An Interview with Jim Jamison – Foggy Noggin Brewing

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Foggy Noggin Brewing

Today the Washington Beer Blog once again welcomes a guest contributor: Mark Sugiyama of Eclectic Arts Magazine. Mark contacted us recently and told us that he was working on an interview with Jim Jamison of Foggy Noggin Brewing.  We are happy to cross-post the interview here but encourage you to check out Eclectic Arts for yourself. Described as “a Personal Publication for A Global Audience,” Eclectic Arts is a grassroots print magazine published locally.  More information about Eclectic Arts can be found at the bottom of this post.

Interview by:  Mark Sugiyama – Eclectic Arts Magazine

Photos by: Seattle Next Door

What do Foggy Noggin Brewing and ESPN analyst Brock Huard have in common?  On the day of this interview a neighbor brought Mr. Huard and his family by Foggy Noggin Brewing for a short visit.  There were a few “that guy looks familiar” stares but outside of that, Mr. Huard came and went with little fanfare.  To those of us that have been to Foggy Noggin before, this isn’t surprising as the atmosphere is laid back and enjoyable.

My first experience at Foggy Noggin was back in 2010, a month or two after their grand opening in March of that year.  I remember driving up the driveway and seeing the black and white FN sign and being a bit skeptical to be honest.  I walked into the garage where one or two other people were sampling the beers at the time – Bit O’ Beaver (English bitter) and Christmas Duck (English porter).  There were no pint sales at the time, only samples and growlers to go, open one Saturday afternoon a month.

Meeting Jim Jamison, brew master, for the first time, I was instantly put at ease about his brewery operation.  Jim’s extensive home brewing background, laid back personality, knowledge of the beer scene, and passion for beer made my initial visit a memorable one.  After trying both Beaver and Duck more than once, I left with a growler of Beaver, one of many to come.

Having been back several times since that initial visit, attending both anniversary releases, and several growlers later, I felt it was time to do a proper interview with Jim and Foggy Noggin.  Pull up a chair and read on.

EA:  So I was talking to Matthew (assistant brewer and Jim’s son) about Seattle Beer Week (May 10-20th) and the event you were at on Thursday May 10th at Elliot Bay Pizza in Mill Creek.  How did it go?

JJ:  It was standing room only.  Some of the regulars of Elliot Bay Pizza were kind of surprised when they showed up because there was no place to be so they left (laughs).  We brought some unusual beers.  We brought our 2012 Anniversary Ale which we don’t normally let out of the brewery to keg accounts.  We brought a keg of Wasky (Burton Ale – which will be bottled in the future).  And we brought a keg of our MLK Alt (German style alt – one of two beer exceptions to the English styled beers that Foggy Noggin produces – the other being the cream ale that Jim is producing for his daughter’s wedding).  Normally we do half pints of the Alt but they got a whole keg so he was doing growler fills (laughs).  That was fun.  He also had Elysian’s Split Shot – the Seattle Beer Week official beer.  I thought that was a pretty nice beer.

EA:  Do you have any other SBW events you’re doing?

JJ:  The only other one we’re doing is at Malt N Vine in Redmond on the last day, May 20th, for the Hangover Brunch.  So we’re doing the first day of SBW and the last day.  For me it’s tough as there are too many events.

EA:  Staying with present day events, now that you’re on your third year, is this where you thought you’d be when you started Foggy Noggin?

JJ:  Honestly, we didn’t know.  We had no idea what to expect.  Being as remote as we are, and back then, Skookum Brewing was probably the closest one to us, meaning they had their brewery on their property like us.  It’s a little bit different as they’re not brewing in a neighborhood so much, more like open space.  But, we had no idea as there really weren’t too many people doing what we we’re doing when we started.  I was shocked.  I mean, I didn’t know if anyone would show up at our grand opening back in 2010.  Did you make the grand opening?

EA:  No, I missed that.

JJ:  We had a few people waiting when we opened up.  But, we ran out of beer!  We went through everything we had.  We had brewed every weekend from January 23rd and the grand opening was on March 20th and we sold out of everything.

