BrewChief, a community run by brew reviewers from around the globe, offers a social network for beer drinkers to document their love or detest for products from microbreweries all over. As a part of its mission to have an impact in the brewing industry, the website is currently running a recurring interview series that shines a light on the underrated masters of the brewing universe: brewmasters. Recently, BrewChief took the time to interview Frankenmuth Brewery Brewmaster Jeff Coon, gaining some insight on his favorite beer to brew, what he thinks of the beer reviewing process and his advice for those new to the craft beer segment.
What is your favorite style of beer to brew?
A Märzen Oktoberfest … hands down, because it was the first beer that I learned how to make. I enjoy the tradition behind the style, it being a true lager and incorporating the multi-stepped mash process makes this brew complex and really fun to make. I brewed my first Oktoberfest in April 1972, when I was 13. From a stylistic standpoint, I believe my Oktoberfest
is true to what Oktoberfest was and is today.
What are your favorite beers outside of your own?
Outside of the brews I make there are quite a few different ones that I really enjoy. Dogfish Head 90 & 120 minute IPAs are a few brews that I think are pretty sweet and I really enjoy. Russian River Pliney the Elder is another one of my favorites. Anybody that can brew a good German style Pilsener is always nice, I love that style of beer, and I just think it’s great. I also like all the Stone Vertical Epic series brews, they’ve all been good! I’m looking forward to trying Sam Adam’s Utopias.
In Michigan, I really enjoy Founder’s KBS, and New Holland Poet (I like to age my bottles for 16-18 months). I’m also a fan of Dark Horse Plead the 5th Imperial Stout.I love talking to people about beer because it’s the most underrated celebratory beverage, my love of beer and passion for brewing grows every time I am able to introduce a new style to their palate.
How do you feel about beer reviewing and its impact on the industry?
I think it’s new … It’s a new thing starting to catch on. I think it’s a good thing and I think it could potentially impact the market, but right now even when I see a bad review of a beer I still try it anyways. Nothing is better than watching and talking to people that enjoy the beer I get to make.
It’s a bummer when people review styles that they don’t particularly enjoy or understand. A person who isn’t a beer judge might not understand or appreciate the style or attributes of a certain brew that they don’t normally drink. I’m not sure it’s helpful for them to be reviewing without knowing or being able to detect the stylistic truths of the beer. For instance, personally I’m not the biggest Hefeweizen fan, but I have brewed it for a long time and I think that I can sit down and appreciate what a true Hefe should taste, smell, and look like. Therefore I could confidently review another brewer’s Hefe.
However, I think people who are stuck on their favorite brew and can’t appreciate stylistically different beers are going to miss the point and artistry behind the brewer’s efforts. This may happen more frequently with new craft beer reviewers. If somebody would come up with a guide book or e-book to review beers that would be cool because then novices would know how to describe what their tasting. I want to know, what is it that you really taste? If you’re reviewing a brew, you should be able to recognize and describe the beer compared to its stylistic tendencies. A great beer reviewer is able to figure out what their tasting and communicate it in such a way that other people can almost taste it. When it comes to reviews, the more beer knowledge people incorporate the better.
How does it feel to have your beers reviewed on sites like BrewChief?
I think it’s a great thing! Even the people that don’t see the beer in a highly positive light, I still think it’s a good thing. Because it’s all about exposure and I think that my beer is easy to enjoy and appreciate and therefore the more people to try it, the more people that can make a decision about that particular style. If you enjoy my German Hefeweizen then maybe you’ll go and try another German style Hefeweizen. There are Brewer’s all over the country striving to make stylistically true beers and for me that’s awesome! Don’t get me wrong, I also appreciate the art and creativity behind craft brews like the stuff Right Brain Brewery is making, it’s really cool.
What advice would you give to a new craft beer fan?
The advice I would give is … Don’t get stuck on one style. Try a variety of brews to get your palate used to or exposed to all the different styles around the world. If you try a wide range of styles then your palate is able to appreciate a greater selection and even a few of those bastard styles you might come across. You’ll be able to go anywhere and find a brew that you can sit down and really truly enjoy. See how different breweries make their beers, it’s all about appreciating the art and science behind brewing as well as the creative craft the brewer is putting into each batch.
Thanks to BrewChief for taking the time to interview our own Jeff Coon. Visit their website for more great beer features.