to have much in common. Joyce is soft spoken, with a shaved head and square jaw, while the more gregarious Wallace sports facial hair and an earring. But within a minute of talking to them, one realizes that they both share a fantastic passion for quality and innovation in craft brewing. We sat down with the pair for 60 minutes of discussion about brewing technology, stout glasses and Miley Cyrus.
Q. What’s one thing every man should know?
Brett Joyce, Rogue Brewery: Always tell the truth — life’s simpler that way.
Eric Wallace, Left Hand Brewery: When you give, you tend to get back more.
Q. What’s the hardest thing you’ve ever done?
BJ: Train for a Half Ironman triathlon.
EW: Four years’ hard time at the United States Air Force Academy.
Q. What are you working on right now?
BJ: Rolling Thunder Barrel Works — this is the only brewer/distiller cooperage facility in the country. We’ll be able to make barrels on our own all the way from tree to table. We have the equipment and are in the process of building a facility and learning the craft. We’ll use the barrels for our ales, lagers, porters, stouts, meads, braggots, and spirits.
EW: Keeping Left Hand on an even keel and sustaining our investments in quality and growth with internal financing (i.e. staying independent and true to our beer mission).
What’s the hardest thing I’ve ever done? Four years’ hard time at the United States Air Force Academy.
Q. Name one thing you can’t live without.
BJ: My kids. Lauren is 12 and Emily is 10.
EW: My family.
Q: Who or what influences you?
BJ: I look a lot to the athletic industry for inspiration, companies like Nike and Adidas.
EW: The weather. Think about it: how we dress, travel, play, our moods, our business, what we eat, drink, grow. Can’t do much about it, but it sure affects everyone.
Q. What are you reading right now?
BJ: Atlas Shrugged by Ayn Rand.
EW: Graham Greene, The Quiet American, for the fourth time; Trout magazine; Parachutist magazine; Maggie Thatcher’s biography; Hops by Stan Hieronymous.
The Spiegelau Stout Glass
A year ago, legendary glassmaker Spiegelau teamed up with Sam Calagione of Dogfish Head and Ken Grossman of Sierra Nevada to create a dedicated IPA glass. Recently, they consulted with Brett Joyce of Rogue and Eric Wallace of Left Hand to develop “Prototype C”: a super thin, rimless glass designed to accentuate a stout.
“In the workshop we started with 12 glasses and poured beers across them”, said Matt Rutkowski, U.S. Vice President at Spiegelau. “Each one of them was presenting differently. So even though they’re all great beers, and no one said ‘this is terrible’, we were looking for what was preferred.” Rutkowski held up a standard glass. “You see this rolled edge here? This is a leftover of inexpensive glass production. So when you cut the glass from the line, the molten glass just goes — bloop — and rolls over. It costs money to laser the thing off and put it back in the flame to fire polish the edge so you don’t cut your lip open. But that little thing creates such a dramatic difference in how the beer flows out.”
Q. Name one thing no one knows about you.
BJ: I actually like some Miley Cyrus songs.
EW: I’ve moved 23 times. Only thrice in the past 20 years, though. I attended 10 schools from kindergarten to postgrad.
Q. It’s your last drink and meal on earth. What’ll it be?
BJ: Rogue Farms 7 Hop IPA and pepperoni pizza.
EW: Wake Up Dead Imperial Stout, a great steak, mashed potatoes, seared asparagus and tiramisu.
Q. If you could go back and tell your 16-year-old self something, what would you say?
BJ: Enjoy your work.
EW: Start saving now and learn about everything you can, as much as you can. And travel. A lot.
Q. How do you want to be remembered?
BJ: As a rogue.
EW: As someone who created something from nothing, tried to build a better beer world and local community and focused on doing the right thing.
Q. Are there parts of your respective teams that look elsewhere for brewing innovation?
EW: That’s just part of the DNA. When both of our companies started, everything we did was breaking existing boundaries. The Good Juju, for instance. I mean, who was putting ginger in a pale ale? That was considered completely radical. In 1994, the first year we competed in the Great American Beer Festival, they didn’t know what to do. The Good Juju didn’t win a medal; they gave it an honorable mention because it was so out beyond the pale. Imperial stouts were extremely rare back then. Milk stout was dead. Milk stout had basically gone extinct in the U.S. when we started making those. Look at Rogue’s variety of beers. They’ve got [looking at Joyce], what’s that crazy doughnut beer you’ve got?
BJ: Voodoo Doughnut? We have three now, but the first one we did was bacon maple. Then we did chocolate peanut butter banana, then chocolate raspberry and pretzel. They’re all inspired by doughnuts that Voodoo Doughnuts makes.
Q. Who comes up with brewing advancements?
EW: For us, we sit around thinking, “What does the world need?” We’re trying to fill in niches that haven’t been met. Basically, 20 years ago, there really weren’t many IPAs. Now it’s the biggest style sold in the States. We’ve basically taken all of the traditional styles and are twisting ’em, growing ’em, shrinking ’em, cutting ’em, slicing ’em, splicing ’em.
Q. Is there anything in the technological pipeline that you can talk about?
BJ: As I mentioned, we established our own cooperage facility called Rolling Thunder Barrel Works. So we’re going to make our own wooden barrels from start to finish. We’re using all-Oregon oak, we bought the equipment, we’re building a structure down at the brewery for it. So we’re going to take from the forest to a finished barrel. A small cooper in Canada went broke, so I bought all of his equipment. So they’re gonna be made by hand. It’s a really old-fashioned craft. Not a lot of guys in the States do it. We have one guy who’s apprenticing under another master cooper. He’s going to move up to where this guy lives for like a year, study it, learn it, and then do it.
EW: For us, bottling line technology has really come along. Kettle technology — the boiling system that we have in our new kettle didn’t exist when we started. Additionally, a lot of breweries are using centrifuges for clarification. Our dark beers now don’t touch a filter. There’s no need. We just spin ’em. They don’t need to be bright. They don’t need to be perfectly clear. It’s not like a pilsner that we want to be clear. 60 percent of the beers we make never see a filter. They just get spun.