Meet Michael Markham: Brewer at Mission Brewery
We first met Michael at the San Diego Rhythm & Brews Festival back in May. He had brewed a special beer for the event called “Mike’s Go Big Red IPA”, and we couldn’t get enough of it. We were happy to run into Michael again at Mission Brewery’s Blackbeard’s Crew latest cask making event this past month. After the cask making event, we had the opportunity to hang out with Michael as he completed his brew day. It was mesmorizing watching him work his magic in the brewery. If you ever have the opportunity to work with or get to see him work, you will immediately see his passion for beer shine through. Get to know more about Michael, what is next for Mission Brewery, and his advice for those looking to get into this amazing industry below.
Tell us a little about yourself.
I’m Michael Markham! I’ve been living in San Diego for almost 9 years now, and I have been in the craft beer industry since 2014. I’m one of the probably millions who fell in love with craft beer during the big boom in the industry in 2010-2011. I ride a motorcycle to work every day of the year, rain or shine. Live music, beer and food are my vices, can’t get enough of either of them.
How did you become a part of the craft beer industry? How long have you been a professional brewer?
I served 5 years in the military, which is where I learned how to homebrew from my boss. My boss also gave me most of my first home brew kit. After deciding that brewing was way more enjoyable than being in the military, I decided to just go for it. I gave my resume to almost 60 breweries asking for any job at all just to break through. Never even got an interview, because at that time there were soooooo many people applying to every brewery here in San Diego.I had been without a job for about 4 months, so I was selling my things on craigslist to pay rent. My dream of taking my Surly Long Haul Trucker up and down the coast, camping the whole way someday, had to go. I received a text from someone saying “I’ll give you $X and a few cases of beer from the brewery I work at.” I pretty much just replied with “Are you hiring?” Long story short, the bike didn’t fit him, still had to sell it to someone else, but he was a really awesome dude, got me an interview that week and I was on the Saint Archer packaging line within a few weeks.Worked my way up to Cellarman learning all the ins and outs of brewery life there. I decided it was time to change paths, after some things I’m sure most people know about happened to Saint Archer.My step from Cellarman to Brewer came with my switch over to Mission Brewery in October 2015, where I now work. It’s been all uphill since day 1 at Mission. It’s a great place to work, and we’ve been making it better and better every day.
What’s your favorite part of the job?
Every day is different and I’m always on my feet. 9-5 desk jobs are not for me. I could’ve, and probably should’ve worked in IT, but I chose a stranger path.There is nothing quite like seeing your own 6-packs in a grocery store or seeing people in the tasting room enjoying something you put (figuratively) blood, sweat and tears into. It is one of the most amazing feelings. I love it when people come up to me at the brew house and tell me their favorite beers they’ve tried or ask for recommendations. We get a lot of first time brewery visitors at Mission since we’re next to Petco park, and it’s awesome seeing peoples faces as they walk through and see all the giant tanks, pallets of glass and bottling lines everywhere.
If you could make any style of beer with any flavors you wanted, what would it be and why?
That’s pretty much what I did with my Red X IPA. Red X is one of my favorite malts and Mosaic is everyones favorite hop, so I decided I needed them to be together in harmony!I’m a fan of very simple styles as well. I’d love to take a trip to Europe to try all the classic lagers and pilsners and try to recreate them here. I also love Single malt Single Hop beers. I do like the wild beer craze going on, but at the end of the day crushability (can I trademark that word?) is probably what I go for the most.
What’s your favorite memory of your time at Mission Brewery? Favorite beer you’ve worked on?
Memory: It’s hard to pick just one. Everyone who works in the brewery is awesome and hilarious. Every day everyone is in a good mood and joking around with each other, and that’s the way it should be. Our keg washer Steven has recently been putting up works of art, usually sharpie drawings on giant pieces of cardboard, all around the brewery. They’re hilarious and awesome. Come try to find some of them!
Beer: A few questions down you’ll see my love for our Passionfruit Gose. The process of making a kettle soured beer is pretty awesome and this was the first one I got to work on!
We loved your Mike’s Go Big Red IPA that you poured at this years Rhythm and Brews Festival. Will you be brewing it again?
Thank you! That was my first personal recipe that I have professionally brewed. It’s brewed with pilsner and red X malt, and basically all the mosaic hops mission would let me put in it. I don’t have any plans to brew it right now. That said, I bet if we sent some messages to any mission social media they might bring it back!
Anything exciting you can share about any upcoming projects at Mission Brewery?
We’re still figuring out what we want to brew for seasonal beers for 2018. I also heard Passion Fruit Gose is coming back next April. If anyone hasn’t tried our gose, please come by in April and try it. It’s simply amazing. Pretty much every brewery employee, as well as the people in the other offices in the same building we are in, did not stop drinking it until we kicked the last keg about a month ago.Our Halloween parties are always really awesome. I believe it’s going to be the Saturday before Halloween. Our bar and office staff put a lot of work into making the brewery spooooooooky and fun. There’s usually live music, photo booths, and other weird scary things going on in the brewery. Last years band Creepxotica slayed.
If you could collaborate with any other brewer or brewery, who would it be and why?
I’m going back to my hometown of Grand Island, Nebraska next month. I’m going to to do my best to try to convince one of the new breweries in my town to make a trip out and do something with us. I’d love to bring some midwest love and inspiration to San Diego!
What advice would you give to those who are looking to become a Brewer?
It’s hard to get here, and it’s not for everybody. It’s glorified factory work and a lot of cleaning. If you are not okay having at least 3 cuts and 2 burns on each hand at any given time, followed with a constantly sore back, then brewing is not for you. You’re going to question why you do this to yourself, especially on those lonely night shifts. Then you see how many people admire what you do, and you see all this great beer you helped create make its way around this city. You have that first sip of your end of shift beer and you’re like “oh yeah, this is why.”I will paraphrase what someone told me when I was leaving Saint Archer to become a brewer at Mission:“Never sacrifice the quality of your beer. Every decision you make, big or small, needs to be about making the best beer you can possibly make and those decisions will get harder the higher up you get in any brewery.” The example he gave me was someone telling you to order cheaper grain to save money.