John Saller

What’s your current position at your brewery, and how did you get started in the craft brewing industry?

I’m currently spending a little time brewing and a lot of time managing the front of house at our brewpub. In the next couple weeks, as we start to distribute a little, I’ll move into full-time brewing. I spent a few years in Portland, Ore., back before Chicago’s beer scene had really gotten going, and learned to brew and appreciate good beer. My brother, Ben, and I had both been homebrewing for many years. We had been working on a business plan for a while when we were lucky enough to meet Steve, our business partner. I was carrying around a Siebel Institute binder and he asked me if I wanted to start a brewery. Ben and I convinced a lot of our friends and family members to invest, and we started Atlas Brewing [in Chicago].

What’s new at Atlas?

Everything! We just opened last summer. We’re delving into our first cask ales and barrel-aged ales. We’re signing on with a distributor to sell a few kegs around town. We’re getting custom tap handles made, and we’ve got a couple cool T-shirt designs in the works. We’re organizing a Local Beer Expo—kind of a miniature beer festival—with six of the other new Chicago breweries, and we’re starting to make plans for Chicago Craft Beer Week [May 16-26].

What’s the best part of being a part of the craft brewing community?

There’s a lot of excitement about beer in Chicago right now. There are several new breweries and several more in planning. It’s fun to be a part of that, to watch how the process unfolds for everybody, and, of course, to drink their beers.

What do you like to do in your time away from the brewery?

I like to get together with friends and cook. I read a lot, and write, and play the guitar and harmonica. I’m a big White Sox fan. I haven’t had much opportunity to travel recently, but it’s something that’s been important to me throughout my life, so I hope to do more of that as my work life becomes steadily less chaotic.

What’s your favorite food and beer pairing?

That’s an impossible question, but right now I could go for some barleywine and strong cheese.

What’s your biggest accomplishment unrelated to your job?

Hmm…I hesitate to call it an “accomplishment,” because it has all the makings of a completely interminable project, but I’m about 500 pages into a fantasy novel that I started working on years ago. I set it aside every so often for other projects, but then come back to it. I recently finished revising part one—25 chapters or so.

What’s your favorite beer that your brewery does not produce?

It depends so much on the weather and my mood and what’s fresh and what I’m doing. Some recent beers that have been memorably good include Hiver Fantôme, Founders Kentucky Breakfast Stout, Surly Bender, and Russian River Sanctification.

What’s the most memorable travel destination at which you’ve had a chance to sample the local beer?

Drinking Baltika on a massive, Soviet-era train rumbling through Siberia in February was pretty memorable. In Ghent, Belgium, my travel companion and I were introduced to Boon Geuze by two men who bought us several glasses and talked to us for most of the afternoon. We later found out that one of the men was a famous Belgian soap opera star.


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