EA:  Wow!  So, that’s like a nice problem to have (laughs)

JJ:  It was.  And we were only open once a month at that point (they’re usually open every Saturday now – check their blog or Facebook for weekly updates).  We had to brew enough beer so we could be open the next month.  So, we decided that wasn’t going to hold out very long because we would just not have enough beer.  So, we added a couple more fermenters and that helped a lot.  I couldn’t distribute anything.  And, it’s nice to have everybody here at the tasting room but not everybody can get here.

We want as many people to experience our beers as we can.  So, you want a balance of beer that’s here in this environment because people think this is kind of cool (tasting room in the garage) but, also, what about the people that don’t have a chance to get here?  Like those that live down in Tacoma or those that live up in Bellingham or wherever, really.  I really want to have our beer in their community, too.  But, it’s hard with our size, to do much of that, to get kegs out to the outlying areas.

So, I think we’ve got a decent balance.  We’re not getting kegs out to those places but when we do it’s kind of special.

EA:  So you’re not saturating the market…

JJ:  Yeah, it’s tough when I have people that want to carry my beer and I have to talk to them and see what their intention is.  Like do they have a rotating handle that every once in a while they’ll put a keg of Foggy Noggin beer on?  And usually it’s “no, we want to have a keg on all the time” and that’s when I have to tell them we can’t do that.  We just can’t do that.  It’s impossible for us.  If I did, then I’d have no other tap accounts.

I’ve turned down a lot of people because I’m not what work’s for their system.

EA:  Where they expect a new keg every Tuesday or whatever…

JJ:  Yeah.  And I understand.  They have to print beer menus, they want commonality through their tap lineup, maybe once a quarter they change their lineup, etc.  We just can’t accommodate that.  I’ve even had some chains approach me like Joey’s (three locations around the Seattle area).  They wanted a tap account and I was like I couldn’t even supply one of your locations let alone all three (laughs).

EA:  But thanks for the offer…

JJ:  Yeah!  I mean it’s flattering that they’re interested but who knows?  Maybe in a different time, we’ll be in a different position.

EA:  That brings up another question that I know I’ve talked to you about previously.  Do you want to keep things where they are with your production or do you want to grow and expand in, say, three years to more of a production facility and a pilot facility?  Or is that just too crazy?

JJ:    Honestly, we think about all the possibilities, like making our flagship beers on a bigger scale and continue making the seasonal beers on a smaller scale.  Moving to another location is another idea.  Or staying where we are, those are all options.  We’re thinking about adding more fermenters and adding a fermentation room to the brew house in the back (the brew house is a stand alone building on the back of Jim’s property).  So, instead of six batches a week, maybe we brew twenty or twenty four batches a week.  That’s a lot more capacity but that’s a lot of work.  We’re labor intensive on a half barrel system.  Really labor intensive.

But, there’s also an interest that a half barrel system, a small batch system, is a novelty and pretty unique, too, and if we stay with that small batch system, that’s kind of our niche.  We want to do authentic English ales on really small batches.

We have nothing to complain about.  We like where we are and we’re weighing all of our opportunities.  We’re not interested in going out and getting, you know, investors, a bunch of debt, etc.  And we don’t make that much money here so it would take a long time to save up enough to expand like that (laughs).

My plan to expand was when the lottery was $600 million but I didn’t win (laughs).

EA:  (laughs) You and me both.  I had plans for that money but it didn’t happen.

JJ:  I had better plans than whoever won it did (laughs).

EA: (laughs)

EA:  You make a good point about keeping the hand crafted aspect to your beers versus doing thousands of gallons of beer on a production system…

JJ:  Yeah, I don’t know if the individual character of our beers would come through if we did it on a grander scale.  You have a place like Widmer, probably the biggest per batch brewery in the Northwest, and they make some great beers on that scale.  So, I’m sure you could dial in the recipes to whatever you need them to be.  Bigger doesn’t mean worse beer.  People think that, you know, Budweiser, Miller, Coors bigger means you make that type of beer.  Not true.  Anheuser-Busch could make any beer they wanted to.  I mean, hats off to them, they make the same beer every single time.  When you get a Bud it tastes like a Bud every single time, whether you like it or not (laughs).

