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Metazoa Brewing's new head brewer from Goose Island and 5 Rabbit Cervecería

John J. Hall chats about making the move from Chicago to Indianapolis

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John J. Hall is Metazoa Brewing Co.'s new head brewer. - SUBMITTED PHOTO
  • Submitted Photo
  • John J. Hall is Metazoa Brewing Co.'s new head brewer.
Metazoa Brewing Co. lured John J. Hall away from Chicago to head their team as brewmaster. Hall began his career at Chicago's Goose Island Beer Company as a cellarman in 1997, and worked his way up to head brewer in 2002. In 2012 he was named brewmaster of Chicago’s first Latin American-inspired brewery, 5 Rabbit Cerveceria.

“During his time at Goose, Hall and his teammates earned medals at prestigious beer competitions, including 12 gold medals at the Great American Beer Festival and 4 gold medals at the World Beer Cup,” according to Metazoa’s news release. “Hall is a Siebel Institute graduate and member of numerous brewing organizations, including the Illinois Craft Brewers Guild, where he served on the original committee that put Chicago Craft Beer Week on the map.”

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NUVO spoke with Hall prior to his March 6 starting date at Metazoa.

NUVO: With a 15-year tenure at Chicago’s now oldest operating brewpub — Goose Island opened in 1988 — and then as a founding part of 5 Rabbit, you now take on your third brewmaster stint at Metazoa. What are you most looking forward to in your own journey as a craft brewer as you join the Indiana craft beer industry? When you made the leap from Goose Island to 5 Rabbit you said, “New is not better, it’s not worse; it’s just different. I should be a little scared. That’s good. I know I’m going to learn so much.”

John J. Hall: This is the very first substantial move for me and my wife Margie. We both come from rather large families that reside in the Chicagoland area. Anytime you make a major move, you hope it is going to help you grow in new and unexpected ways. I am eager and excited to be a "Stranger in a Strange Land.” I feel that I can start here at Metazoa with an extensive brewing background but a clean slate at the same time.

NUVO: Reportedly, one of your last beer formulations at Goose Island led you to taking on head brewer at 5 Rabbit. What kind of an epiphany led you to Metazoa?

John: If you see my resumé with 15 years at Goose Island and four-plus years at 5 Rabbit, you can see I'm not one to bounce around. I found myself on the market for the first time in nearly 20 years. I had a lot of offers and discussions immediately, but I needed to find somewhere I could see myself for the long haul. I needed to feel that the brewery could offer me as much as I could offer it.

When I first met with [Metazoa founder] Dave [Worthington], we had less of an interview and more of a very long discussion about a lot of things beyond the brewery. I felt an instant rapport and I felt I could do some good things at Metazoa.

However, I had never been to Indianapolis before and Margie would have to sign off on this decision. We drove down two days after my first meeting with Dave. He showed us the brewery and much of the city and frankly, Margie and I talked to each other that night and agreed we could see ourselves making the next chapter of our life here.
NUVO: Quality and consistency are the benchmarks for all craft brewers. Finding a niche to set oneself apart from other breweries to gain a brand following is the second quest for a brewery. What do you see yourself bringing to Metazoa to accomplish their growth in brand recognition?

John: I have a long background working in production brewing and have been fortunate enough to work with and learn from some really great and talented people. I have lived through the growing pains of breweries, experiencing things that really propelled the breweries as well as some things we learned never to do again. I can help with the move to packaging to get our beers to more people. Coming from the outside, I'll need to look at what Metazoa is already doing, like brewing a wide variety of beer styles. Dave and I will have to determine the right beers to send out into the world to make a lasting impression on those trying a Metazoa beer for the first time. I am not ready to declare a "niche" or force a "niche" for ourselves.

NUVO: You bring with you a history of active participation in the industry — medals for your recipe formulations from major beer competitions, membership in national and Illinois-based brewers associations, judging major competitions — how do you see your history of active participation fitting in with the Brewers of Indiana Guild?

John: I am really looking forward to becoming active in the Brewers of Indiana Guild. It's partly selfish: I'll be in a new town where I don't know anyone, and they say it's wrong to drink alone. Seriously though, I have made great friends being on the board of the Illinois guild and participating in guild events. Working in a brewery for a long time means you get to see what works and what doesn't. Hopefully I can share some ideas or insights that can help the Guild spread the word about craft beer and its benefits to local culture and community.
NUVO: Metazoa’s news release carries this quote: “As life long pet owners who got all our pets from shelters, [my wife] Margie and I are really happy to find an immediate connection beyond the beer.” How do you see philanthropy playing into your role as brewmaster at Metazoa? [Metazoa donates 5% of its profits to animal and wildlife organizations.]

John: Caring about something beyond your own front door is always a good thing. The care and responsible treatment of animals is wonderful and necessary. I think if you look at the craft brewing industry as a whole, you will find passionate people who often go out of their way to support causes important to them and their community. Breweries are often donating time, space and beer to raise awareness and funds for a number of worthwhile causes. This is one of the numerous perks of this line of work: you make beer, you make friends with folks who make beer, and these people are generally some of the nicest and most socially-conscious people I've had the pleasure to meet.

NUVO: Please add anything else you would like NUVO readers to know about John J. Hall.

John: I love a wide range of music, sometimes to the consternation of my coworkers when I have the stereo cranked in the brewhouse. I read a lot, leaning towards science fiction and the more fantastical and odd. I have a bachelor's degree in film and animation, and before brewing, I made educational films and animated fairy tales for Encyclopedia Britannica. Come by the brewery and tell me the places I need to see, where to eat and drink, and where to find good music and books. I'm excited to learn about my new home.

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