Are you curious to know about the people behind the beers you buy? Or perhaps you want to know what inspires brewers to brew and beer bloggers to blog? Our “Q&A” posts are a light hearted way of getting to know people working in, and connected to, the beer and alcohol industry.
Today’s post features Saugatuck Brewing Co. which was started up in 2005 by a small group of local beer enthusiasts in Douglas, Michigan. The hope was to create original styles and develop a local following. Their first location was in a small storage unit with a humble tasting bar and 4 beers on tap. They are located in the lakeshore resort community of Saugatuck/Douglas, on the shores of Lake Michigan.
Who are you/what do you do? I’m Kerry O’Donohue, Vice President here at the brewery.
How did you get into this line of work? I became involved as an early investor. Also, my wife at the time was an interior designer and was very involved in the development of the design/layout of our current location which consists of a full restaurant/pub, patio, banquet room and 12,000 ft. production brewery all under one roof.
Where did you learn to brew? Although I am not a brewer here at SBC, I began home brewing way back in late 1992. The inspiration was the cask ales I enjoyed while in London during the summer of 1992. I’d never tasted anything so delicious, honestly!
What was the inspiration for starting the brewery? The leader of the movement was Barry Johnson who attended Seibel Academy in Chicago and became our first brewer.
Where do you see, or hope to see, the brewery in 5 years time? We plan on continuing to expand gradually into new US markets (we’re currently distributed in 11 US states) and possibly a few new overseas markets. We will consistently bring out new, interesting, delicious styles both in bottles and kegs.
Are there any other breweries which have influenced you? The unavoidable answer would be Founders, based in nearby Grand Rapids. They have been an amazing success story for many well deserved reasons.
Out of all the beers you brew, which is your favourite? Why is that? I usually answer that with “the one in my hand” but honestly it varies, depending on the situation, time of year, company, etc. But if I was forced to pick I would say our Darker than your Soul stout.
What have you found the hardest thing to master when learning to brew? I would need to defer to our production brewers on this one…
What can we expect from Saugatuck in the coming months? Our latest home-run has been our Blueberry Maple Stout, coming to the UK shortly. And we will release a barrel aged version releasing this January, to coincide with National Blueberry Pancake Day.
What do you think makes a great beer? Balance, a clean finish, great flavour, aroma, mouth feel, consistency. I guess the answers one would expect.
What was your first drink and where were you when you had it? Geez…probably a taste of a mixed drink called an Old Fashion, of which my parents were very fond. I might have been 12 or so. Tasted pretty good…
What drink can you no longer face having had one too many? I’m pretty much just a beer and wine guy so no issue there for me.
What is your favourite style of beer? I’ll call it a tie between American IPAs and Stouts.
If you have to pick, which would be your top three beers in the whole world? I’ll go with Pliny the Elder from Russian River, Kentucky Breakfast Stout from Founders and our own Barrel Aged Neapolitan Milk Stout.
What is the silliest thing you’ve done whilst drunk? Best I can think of offhand is back when I was maybe 15-16. Was walking home from a party alone and passed a parked car, unlocked with the keys on the driver’s seat. I was too young for a driver’s licence but I thought it would be a fine idea to take it for a short spin. So I did, and returned it to the same parking spot, leaving the keys right where I found them… No harm, no foul as they say.
Thank you to Kerry and Saugatuck for chatting to us.