EA:  Give ‘em some props for….something (laughs)

JJ:  (laughs)

EA:  So, let’s go back.  Jim, where were you born?  Raised?  And when did you start getting into beer?

JJ:  Born and raised in Portland, Oregon.  I went to college at Oregon State.  In 1978 I found a beer bar in Portland.  They had six or eight taps representing different countries.  Rainier Dark represented the US, they had Guinness, etc.  But they had, I’m thinking it was like, 1200 bottled beers from around the world.  It was every beer that you could bring into Oregon at the time.  They had a printed menu and I would fold it up and take it with me and I went through every beer on that list.   It took me years to do.  But that’s where I learned all the differences.  You know the Austrian beers versus the Czech Republic beers versus the French beers, they had them all.  When I got into the British styles I was like, wow, these are different.  They’re a little more balanced, all the flavors are a little more subtle but you can taste them all.  That’s where I learned that, to me, English beers were so unique, that English style.  That’s what got me hooked on that.

So, then I grew up, got married, had kids, etc.  In 1992 my wife bought me a home brew kit.  That’s the box it came in (points to the top of the cooler where Jim sells growlers from).  I played around with it.  The first couple batches were terrible.  But you drink ‘em cuz you made it (laughs).

Then I started writing about beer.  I had started Northwest Brew News (not to be confused with the Northwest Brewing News – Mark).  I got to meet a lot of great brewers, tried a lot of beers, etc.  We had tastings by style of Northwest breweries.  So I would print that, for example, we’re doing a pale ale tasting.  The first ten breweries to respond would ship us beer and we’d invite subscribers of the publication and they’d taste them and do taster notes.  Whenever we did a tasting, that became our most popular issues.  Then the breweries would always ask for permission to use those comments for promotional purposes.

EA:  How long were you home brewing before you started Brew News?

JJ:  In 1994 so two years I had been home brewing.  And that was kind of hap hazard as that wasn’t the greatest beer.  You do it on the stove top, you ferment it in the laundry room, my wife didn’t like the smell in the house and all that stuff, so I got kicked out into the garage. (laughs)

EA: (laughs) At least it was in the garage.  She could of said don’t do it at all or do it completely off the property.

JJ:  Yeah.  We had a lot of fun with it.  You know, as my kids got older, they got more interested in it.  When I bought the current system that we use from Fall Creek Brewing (they never opened out of Marysville), the kids were more interested.  We were brewing every weekend.  And Matthew (Jim’s son), he was out of college at that point.  So, he was really interested in learning how to brew beer.  And that’s when we started brewing together.  So Matthew’s been brewing quite a while with me.

When my youngest turned 21, we decided this is what we want to do.  We want to build a brewery.  We had so much extra beer, we were giving it away to people, and they were going, “man, I’d buy this”.  We were like we don’t have any debt; we can do it here on the property, worst case scenario we end up with a great brewery building in the back yard.  What’s wrong with that, ya know?  When my youngest turned 21 we decided to go as I wanted all the kids to be of legal age.  And so we’ve never turned back.

But it took a long time.  It took me two and a half years from the day we decided to go, to make ourselves a business, file all the paper work, we didn’t open our doors until two and a half years after that.

EA:  What would you say was one of the biggest surprises or hurdles during that two and a half year period of time getting Foggy Noggin up and running?

JJ:  Well, I didn’t know it was going to take so long.  The federal government at that time was kind of transitioning.  They didn’t have a director in place.  It was hard to communicate with them.  They’re a lot easier now.  Applications are online and their turnaround is more like six months now.

I had the brewery originally set up in my garage.  They used to allow that.  Places like Big E Ales, originally he was in his garage.  So they were allowing that in the past.  But the new director read through the laws, the old laws, and he interpreted the laws that you can’t do that.  Anything that had a common wall to a residence, you couldn’t have a brewery.  So, that pushed us out to build the brewery in the back.  So that took us a little bit of time because we had to build it (laughs).  And it had to be a commercial building.  It looks like a shed but it’s a shed that meets all the commercial building requirements.  So I have fire marshal that inspects it every year.  I have a suppression system in there that has to be inspected every year.

