North High may have started out primarily as a brew-on-premise business, letting others brew beer at their facility, but they’ve also been growing their own brewing operation, recently upgrading to a 20bbl brewing system and bringing on former Anchor Brewing Director of Production Jason McKibben as head brewmaster.
We asked Jason a few questions about his past experience and new future at North High.
Q: What’s your background in brewing?
A: I studied brewing science while completing a master’s degree at UC Davis in 2000. Following my graduation, I was hired by Anheuser-Busch. In total, I spent 12 years at four A-B breweries working in brewing, quality assurance and product development. My last assignment at A-B was Head Brewmaster at the brewery in Columbus. In 2012, I joined Anchor Brewing Company in San Francisco to be the Director of Production. In that role, I was accountable for brewing, packaging, warehousing and logistics functions of the brewery.
Q: What brought you from California to Columbus?
A: I’ve known Gavin [Meyers, North High co-owner] for nearly 20 years and have been keeping up to speed with what he and Tim were doing at North High. When I heard that they needed a brewmaster for their expansion, we discussed an opportunity where I might partner with them to start-up the new brewery. Ultimately, the chance to be an owner and to be part of the transformation of the brewing industry here in Columbus was too great to pass up.
Q: What’s your experience at North High been so far?
A: We have a great team here at North High. They all care a lot about what we do and how we do it. It’s also been fun plugging into the community and getting to know all of our supporters from the taproom regulars to the bar managers that currently serve our beer in Columbus. Great people. Brewery construction is also ramping up quickly. Plumbing and electrical work is moving along and we took delivery of the brewhouse today.
Q: Any exciting new beers you’re working on?
A: My predecessor, Charlie Davis, already did a great deal of work designing a catalog of great recipes so there’s not a ton of pressure to create new beers. However, I think there’s an opportunity to add to our IPA and Belgian selections. I’m working on some lager recipes too. I’m also working on a few things to enable the scale-up from the 2 barrel system to a 20 barrel system.
Q: What’s your impression of the Columbus brewing scene compared to California and the rest of the country?
A: The number of breweries on the west coast is staggering. The success of craft beer in cities like Portland, San Diego and San Francisco is an indication of what can happen when a critical mass of the community gets hooked on the distinctive flavors of craft beer. It can happen anywhere and I think it’s starting to happen in Columbus right now.