Interview: lead brewer Joe Savage (Hangar 24 Brewery)

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Craft Beer Redlands

Joe Savage started brewing professionally at Old Dominion in Virginia, and an online ad motivated a move cross country to Redlands, where he became lead brewer for Ben Cook and Hangar 24 Brewery. We met at Library Alehouse on May 14 during an American Craft Beer Week event featuring Hangar 24 beers, and Savage shared insights that hint at why he’s found hop-fueled success.

Was it a given that you’d work with beer for a living, or did you consider other careers?

It certainly wasn’t a given. I got a degree in Business and Economics and I fell into the brewing industry, luckily. My first job was with Old Dominion, back in Virginia, and I was basically looking for work with the government outside of the capitol and waiting to hear back from them, going to Old Dominion all the time. They had part-time work on the bottling line, so I took that job and grew my way within that company, up front packaging to the seller, into the brewhouse eventually.

Where did you get your degree?

Virginia Tech.

How did the opportunity come about with Hangar 24?

I was looking to get another job in brewing after Old Dominion merged operations with Fordham, in Delaware. I found Ben [Cook] through classifieds online for the brewing industry,, and flew out for an interview. Everything was just perfect. It was exactly the opportunity I was looking for, and I was a good candidate for him. I had professional experience to come in there. He was just a year off the ground, so he wanted somebody to come in with big brewery experience and help take the place from a start-up into the next phase of production.

Do you have a first beer memory, good or bad?

I have a first great beer memory. My first craft beer, so to speak, would be Old Rasputin, from North Coast. I had that when I was in college at Virginia Tech, and it just blew my mind. I wasn’t of legal drinking age at the time, so I wasn’t exactly trying lots of different crazy beers, but I had a good friend through college who introduced that beer to me. I was a huge coffee fanatic to begin with, and was a home roaster, so to me, that synthesis of beer with dark roasted coffee-like flavors. That kind of set me off down that path, exploring how many different beers there were, and eventually into homebrewing. That would the spark.

What was the first beer that you ever brewed, and how did it turn out?

The first beer I ever brewed was an American pale ale and it was okay. I just did an extract brew on my stove and wasn’t too familiar with how to brew. I wasn’t very concerned with sanitation, and definitely got contamination, because it soured and it wasn’t that good after that. The first professional beer I ever brewed was also an American pale ale, borderline lower alcohol American IPA. That was at Old Dominion, and it turned out fantastic.

Is there anybody who’s mentored you along the way?

I’ve had the pleasure of working with a lot of people who have had a tremendous amount of experience along the way. Definitely here, working with Kevin [Wright], our head brewer, and Ben [Cook], our brewmaster. They both went through the Davis program, so they both have a lot of incredible technical background to help. Obviously I learned on the job, as opposed to going to brewing school, so for them to kind of guide me in more of a technical background is great. Back in Virginia, I worked with a couple of really good guys, Kenny Allen and Favio Garcia, who now works at another brewery in Virginia, Lost Rhino in Ashburn, they definitely helped take me from having a very limited background in brewing to run me through the whole process and get me to the point I am today, in management.

What’s the criteria for a beer you brew at Hangar 24?


Address: 1710 Sessums Drive, Redlands, CA 92374

Joshua Lurie

Joshua Lurie founded FoodGPS in 2005. Read about him here.

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