EA:   I remember you telling me about when you were really close to opening, back in like December of 2009, an inspector came and said you couldn’t because you didn’t have a handrail leading up to the brewery.  Is that right?

JJ:  We had all of our inspections up to that point.  We had our electrical inspections, our plumbing inspections, all of it.  The final one was your final certificate of occupancy inspection.  The guy walked up to it and said, “well, I already see that you’re going to fail”.  I said, “what do you mean you haven’t even been inside yet?”  He said, “you don’t have a railing.”  I said, “a railing?  We have two steps.”  He said, “if you have one step you have to have a railing.”  This was on December 22nd, 2009 I want to say.  So I said, “I tell you what.  Before Christmas, I’ll have one built and I’ll send you a picture of it if you’ll give me a contingency write off on it – that I’ll have the railing built.  If I don’t send you the picture, then don’t approve the inspection.”  He says, “I don’t want to come back here.”  (laughs)  So, I had it build, sent him the picture, and that was that.  I mean the railing doesn’t really serve any purpose.  It’s more in the way than helpful.

EA:  It’s those weird little things that they want…

JJ:  Yeah!

EA:  So when you were going through the whole process of getting Foggy Noggin open, did you have anybody that helped you or had good advice?

JJ:  The one that I kind of used as my sounding board was Vertigo Brewing out of Hillsboro, OR.  They were a one barrel system.  They were about a year ahead of us so they went through a lot of the same things.

I remember meeting them for the first time and I brought a couple of growlers with me.  We weren’t brewing for sale, yet.  And I know exactly how they feel because I get it all the time now.  They were like, “here’s another home brewer who wants us to taste his beer.”  The biggest thing was that, I use Pro Mash software for all of our batches and it has an inventory function.  They didn’t know how to use the inventory on it.  They were like, “how do we know how much inventory we have?”  I was like “you guys don’t use the inventory on there?  Let me show you.”  I showed them how to use it and they go “oh, maybe this guy knows something.”  (laughs)

EA:  (laughs)

JJ: We hit it off pretty good after that.  I gave ‘em some beers to try.  They were surprised that our beers were as good as they were.  And we still communicate quite a bit.  So, they helped me out with some of the things they went through.

EA:  How about some of the local breweries in terms of help or advice?

JJ:  Not when we were opening up.  But once we opened I was looking into other kegs and I checked out Skookum.  There were a couple other places, too.  When we started doing some bottling Randy at Snoqualmie Brewing was really helpful in who he used.  It’s a great community.  No one tries to hide anything.  And I know everyone’s busy.  I get a lot of requests and sometimes I can’t get back to them for a while because I’m so busy.  It’s not that I don’t want to help them.

It’s amazing every week I get about four or five people that say they want to start a brewery, they want to ask me questions, and I usually tell them to come here when, well, like when you’re here right now, before we open on Saturday’s, so I can talk with them with little distraction.  That’s the best time to get me.

EA:  Yeah, because when you’re open and you have customers you don’t have the time to really sit down and answer anything at length.  I’m sure they want to ask you every little thing, too.

JJ:  They do.

EA:  It’s like, hey, I want to help but catch me before we open.

JJ:  I had one guy that wanted to come today and I was like today’s a bad day because I’m doing this interview so I wouldn’t be able to give him the attention.

EA:  Well, it’s good that you’re honest about it.

JJ:  Yeah.

EA:  Instead of saying hey everyone come on by before we open and I’ll answer your questions and then you don’t have the time for them.

JJ:  Yeah, then everyone’s disappointed.  But, yeah, it’s a great community.  Everyone’s nice, helpful, there’s nobody that’s pretentious that’s like we’re little so they’re better than us.  There’s none of that.

EA:  That’s one of things I love about the beer community here.  I tell people all the time that aren’t into the beer scene that beer people are good people.  They’re not looking out solely for themselves.  If they can help someone else out, they will.  If I can help you be a little more successful, so be it.

JJ: I agree.

EA:  And that’s a nice thing to see, especially when it comes to businesses when you’re talking about dollars and cents.

