Friday, December 2, 2011

AN INTERVIEW WITH DENISE JONES OF MOYLAN’S BREWERY

Denise Jones has been knocking our proverbial socks off as head brewer at MOYLAN’S BREWERY in Novato, California since 2006. First and foremost, she’s pumping out barrels full of HOPSICKLE every month – only Beer Samizdat’s one or two favorite IPAs in existence. Then there’s the big bad MOYLANDER (a mere “Double” IPA to Hopsickle’s Triple) and the IPA, as well as their KILT LIFTER scotch ale that the kids are going bananas for. We thought it made sense to sit down with Denise for an interview; or rather, to send her a list of questions for her to answer via email. She graciously complied, and we thank her for it. (photo courtesy The Marlborough Express)

BEER SAMIZDAT: Please describe your focus as brewmaster at Moylan's, how long you've been working there, as well as the path that brought you to lead brewing at one of California's top brewers.

Denise Jones: As the brewmaster at Moylan's, I am responsible for all beer production, equipment repair, procurement, yeast management, brewer education and quality control. I have been with Moylan's for over five years now, joining the brewery in 2006. I had known Brendan Moylan for many years prior to working for the brewery and I was aware of his positive reputation as a business owner and quality beer advocate.

BEER SAMIZDAT: What would you say have been the biggest changes in the craft beer world since you started at Moylan's, as well as the biggest changes for Moylan's itself?

Denise Jones: So far the largest challenges have come with retooling and repairing equipment that has been commissioned for over 16 years. When things break down, we have two choices; repair with same or replace with newer technology. Beer is the same but the equipment that changes is always a big deal. The other big change to me has been pricing. Costs with energy and raw materials, such as hops, are also constantly changing. These issues have forced price changes over the past few years that the average consumer is reluctant to accept. Our brewery is small and we find that our approach towards quality demands a higher price than a mega-micro brewery would have. Fortunately, our customers accept that high quality craft brews are worth paying more for. The craft beer drinker, thankfully, has accepted the notion that crafted brews are well worth the price.

BEER SAMIZDAT: Do you have a particular brewing "philosophy" and/or approach that you've brought to Moylan's that makes your beers taste different than those pre-2006? What beers have you personally introduced that you're most proud of?

Denise Jones: My brewing style probably reflects a bit more balance of style. Consistency in yeast handling practices and use of specialty malts have helped round out the brews but most beers are very similar to the original flavors set forth by previous brewers, Paddy Giffen and James Costa. I have had opportunities to create a few original brews for Moylan's but I am proud of all of the beers that we produce and distribute. They all reflect a part of my heritage as a brewer.

BEER SAMIZDAT: Hopsickle is one of the most special beers I've ever had, an IPA that truly stands out from an enormous pack of heavily-hopped beers. What would you say makes this particular beer so unique, and how has it evolved, if at all, over the years?

Denise Jones: Hopsickle and its appeal to beer drinkers never ceases to amaze me. My goal was to accomplish what I originally that was unachievable: producing a balanced Imperial IPA. It has always been hop heavy but my approach was to make certain that those hops had something to hang on to without adding cloying sweetness. Nothing worse to me than a bitter/sweet beer. The beer still has excessive amounts of hops and I have been pretty satisfied with our level of consistency with the beer as we have increased production over the past few years.

BEER SAMIZDAT: Please describe what happens when you serve Hopsickle on cask, as you have at the Moylan's brewery in Novato. How does the beer change?

Denise Jones: To be honest, there are very few times that I rack and cask Hopsickle. Occasionally I will do so for the pub but being an all-American California girl, I have no issues skirting CAMBRA rule and using a cask breather to help support the longevity of flavor throughout the life of the cask. Sometimes beers take a few more days to go through and oxygen rarely enhances the cask experience. The cloud of CO2 keeps the brew fresh and the hops responsive. The warmer temperature definitely enhances the aromas and brings forth a maltier note but it's the lower level of carbonic acid that gives the cask version a smooth, silky drinkability.

BEER SAMIZDAT: Does Moylan's have a flagship that your distribution is centered on, or one beer that tends to outsell the rest? What's most popular within the brewpub itself?

Denise Jones: Our top selling beer across the nation and around the world is the original Kilt Lifter Scotch Ale. Don't be fooled by the other beers out there with the same name.....Moylan's was the first and is the original. We brew more of that beer than any other that we produce and although it sells well at the pub, our top pub beer is the NOR CAL IPA.

BEER SAMIZDAT: How does Moylan's seek to stand out in a market that just within a few zip codes includes Russian River, Lagunitas, Marin Brewing and other heavyweights?

Denise Jones: To be honest, we don't try to go out of our way to stand out. We know that we are surrounded by good friends with equally excellent brews and we are more likely to advocate our synergy rather than try to single ourselves out as something better. We know that beer drinkers have many beer drinking moods and we are happy that Moylan's is in the mix of some of the finest that Northern California has to offer.

BEER SAMIZDAT: Anything particularly annoying right now in the world of craft beer that you'd like to do some venting about?

Denise Jones: Jeez.....I hate to say it but the sour revolution is a bit overwhelming. I personally have a hard time with the excessive acidity down my esophagus and some of the fusel alcohols are very rough on this human and her cranium. I just don't think beer drinking should hurt that much.

BEER SAMIZDAT: What's ahead for Moylan's and your brewing endeavors in 2012?

Denise Jones: More of the same. We are comfortable with our production goals and we are happy with our pub. Novato is an awesome place to be.

BEER SAMIZDAT: Finally, what would you say are the five finest non-Moylan's beers on the planet - either new beers or old favorites?

Denise Jones: I have a hard time with this question....desert island beers. Occasionally I still drink the beer that I tried for the first time when I was a very young lass....Coors Banquet Beer. I have many go-to beers for many occasions. I do find that wherever I go that the best beer is the freshest and most local. I still don't think that I have tasted a favorite.....I don't think that I've made it yet. 

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