Award-winning Brewmaster Jesse Houck has joined the Maui Brewing Company team as their new Director of Brewing Operations. He brings to the table over 12 years of professional brewing experience which has garnered him medals at both the Great American Beer Festival and World Beer Cup during his tenure as Head Brewer at 21st Amendment Brewery in San Francisco.
Houck’s resume also includes time spent early in his career as a brewer at Speakeasy Ales & Lagers and as Head Brewer at Gordon Biersch (San Jose) before his seven years on the 21A team. A couple years as the Production Manager & Head Brewer at Drake’s Brewing in San Leandro followed before his move down to Los Angeles in 2013. He was part of the crucial personnel shift that put Golden Road Brewing on the regional map and created crowd-favorites including Wolf Among Weeds and Heal the Bay IPA. Houck left his post as their Brewmaster just months after the brewery was acquired by AB-InBev after serving nearly three years there.
Catching up with Maui Brewing Company Founder and CEO Garrett Marrero, Marrero explained that over the years, he has been hoping to have the opportunity to work with Houck.
“I’m amped on what Jesse is bringing to Maui,” Marrero said. “He’s got great passion for making the best possible beer but also has a good business sense — it’s impressive to find both in the same person.” He adds: “Also, he’s a great team player and is focused on empowering the team; bringing positivity and sense of calm to nearly every situation.”
Marrero first met Houck many years ago while visiting 21st Amendment and the two kept in touch over the years.
“I secretly always hoped I’d have the chance to work with Jesse directly,” Marrero continued. “He’s always worked for close industry friends so given “the code,” I had to wait patiently. When he reached out, I was stoked — it was the perfect time as we had Darren [Moser] transitioning out and needed to fill the position.”
According to Houck, the appreciation is mutual.
“I’m stoked at the opportunity to work alongside such a strong leader as Garrett and the talented team he has assembled here on Maui,” Houck said. “It’s great to walk into a brewery and not only see a friendly face but to see co-workers continuously growing in the industry. “
During the time between Moser’s departure and Houck’s arrival, Marrero also adds that another Golden Road alum who worked under Houck was integral in keeping operations as usual.
“There was a bit of a gap but Matt ‘Ponch’ Ponichtera and the team did a fantastic job of coming together and filling the void.”
When asked about reuniting with his former co-worker, Houck added: “Ponch is both a great brewer and leader and I look forward to working with him again alongside the rest of the team.”
But what will Houck miss about Los Angeles most?
“I’m going to miss the coffee at Dinosaur, pints at the Glendale Tap, but even more the people that I shared those times with. Come visit, you might not want to go back.”
As if joining the Maui ohana wasn’t enough reason for Houck to celebrate this New Year, many people probably don’t know how avid of a scuba-diver he is. In just a few weeks since his relocation, he’s already got some plans.
“The back wall of the Molokini crater is epic and just minutes away by boat; I’ve already dived it a few times and look forward to continued exploration of all the islands.”
Marrero added: “With his obvious aloha spirit, brewing talent, and love of diving I knew he’d fit right in.”
Maui Brewing Company was founded in 2005 and has been the major driving-force for craft beer in Hawaii since its inception. Their major brewery expansion on their Kihei location was completed in December 2014 with the addition of six new 250bbl fermenters added in the past month to increase production of both core brands and experimental one-offs. Their first brewpub on Oahu is also scheduled to open in Waikiki in addition to breaking ground a second brewpub on Maui. Notably, Founder & CEO Garrett Marrero was recently elected to the Brewers Association Board of Directors. 2016 looks like a bright year for Maui Brewing Company. Ho’omai’ka’i ‘ana, friends!
Author’s Note: I had the absolute pleasure of working with Jesse during my three years at Golden Road and I value him as one of my favorite people and dearest friends. I couldn’t be happier for his new adventure and am looking forward to over-extending my welcome as I crash on your couch in the coming months.