JJ:  Exactly!  I think the more breweries out there that are making good beer; it just makes everybody better and stronger.  It’s not going to hurt anyone.  There are plenty of beer drinkers out there.  They say in some markets, craft beer accounts for, what, 20% of the beer sales, when it used to be like 5%?  There’s still a lot of opportunity there.

EA:  I wanted to ask you more about the Northwest Brew News.  Did you start that out of your passion for beer or what were the origins?

JJ:  That started because I was at a grocery store and there was a guy that looked really confused and he asked me some questions about beer.  And that’s when they didn’t have the selection they have today.  So I helped him and he said it would be cool if there was a publication with beer information.  And I go “that’s a good idea.”

EA:  How many years did you do the publication?

JJ:  We did it for four years.

EA:  Do you happen to have a copy of any of the issues?

JJ:  I have a whole binder of the issues.  (Jim looks for the issues at this point).  I used to have the issue with Diamond Knot out here as I did an article on them when they were pretty new.  (Jim steps away find the binder and returns a minute later).  Yeah, I put every one of them in here.

So, the first issue was 1994 and we did Pike Place, Canyon’s down in Canyon Park, and Pete’s (Wine Shop).  So that was at the beginning.  We then expanded and we did articles on Widmer, 74th Street Alehouse, Larry’s Markets when they were still around.  I did an article on draft versus bottled beer.

EA:  And this was all you doing all the work, all the writing?

JJ:  Most of it.  We said there were other people but I was writing all the articles at least.  We did a wheat beer tasting event.  Pyramid, Redhook in Woodinville, Bridgeport.  There was our first picture – in 1995 we put Big Time’s picture in there.

EA:  So how did you get this distributed?

JJ:  It was a subscription.  It was cheap.  It was a buck an issue or five dollars a year.  And this got mailed to you and it came out every other month.  Dirt cheap.  We had very little advertising in it.  The first issue we had no subscribers we gave it all away.  We gave it to all the people that were featured.  We gave them a whole stack to pass out.  Hopefully people would pick it up and would want it, ya know?  I traveled a lot so I would go to the airport and I was a member of the red carpet club and I’d leave a stack in there.  When I got on the airplane, the backs of the seats, I’d leave one there.  Wherever I could (laughs).

Yeah, so the last issue was in 1997.

EA:  Why did it stop?

JJ:  It was getting too big.  We had 15,000 subscribers.  I was selective on ads.  (Jim showed me a few paid ads in the issues).  Anheuser-Busch wanted to take out a full color insert and I said no.  This isn’t what we’re doing (in reference to the AB ad).    It’s funny though I did an article on all the Michelob beers at one time, just myself.  They sent me a whole box of every beer they made at the time.  And it was pretty good beer, really.(laughs)

EA:  Is that when they were expanding into the Amber Bock and the other craft type styles?

JJ:    Yeah.

EA:  One interesting note is that with Eclectic Arts, it started with the music community around the world.  The more underground, grassroots, passionate people that may have started a fanzine, or have a blog, or are doing what they can to expose people to other sorts of music.  They are really going to like the fact that you had your own publication dedicated to beer.  They can relate to that mentality.  I don’t think many people outside of the beer community know about it.

JJ:  No, I don’t think they do either.

EA:  They’re going to know about it now. (laughs)

JJ: (laughs)

EA:  Switching gears, I know you were up at the Bellingham Festival recently.  How did that go?

JJ:  Amazing.  That’s a fun festival.  It’s all for charity.  Proceeds go to a center that helps at risk youth.  And the festival is their biggest fundraiser.  They would of gone out of business if it hadn’t been for the beer festival.  It’s a chance to see breweries you don’t normally see.  Like that’s the only festival that North Fork does.  They’re about twenty miles east of Bellingham.  So, it’s fun to see some things you don’t normally see.

EA:  I think I read somewhere that Foggy Noggin won the people’s choice award or something?

JJ:  We did.  We got first place people’s choice for Diablo Del Sol (Foggy Noggin’s English pale ale).  I was surprised.  I thought Chief Lightfoot (Irish red ale) would of won because everyone was coming up and saying “everyone’s talking about your red ale so I want to try it.”  And that was the first beer of ours that ran out at the festival.  So when they told us we need someone over here to do the awards, I expected our red ale to win.

