10 Questions with Van Havig of Rock Bottom Brewery
Rock Bottom Brewery
1) If you were stranded on a deserted island, and you could only choose one pound of either hops, water, barley, or yeast, which would it be, and why?
I'd take the barley, basically since you didn't mention if it was malted, so I'll assume it isn't. I could then plant it, grow more, and eventually start a plantation – have you seen the price of barley these days?
2) What is the best aspect of NW beer drinkers?
No one really thinks craft beer is sexy or strange here, which is great. Northwesterners see craft beer as just beer, not some fancy stuff that only yuppies and geeks drink. It turns out that we (craft brewers) won here, everyone drinks our beer.
3) What is your favorite beer style, and why?
Saison is my geekdom, closely followed by sour beers. Saison is great because it's a beer style that is pretty open to interpretation, (spice or don’t spice, choose your yeast strain, pick an alcohol level) the control of fermentation is really important and it goes great with food. I love the sour beers just because I do.
4) What is the first beer you brewed that was worthy of a name?
I believe it was an Abbey style Dubbel, I was so proud of it, that I just enjoyed it and never bothered with a name.
5) Where do you get your inspiration from when creating new beers?
"It's in my head and it's in my heart" I think Kevin Seconds said that.
6) What is the most misunderstood aspect of being a professional brewer?
That I want to hear what anyone has to say about my beers. Honestly, this is my profession, not my hobby. My job is to make beers that sell – period. It is not to have my own personal beer playground in which I am free to make whatever beer I want. I don't think your average beer "afficianado" understands that. Every brewers job is to make the people THAT BUY THE BEER happy. If those people really want to drink Kolsch, then make Kolsch. If they want to drink Imperial IPA, then make that.
7) What characteristics of Portland make this area so popular for brewers, breweries, and consumers?
It's all about quality of life isn’t it? Beer is obviously part of that, but so is a livable city close to the mountains and ocean. I know of few brewers who live in Portland that want to leave.
8) If “Northwest Ale” was added as a new style of beer, what would it be?
Anything over hopped. Sorry, just my opinion.
9) What is the most underrated hop?
Nugget. No one gives Nugget any credit. It's tough to use as an aroma hop, and probably shouldn’t be, but man does it give a nice, clean, easy to work with bitterness at a very reasonable cost.
10) What are the relationships like between competing brewers? Is there a sense of community, friendly competition, etc.?
In general, I think they're great. I've made a lot of friends in the brewing community, both here in Portland and around the country – and I've met very few brewers that I don't like. We tend to help each other out in lots of ways, and even those breweries in direct competition with each other are often on good personal terms.
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