Coming home from two months in the northeast, I discovered my coeditor for The Brew-Score, a publication of The Music City Brewers: otherwise known as my wife Millie, had stored what work she had done on The Brew Score on her work computer. While visiting her husband at their place in the Adirondacks they dumped EVERYTHING. What to do, what to do? Well, why not call our featured speaker for The Music City Brewoff? Besides, I’ll be away that weekend and judging in Albany, NY the next weekend, hell, I wanted to talk to him too! John Kimmich, pronounced “Kim-ick” according to the lady who answered the phone, NOT like “Kucinich,” was gracious enough to call back. We spoke briefly. I decided to share here that brief interview here at The Professor
Brewer Profile by Ken Carman
The call came in on my cell while I was balancing several things at the same time. I answered and fumbled for a pen, only to find a magic marker… that didn’t work. Oh, Interviewer, how awkward can we seem? Let me count the ways.
John’s voice didn’t disappoint. Looking at the picture I said to myself, “Are brewers getting younger, or am I just getting older? The last, I fear. I was only about 25 when I brewed my first.
I had to ask. Really. I knew the product from the trades, and the ones I have read REALLY made it sound like the picture on the can is animated.
John laughed and said, “Oh, no, that would mean the beer would cost thousands per can.” My home homebrew club; I’m a member of two other clubs, has a gentleman who started out going by the name Hop God and now refers to himself as Hop Tyrant. Since I knew The Alchemist, in Waterbury, Vermont, only sells one beer: an IPA called Heady Topper, I quickly went to a few questions about IPAs, but, “Well, since that’s what my talk will be about…” we left it at that.
Advice for homebrewers? “Read, read, read and brew, brew, brew.”
Obviously what John has done is impressive. In two years they went from 1,600 barrels to 9,000 barrels. Now those of you in the know may ask, “What about the previous years?” Well, in the early 2,000s they started serving Heady in their brewpub in downtown Waterbury, Vermont. Then a lady came to visit. Her name was Irene and I actually lost a number of clients myself: campgrounds and such taken out by this stormy lady. The brewpub became part of Alchemist history, but out of the rubble (not literally, I suspect) they built The Alchemist Cannery. That was 2011, and now it’s been two years and production, obviously, has boomed.
John is originally from Pittsburgh: we spoke of The Church a little, a Pittsburgh brewpub built in an old Catholic Church where the vestibules are filled with serving tanks and the altar the brew vessels. I asked him if he had had formal education and he said, “hard knocks.”
He did recommend American hops, and that was about as specific as he was going to get regarding some of Heady Topper.
John said that when it comes to IPA, when he speaks at Music City Brew Off, he’ll encourage questions after he speaks. But he also said that brewers shouldn’t steer away from those who might offer harsh, yet good, criticism of what they brew. He also thought paying attention to what judges write at competitions is good advice.
I’m reminded here of one of our past speakers: I think it was John Palmer, who said that one negative score sheet might not mean much, but more than one saying the same things should be paid attention to.
John took his time to call from his busy schedule, and I appreciate that. This was only meant as a basic intro to an upcoming speaker, besides I too was busy getting ready to judge beer in Pensacola.
Sad to say I will be up north the weekend of the competition, and judging beer the weekend after in Albany, NY. So I’m glad I had a chance to talk to him, as brief as it was.
Maybe when I’m on tour in New England I can stop by next year