But the people are always right.  Whatever the like is what they like.  You can’t argue that. (laughs)

EA:  Are you guy’s going to be at the Washington Brewer’s Festival this year I take it?

JJ:  You kind of feel like you’re obligated to them.  That’s the granddaddy of the festivals, the real highlight of Washington beer.  It’s fun.  It’s a long one though.  Three days and you’re just exhausted by the end of it.  You’re ready to go back to your real job (laughs).

EA:  And I remember the first year Foggy Noggin was at the Brewer’s Festival, you guys got the very first customer through the gates who wanted Kastrated Dawg.

JJ:  We did, you’re right, Kastrated Dawg.  Friday night we did a version of Kastrated Dawg.  We had three five gallon kegs.  We were serving a Lagavulin Scotch aged Kastrated Dawg.  That keg lasted about fifteen minutes.  That was a lot of fun.  Then we put on a version of it that was just oak aged.  And then we put on a version that was just straight up.  And that stuff just flew out.

EA:  I remember that’s where I first had it.

JJ:  Oh really?

EA:  Yeah, I don’t remember which version I had, though.  I was there on the Friday.  I remember we were standing in the line, the church bell rang to signify the opening of the Festival at 4pm, and we saw this guy literally running toward a booth but we couldn’t see where he ran to.

JJ:  We were all watching.  Who were the breweries near me?  The one in Ellensburg….

EA;  Oh, Iron Horse?

JJ:  Iron Horse was on one side of me and I can’t remember who was on the other side.  And we were watching and we were all like “where is that guy running to?”  And then we were like, “he’s coming this way!” (laughs)

EA;  So what can we expect from the Friday only beer from Foggy Noggin this year?

JJ:  Friday we’re going to do Big Chief the imperial version of our Irish red.  And we’re actually going to have three beers every day.  We’re going to do Big Chief on Friday.  We’re going to do Chief Lightfoot on Saturday.  And we’re going to do Little Chief on Sunday which is a session Irish red.

This is a little bit left of the Lagavulin Kastrated Dawg from that Brewer’s Festival in 2010 (Jim pulls out a growler from his cooler with a few ounces left of the rare version of Kastated Dawg and fills a taster glass for me).

EA:  Oh wow – nice!  You really pick up the….

JJ:  Oak…

EA:  Yeah, for sure.  And the scotch ….  Are you planning on aging any other beers?

JJ:  I haven’t put anything in there yet.  (Jim has a Woodinville Whiskey cask in his garage).  We’re thinking of doing an imperial porter in there.  But when we look at our brewing schedule we’re always looking at how are we going to fill enough beer for this event or that event?  It’s tough.  We always look at our cooler and we’re like “we have no beer, how are we going to get through the weekend?”

We have our cream ale returning to the tasting room.  I did one batch earlier, about three of our kegs.  I wasn’t here when we debuted it.  I came back and it was all gone.  I didn’t even get to try it (laughs).

We also have a collaboration beer we’re doing with Mt. Tabor Brewing down in Vancouver, WA.  He’s a cougar (WSU) and when the beaver’s came to town we had a bet that the loser had to host a collaboration brewing.  I said no one really loses but we have to make more beer on your system because he has a seven barrel system.  If brewed up here, we wouldn’t get much output. (laughs)  I don’t know if you’ve ever had any of his beers.

EA:  No, I haven’t.

JJ:  But he makes some really good beers.

EA:  Do you know what the collaboration beer is going to be?

JJ:  Yeah, it’s going to be an English malt bill, our Fuller’s yeast, but we’re going to use a new hop.  We’re going to hop it with a kind of Northwest style hop.  Our hopping schedule is going to be kind of like what we do with Diablo (Foggy Noggin’s pale ale) so we’re going to do a huge end of boil hopping.  So we want big hop flavor.  And not really go for the huge bitterness.  So, that’s the plan.

EA:  Will that beer only be kegged?  Any chance it will be bottled?

JJ:  It’ll all be kegged.  I’m going to do a test batch and we’ll run it through the tasting room.  He’s going to do a test batch as well and we’re going to compare the two test batches.  We’re going to try and do the same thing using the same ingredients.  But the different techniques and stuff you do get a little bit different beer.

