Jamie Floyd’s illustrious beer career either began with a humble batch of homebrew when he was 17; or, with “prison-style hooch” made from Tree Top Apple Juice and Fleischmann’s Baking Yeast in a childhood friend’s “hidden attic” when they were 15, Floyd says.
“I became interested in beer before there was a lot of craft beer around, so imports spawned much of my desire to homebrew and learn about beer history as a hobby in college,” Floyd says. His first (legal) brew was a stout he whipped up at a campus co-op while attending the University of Oregon in Eugene in 1990.
After college, he spent 11 years at Steelhead Brewery in Eugene, working his way up to head brewer. It was there that he met future Ninkasi Brewing co-founder Nikos Ridge.
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In 2006, Floyd and Ridge launched Ninkasi, naming their small brewery after the Sumerian goddess of beer. By 2011, Ninkasi was the fastest-growing craft brewery in the country. Today, Ninkasi stands tall as a top 50 brewery — of nearly 7,000 — in the U.S.
In his spare time, Floyd also serves on the Brewers Association’s technical committee, sits on the board of the Oregon Brewers Guild, and provides palate expertise as a beer judge at national and international competitions.
Floyd took time out of his busy schedule to tell VinePair all about his favorite brews, his lifelong love for lagers, and why “some beers are even better as memories than the real thing.”
1. What’s your desert-island beer?
Rodenbach Brewery Alexander Rodenbach is my desert island beer because it would mean that it still existed. By far one of my favorite beers of all time. All the Eugene brewers back in the day would buy a 5-gallon draft cube when it was imported and hold a gathering and drink it together. So many great memories of those times, which is what makes the best beer.
Many thanks to Peter Bouckaert, former Rodenbach brewer of the beer, New Belgium brewmaster, and now [brewmaster at] his own Purpose Brewing, for teaching me that some beers are even better as memories than the real thing. I would gladly pop one of those open on an island every day and be thankful for the life I have had!
2. What’s the beer that made you fall in love with beer?
Bass Ale is the beer that made me like beer versus disliking the domestic light lagers around me in the ‘80s. Ayinger Altbairisch Dunkel is the beer that made me fall in love with beer. The richness and quality of malt flavor as well as its drinkability made me love lagers in a new and permanently different way. I am a huge fan of all of their lagers and weiss beers. It is on my bucket list to visit the brewery and stay at their inn and drink this beer while looking out at the small town and countryside.
3. FMK three beer types: IPA, pilsner, sour.
F&%k IPAs. I am so fortunate to live in the Willamette Valley and have hop farms around me and experience hop harvests, fresh hop beers, and live in a time of its fruition. I will always love the way IPAs can ever change over time as the crop years change ingredients and as brewers make new beers.
Marry the pilsner. When needing to hold a hand, what in beer is better than a dimpled liter stein of pils, helles, or dunkel? I have long loved lagers and always will. They sustain for life!
Kill terribly made sour beers. Sour beers have been around forever. If yours tastes worse than nature’s, start again. Beer was potable water, so why make something that burns your throat? Beautiful sour beers are often blended. If you intend to package a sour beer, please kill the bugs in your beer so the can doesn’t blow up on a customer. Spontaneous fermentation should not be spontaneous combustion. Not all yogurt makes tasty kettle sours. Some sours bring shame to nature, history, and innovation. Those can go!
4. You’re on death row. What’s your last-supper beer?
My first thought was a dark, rich Belgian-style strong [ale] like Gouden Carolus Noel or St. Feuillien Cuvée de Noel. I love those super-complex and tasty beers that are contemplative, and make you feel like a jovial gnome, warm and cozy — which isn’t a bad way to go!
5. You can only drink one beer for the rest of your life. What is it?
Our IPAs. It could be Total Domination, Prismatic, or Heart and Science, really any delicious hoppy beer we make ourselves. I want to drink the beer we make every day for the rest of my life! I have enjoyed making hoppy beers my whole life, and though I have adored many styles of beer, I love playing with the hops grown in our region. As they change, our beers change. I want to watch how the growing season continues to nuance the beers we make!
6. What’s the best and worst beer in your fridge right now?
For the best: I have two beers that were both given to me by old friends whom I admire for their brewing and for being true to themselves throughout their careers. John Maier from Rogue is a hero of mine. His kindness and support over the years means the world to me. He gave me a bottle of 20,000 Brews by the Sea commemorating the 20,000 brews John has contributed over 27 years! [It has] 20 malts and 20 hops. The other was given to me by Jim Mills from Caldera Brewing. We met early in my career, and he always remained true to himself over 20 years of owning a brewery. He gave me a few bottles of Cousin Rick, Caldera’s 20th anniversary beer that is a triple India pale ale. I am going to crack them open the next time I have our brewers over to the house.
Thanks for the QA check on this one. The worst beer in my fridge currently is a four-year-old bottle of Noir, a coffee milk stout we no longer make [at Ninkasi]. It ages pretty well, but the lactose from the milk sugar and the caramel notes will have oxidized. I will open this up as well when the crew is over to always continue to teach about oxidation.
7. If you could no longer drink beer, what would be your beverage of choice?
My beverage of choice is water every day! We brew beer in Eugene because the water we use comes from the pristine McKenzie River that I am grateful to have as our lifeline and brewing water. If I couldn’t drink beer anymore, I would pop open a bottle of Champagne and be glad I can drink wine! Though I love well-made craft cocktails, ciders, and morning smoothies, tea, and coffee, if beer was out of the picture I would indulge in all of the wine in my cellar [that] I only have a little time to drink currently.