Rodger Davis, the outlandish head brewer from Triple Rock Brewery & Alehouse, recently ventured south to represent his Berkeley-born beers at Blue Palms Brewhouse in Hollywood. This was a homecoming of sorts for Davis, who was born in Burbank and raised in Newport Beach and Huntington Beach. He attended Chicago’s Siebel Institute of Technology and moved to the Bay Area in 1993, where he’s brewed for Drake’s Brewing and Triple Rock, which since 2008 have both been owned by brothers John and Reid Martin. At Blue Palms, Davis discussed his background and approach in more detail.
How did the Triple Rock opportunity come about?
Triple Rock pretty much came about when I left Drake’s the first time. I was branching out to open my own place, which was too soon, if you will. I don’t think it was too soon, but my wife thought it was too soon. The reason I left Drake’s was because of those reasons, and therefore I was a brewer looking for a job, and all of a sudden Triple Rock opened up. The brewer at Triple Rock was moving on to Iron Springs and called me up and said hey, “Do you want my job?” “Sure, I’ll take it.” From there, I ended up going through the interview process and getting a job at Triple Rock.
What was your first beer related job?
There wasn’t really a first beer related job, except for homebrewing. My first beer related job – I guess if you called it a job – would be going to school, which was the Siebel Institute in the summer of ’97. Basically it’s not really a job, so much as a learning experience.
What was the first beer you brewed, and how did it turn out?
The first beer I ever brewed sucked. It sucked out loud. It was an Australian ale and it sucked. We were opening bottles of it, and I was living in Huntington Beach at the time. My roommates and I were opening up bottles, and they were just exploding. They were actually from sink to ceiling, cascading back down. It was bad. There were actually exploding bottles. It was bad. But we had so much fun doing it, we kept doing it.
What’s your first beer memory, good or bad?
My first beer memory, my dad always allowed me to sip off of his cup, if you will, the proverbial cup. My favorite beer was always the Erlanger Pilsner, it came in a unique bottle. My dad allowed me to collect bottles, and I still have a bottle collection today that’s from when my dad allowed me to collect. We would actually walk into a grocery store and he would say, “Which ones do you like?” We’d go back and try them. My dad was pretty cool.
What’s the most recent beer that you brewed, and what was your approach?
Most of the beers that we brew at Triple Rock are hop forward. We’re in the Bay Area. People like the hops. Well, we’re in California, and most people like the hops forward, and not necessarily in the background. A lot of people tend to go – “I made the bitterest beer ever” – what the fuck ever, dude. Who cares? That’s not what it’s about. It’s about making a balance, but then going over the top on the aroma. 1500 from Drake’s is very much like that, and people that have been to Triple Rock would understand Bug Juice, Pinnacle, a couple beers that we do that are not necessarily over the top, but middle of the road, not bitter, but hoppy.
One of the last things I did that was kind of unique in many people’s eyes was white chocolate milk stout. Basically, took a beer, made wort with almost all two-row, a little Crystal 15, and then hit it with star anise, coffee in the mash and cocoa nibs in the fermenter. It just made it taste like it was a dark beer. People would get confused, and so many people got confused, and to really fuck people up, I put it on nitro. So they were like – “No, I ordered the nitro stout.” “No, that’s what you just ordered.” I added lactose sugar too – which is not fermentable, people – to give it more body. That was one of the strangest beers I ever made in my life.
Do you have any mentors?