EA:  Speaking of that kind of collaboration, do you have any plans to do anything with, say, Dirty Bucket or Brickyard?  Any of the other Nanos in the area?

JJ:  We haven’t talked about it but for us it’s just hard to make enough beer for ourselves.  So, it would be a lot of fun because you learn new things when you work with different brewers and different ideas but I just don’t have the space here or the time right now.

But there are a lot of great brewers out there right now.  When I was at North Fork, my wife and I are coming up on our 30th Anniversary next year.  My favorite beer of his is his strong Scottish ale.  He said, “well you come up here and we’ll do a special 30th anniversary version of it for you.”

EA:  Oh nice!

JJ:  So we may go up and do a fun brew session with him.  He’s just a character.  He’s a great brewer.

EA:  That’s the thing that is cool about the beer community.  Like you’re brewing the cream ale for your daughter’s wedding, I know.

JJ:  Yup.

EA:  Somebody like that would do a beer for your 30th anniversary, it’s so cool as you have that flexibility to do things like that and be generous to others and do these special occasion beers.

JJ:  Yeah!  I agree.

EA:  Are there any other festivals you’ll be doing this year besides the Brewers Festival?

JJ:  Yeah, we’re excited about the Everett Beer Festival this year.  It’s kind of in our back yard.  So we decided we’re going to pick that up and we’re not going to do the Winter Festival this year.  Four festivals a year is about the most we can do.  So Bellingham, the Brewer’s festival, Everett, and we do the Anacortes Oktoberfest.  And that’s a real fun one to do.

EA:  I haven’t made it to that one yet.  Maybe I need to do that this year (laughs).

JJ:  It’s a two day festival.  I think it’s Friday and Saturday.  It’s a fun one.  It’s fun for us to go to those areas.  I don’t know how it started but my son lives in Bellingham so the Green Frog was the first one to start carrying our beer up in Bellingham.  Then they closed down for a bit and relocated.  While they were closed, we started going to Copper Hog so they started carrying our beers.  They just blow through our beer.  I don’t know what it is about Bellingham but they just devour Foggy Noggin beer.  (laughs)

It’s like we have a little cult following up there.  They have great breweries up there.  It’s a great little beer community up there.

EA:  That reminds me of bands that are from one area but popular in another.  Like they’re from Seattle but they’re huge in Detroit or whatever.

JJ:  Yeah, yeah!  And when they tour there in Detroit they sell out.

EA:  Yeah, yeah!  Same sort of thing.  Bellingham is the second home of Foggy Noggin.

JJ:  We’ve got a place on our waiting list up in Anacortes to carry our beer.  I have a waiting list right now of about a dozen places waiting to carry our beer.  I just haven’t been able to get around to getting them our beer yet.  It’s nothing personal (laughs) ..

EA:  Oh, no, no.  It’s like you said, you’re at capacity and if you could accommodate them you would but right now you just can’t.

JJ:  I would love to give everybody as much as they want but.. (laughs)

EA:  Are you planning on continuing to do your anniversary beer event every year?  Maybe get to a point where you have like a four or five year vertical?

JJ:  Yeah, next year we’ll have all three of our anniversary ales on tap.  This year we had two.  The fourth year we’ll have all four.  But I only have enough kegs of the first year to do that.  I do have some bottles of the first year, though.

Maybe after six or seven years, we can do, like for charity, a vertical tasting raffle and the winner gets a private tasting of all seven years.  That would be kind of fun.

EA:  That would be awesome!  Especially after how well that first anniversary ale aged, having it alongside this year’s back in March.  Wow….

JJ:  It was amazing!

EA:  Holy moly…

JJ:  I was really amazed at how well it aged.  I really was.

EA:  It was a good beer to begin with and then it turned into a beautiful beer with a year on it.

JJ:  What’s it going to be like in two years…

EA:  Yeah, exactly…

JJ:  There will be a time when it starts to degrade.

EA:  Everything peaks.

JJ:  Yeah, maybe three years will be the peak of it?

