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The 7 Pint Interview with Brewmaster Mike Mallone

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We just started this “7 Pint Interview” thing… and thought it made sense for the first one to be with one of our favorite brewmasters Mike Mallone. We met Mike “Mikey” Mallone a few years ago at the Winter Warmer in Cleveland, Ohio. Our first impression of Mikey was his passion for the craft beer industry and his own style or twist he added to his brews. At that particular event we sampled his “Ma Barkers Birch Beer” which was an amazing root beer flavored beer… totally ahead of the trend. Through social media I heard Main Street Grille & Brewing Company was closing and Mike was planning his next brewmaster chapter.

So let’s get into the 7 Pint Interview!

 

1 Pint: How did you get into brewing:

Haha this could be a book in itself… Essentially what happened is that I was in the Navy going from port to port and I found myself fascinated with the different beers in all the countries we were going to. (Of course there was plenty of sampling to help that fascination) But I also found myself fascinated with A) How it was made B)  Why the beers tasted so different from place to place even if it was the same style? and C) How did they create the flavors in each beer?
After I couldn’t handle the curiosity anymore I bought John Palmers book called “How to Brew” and started reading it and learning about how its all done. I sent a copy of the book back home to my best friend Brian Koptis knowing he would really enjoy the science behind it as well. And I basically told him that the day I got out of the military I wanted to brew a batch of beer. He was all for it and the day I got out we were brewing (He had been brewing about a year at that point.) We started going to breweries in the area as well as festivals. And that’s where I met Joe Kearns who let me apprentice with him for about one and a half years, at which point he moved out to Ireland and let me take over his job at Main Street Grille and Brewing Co. And that’s a really long but still very short version of how I got into brewing.

2 Pints: What are some of the challenges of the craft beer industry?

The main challenges to overcome in this industry are always, How do I stay ahead of the trends? With the intense amount of breweries opening up everyday there is an overwhelming amount of beer out there. Which is really good, but it just means in order to stay in the industry you have to have solid consistent products, and something unique enough to draw people in and make them want to come try your beer. And keep coming back to try your beer.

3 Pints: What are your favorite beers to brew?

My favorite beers to brew are the ones that are really different. Ma Barkers Birch Beer was one of the my favorites to make. I absolutely loved that beer and was fortunate enough to have started making it before all the others breweries started coming out with Rootbeer flavored beer so we were ahead of the curve on that one which was a lot of fun because I had people coming from all over just to try it.
I also love making a good S.M.A.S.H Beer Single Malt And Single Hop. I feel like it really shows the character of each ingredient used. Most beers have two or three malts and a couple different hops used in them at the very least, but when you have one malt, one hop, and one yeast strain it really helps each ingredient shine.

4 Pints: How did you end up in Ireland?

Well Joe Kearns (whose job I had taken over when he moved out to Ireland) had taught me a lot and we really enjoyed working together. Our styles of brewing really compliment each other and when he heard that Main Street was closing he had asked me to come help him out here in Ireland. He moved out about two and a half years ago and helped open a brewery (The White Hag) that is currently the most awarded brewery in Ireland as well as winning Rate beers best new brewery in the country. With all that he needed some help and i was lucky enough to be asked to come help him out.

5 Pints: How is brewing different over there?

Aside from the fact that I brew more in a month here (in terms of volume) than I did in a year at Main Street it’s not too terribly different. Our brewery is in a small farming town… probably a little smaller than Garrettsville and we currently distribute to more than 6 different countries and that list is always growing.

I will say though that the local market is definitely different. Where in the states everyone is on an IPA craze (with sours following closely behind it) out here they aren’t generally hop heads… They want light sessionable beers. Irish Red, Dry Stout, and Light Lagers are the staple beers here and the fun thing about working here at The White Hag is we’re trying to give this country, as well as the world, something they haven’t ever experienced. It’s slowly taking hold which is really cool to see first hand a whole country opening up to all these different beers that we’re doing. One of our best sellers right now is Puca which is a dry hopped lemon sour and when it was first being made the distributors thought we were nuts and that it would never sell, but it’s our number two best selling beer.

6 Pints: What’s the craft beer community been like in your experience?

As they would say out here the craft beer community is class! It’s fantastic and I love it! The people are amazing. It seems like everyone you meet is a genuinely awesome person. They’re fun to be around and share a drink with. I wouldn’t trade this job or community for anything in the world.

When I left Main Street the outpouring of support that came from not only the community of beer lovers but also from the Ohio brewer’s themselves was amazing. Ohio really has some great brewers who pour their heart and soul into their jobs and they look out for each other. I definitely miss that… I’m not saying it doesn’t happen out here but as far as craft beer goes it’s really just started growing in the last few years and there isn’t that strong connection out here that I felt in Ohio with other brewers.

7 Pints: Future Plans?

Future plans… umm buy a house boat and retire to Gaeta, Italy where I will open a small brewpub as soon as  I can…

But as far as short term goals, I think I’ll continue to shake things up out here in Ireland as long as I can and continue to educate myself as much as possible along the way.

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