Since this week marks the start of the Big Ten conference season, I thought it would be a fun idea to start asking brewers from our rivals’ states to pitch in and tell Badger fans why they should put down the Spotted Cow (which you should probably do anyway and grab a Moon Man) and drink one of their state’s beers. Big conference games call for a bigger-than-usual amount of beers from which to choose.
TURNS OUT ALL BREWERIES IN IOWA ARE STAFFED BY COWARDS!
I’m just kidding, Iowa makes some awesome beers and their breweries are welcoming and fun. I had been in contact with Toppling Goliath but unfortunately they couldn’t get their answers back in time. Something about making really popular and delicious beers? I don’t know.
What I do know is that I have the newest brewery—they’ve been open since June—on the Madison scene. “We’ll be brewing big, flavorful, imperial beers (7 % abv and up), that will capture your imagination and your heart,” their website announces and I, for one, am excited to try some the next time I’m in town. Here is our fifth brewery profile, and second of the week, for your reading pleasure.
Name: Giant Jones Brewing
Location: 931 East Main Street Suite 9, Madison, WI 53703 (Entrance on N. Brearly St)
Key Beers: IIPA (year round); Scotch Ale (fall); Grand Porter (summer/fall); it appears the list changes regularly and also seasonally, so there are probably always new and fun beers to try.
Awards Won: None yet, but they’re new. GIVE THEM SOME TIME, YOU ANIMALS!
Brewery Tour: Tasting room is open Thursday-Saturday from 4 p.m. until 10 p.m. Tour the tap list.
Here is my interview, conducted via email and lightly edited, with brewmaster, co-owner, and heroically (some might say anti-heroically, actually, but we aren’t here to argue about Marvel characters’ true motives) named Jessica Jones.
What got you started in the brewing industry?
Beer! It is amazing and delicious. I grew up around brewing as my father started brewing at home before I was born. I made my first batch a few months after I started enjoying beer as an undergrad at UW-Madison.
The leap to getting involved in the industry happened while I was in graduate school in Berkeley. That’s when I started hanging out with the brewers at Drake’s Brewing Company in San Leandro, Calif., who taught me much of what I know. Soon after, my partner Erika and I started working on the Brewer’s Association Competition Team for the Great American Beer Festival (GABF) and World Beer Cup. The camaraderie, support, and cooperation we witnessed among brewers made us fall in love with the industry. We are all colleagues that make a scene together; sometimes we try to sell our beer in similar spaces.
What did you go to school for?
I studied religion in school; BA in religious studies from UW-Madison, plus two masters degrees at the Graduate Theological Union in Berkeley, CA. I was headed into academia, yet realized during the second masters degree that it was not what I really wanted to be doing; brewing beer was my future. The leap was rather seamless for me; once you go to school that long, you have mostly learned how to learn more than anything else. Much of my beer education is informal, though I have credentialed my palate in becoming a Grand Master in the Beer Judge Certification Program (BJCP) and an Advanced Cicerone.
When did you change your career path to brewing?
I have been course-correcting into brewing since before I had a career. I spent seven years working as a Lutheran pastor between graduate school and opening Giant Jones Brewing. All of my time outside of work was spent reading about beer, brewing pilot batches, and tasting beer.
What is your favorite beer that your brewery makes?
I am so fond of the Imperial Porter right now. It hints at coco powder with bread curst and biscuit notes, backed by herbal and blackberry hop flavors with a medium bitterness and dry finish.
My answer to this question changes from moment to moment; I always just tell people which beer I plan to drink next or am currently drinking.
What is your favorite beer that another brewery in Wisconsin makes?
Scaredy Cat Oatmeal Stout from Vintage Brewing Company. It regularly wins medals at GABF and World Beer Cup for a reason! Moderate coffee-like roast with nearly grainy and nutty flavors, dry finish, and a silky texture. Works on a sweltering summer day and blustery winter day.
Do you follow the Wisconsin Badgers?
I wouldn’t pretend to root for any other teams.
How do you think they’ll do this week against Iowa?
Better. (Author’s note: CAN’T BE WORSE! Oh God ... can it? I shouldn’t have taken the Lord’s name in vain during an interview with a former pastor, huh?)
Is your beer distributed in Madison?
Yes! It is available in our tasting room, of course, but also at a growing number of restaurants, bars, and liquor stores around Madison. Our plan is to be a Madison-area brewery exclusively. This allows us to invest in our community and our partners that serve and sell our products. Plus, beer is best fresh and close to the source.
Which beer should Badgers fans drink before/during the game?
Either our Pale Weizenbock or the Dark Weizenbock, depending on the point in the season as we switch from the Pale to the Dark as things get colder. These are our lower-alcohol beers in our giant lineup at 7.3% and 7.6% ABV, and they are evocative yet refreshing with notes of bread dough, green banana, nutmeg and clove, a dry finish, and high carbonation.
What do you listen to while brewing?
I usually turn music on before the lights, and the soundtrack is all over the place while I brew. During the first batch I played Fleshgod Apocalypse – King: death metal that includes a full symphony, which seemed sufficiently epic enough for the occasion. I am likely to play Jessica Simpson and Britney Spears, too. Most of the time it is an indie band or singer, though Marian Hill, Parlor Walls, and Mamuthones are in heavy rotation lately.
Why is beer important to you?
It fosters quick communities that might last the length of a glass or a lifetime. It’s an easy opening to connect with people around you. Beer should always elevate the moment, making joyous times more resplendent and difficult times less brutal.