EA and JJ:  It’ll be fun to find out (both laugh)

JJ:  Exactly! (laughs)   Every year! (laughs)

EA:  When will you be bottling your Burton ale (Wasky)?

JJ:  We’re going to start bottling that in early summer.  We’re not writing any dates on them but I really want to see how that ages because traditionally it would sit a year in the barrel before they released it from the brewery.  So our’s has been so fresh and it’s been pretty hoppy.  I think the hops will round out with some age.  I can’t keep it around though.  When we put it on tap here it just flies out.

EA:  It’s a great beer, no doubt.

JJ:  We’ve got three beers I’m going to start bottling.  The Wasky will be the first one.  Then Powder Keg (the coffee stout), and then it’s Big Chief (imperial red ale).  Those are pretty unique beers.  Anything we can’t get a full run on due to our system, those kinds of beers I’d rather bottle.  Their just too expensive to do growlers.  I don’t want to charge $20 bucks for a growler fill.

EA:  Plus if you’re doing growlers only a certain amount of people get to try it.

JJ:  Right.  Bottles are perfect.  They can share it with a couple of friends.

EA:  More beer for more people.

JJ:  Yeah!

EA:  Anything coming up that we haven’t seen in the tasting room yet?

JJ:  We’ve got a recipe dialed in for a mild.  If you look at historically, the big English style beers, what have we not done?  We haven’t done a wee heavy.  We haven’t done an English mild.  We haven’t done a barley wine.  Those are probably the big ones that we missed.

If we do a barley wine, I’m thinking maybe this summer we’ll do it I’ll only get one small keg out of it.  It’ll be a 13 or 14% abv beer.  We probably would let it condition and not serve it until sometime in 2013.  So maybe something like that.

A mild I think would be a great compliment to the other beers we do.  We have a beer that we haven’t brewed commercially, it’s an English amber ale.  We did a gluten free beer that we haven’t brought out yet either.  We did a non-alcohol brown ale.  We brew it like a full blown beer but then we boil the alcohol off to get it down to a low or non-alcohol version.  So it has the start of a great beer.  Most of the non-alcoholic beers I’ve had, I’d rather drink water (laughs).

We tested a golden ale last year and we’re thinking of, in secondary, putting some huckle berries in it, give it that tartness and a little pink hue to the color.  Maybe do that for Susan G Komen (breast cancer).

EA:  Oh nice!

JJ:  Ya know, every pint a dollar goes toward Susan G. Komen.

EA;  Oh cool.  It’s nice when people think beyond themselves.

JJ:  Yeah and you know the problem with those great ideas is when do you have time to do it?

EA:  Jim what was the first beer you feel you had dialed in?

JJ:  Bit O Beaver was the first beer I perfected and we’re still using the same recipe from ….1995.

EA;  Wow, that’s a long time.  No wonder you know it like the back of your hand.

JJ:  Yeah, and I know when something is not quite right with it, if it’s tasting a little bit off.  We have our science down pretty good.  There have only been two batches that fermented out a bit too much so they were dry.  So we blended those to make Civil War (with Christmas Duck porter) and Spotted Owl (with Christmas Duck porter and Oski scotch ale).

Spotted Owl is the weirdest beer.  I’ve had so many people tell me that is their favorite beer and when are you going to brew it again?  And I’m like, well, hopefully I don’t have to brew it again (laughs).  But we may do a one off blending just for fun.

I want to thank Jim Jamison and Matthew Jamison for taking the time to talk about Foggy Noggin Brewing.  If you ever get a chance to get out to the Bothell area on a Saturday, look them up at http://foggynogginbrewing.blogspot.com/ for their schedule and have a pint or two.  Or check them out at the upcoming Washington Brewer’s Festival in June.  They’re great people making great beer!

http://www.foggynogginbrewing.com/

***
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2 Responses to An Interview with Jim Jamison – Foggy Noggin Brewing
  1. Jim Jamison
    May 23, 2012 | 2:49 pm

    Thanks Mark and Kendall for this great article …. Sláinte

  2. Mark Sugiyama
    May 23, 2012 | 7:31 pm

    Thanks for taking the time Jim! And thanks again to Kendall for cross posting this interview. Much appreciated!