Growing up in Chicago, John J. Hall graduated from Taft High School. He attended the Art Institute of Chicago for a year before moving on to Columbia College from which he graduated with a degree in film and animation. This enabled him to spend the next five years making films for the Encyclopedia Britannica. Meanwhile the digital age had rendered film obsolete. However, he was able to parlay his skills into employment as an audio/video specialist at hotels.
For his thirtieth birthday, Hall got an extract home brew kit and found that he enjoyed the experience. He was reading an article in the paper that told of someone attending a brewing school in Chicago. He discovered that the Siebel Institute of Technology, which is the oldest brewing school in North America, was right in his back yard. Fate was about to intervene in the path of John J. Hall. He contacted the registrar about attending the school but had to wait a year due to heavy enrollment. Meanwhile, he continued home brewing and doing some extensive reading. Ultimately, getting into Siebel and taking an intensive eight week course that included, lab work, tasting panels, brewing on the premises, and shadowing at other breweries, he was ready to brew commercially.
Within a week of completing his studies at Siebel, Hall was hired at Goose Island Beer Company. Even with his Siebel training, he started his brewing career cleaning tanks and working his way up like so many brewers have done. When a spot opened up in the brew house, he found himself working the second shift for three years before becoming a lead brewer. Ultimately, he served as the brewery’s head brewer for ten years, formulating and reformulating recipes among other duties. When Anheuser Busch bought out Goose in 2010, he stayed on helping to move some of the brews to AB’s Budweiser locations.
Although he was not looking, Hall was approached by both Lagunitas Brewing Company and 5 Rabbit Cerveceria about brewing for them. Having brewed only at Goose Island, he was intrigued by the idea doing something different and accepted the job with 5 Rabbit. After a four and a half year stint there, he found an opportunity in Indianapolis at Metazoa Brewing Company. Having never lived anywhere but Chicago, moving to Indianapolis has been another adventure for him.
When asked about his favorite brew, Hall recalls a Belgian that he brewed with lingonberry and spruce tips. Although the lingonberry is native to Scandinavia, he discovered them on a trip to Ireland. This was the most expensive per barrel brew he ever made, as the two hundred pounds of spruce tips required had to be handpicked in the mountains of Colorado, vacuum sealed, and shipped to Chicago. Hall also developed the recipe for Goose Island’s 312, the wildly successful urban wheat ale that is available in retail outlets just about everywhere.
Hall feels very fortunate to have started at Goose Island where he had the opportunity to work with a number of very smart people all of whom have moved on to other prominent brewing positions around the country. He suggests that an aspiring brewer should do a lot of full grain home brews before stepping up to a bigger system.
A red heather is a brew that Hall is looking forward to. It uses a pale German malt that yields a super red color. His test batch using this malt with a little Scottish heather was well received. However, he intends to tweak it a bit and hopes to have it as a recurring beer at Metazoa. He also has a black hoppy ale in the works that he intends to develop further.
With his arts background, Hall brings strong creativity to the binary art versus science nature of the brewer’s craft. He talks about discovering what people like to drink in central Indiana. This will inform and guide his decisions on what type of brews to make. It certainly seems that Chicago’s loss is Indy’s gain as we anticipate even more tasty beverages being served up at Metazoa Brewing Company courtesy of Brewmaster John J. Hall.