Jason McKibben is the brewmaster for the Anheuser-Busch brewery in Columbus, and previously served as the senior manager for quality assurance there. He has a bachelor’s degree in food science from the University of Illinois and a master’s degree in food science from the University of California, Davis. At UC Davis, Jason completed coursework in brewing science and winemaking. Prior to joining the Columbus brewery, Jason had various assignments managing brewing operations with Anheuser-Busch, including positions at the company’s Research Pilot Brewery in St. Louis where new beers are developed, as well as the Fairfield, Calif., and Los Angeles breweries. He has been with the company for 11 years.
Question: Why did you become a brewer?
Answer: Making beer is the most amazing food process on earth. Nowhere else can one channel nature’s forces to make such an awesome-tasting product. From the transformation that happens to barley during the malting process to the flavors the yeast produces during its life cycle, once I learned how to make beer I was hooked.
Q: Share something about being a brewer for Anheuser-Busch that might surprise people.
A: My staff and I taste every tank of beer after fermentation, lagering and filtration to ensure every drop of beer that leaves this brewery meets our expectations. That can be samples from more than 75 tanks per day.
Q: Anheuser-Busch and other national brands dominate the American beer market with their popularity. But there are plenty of hardcore beer geeks who look down on what you do. How do you deal with that attitude?
A: For a true beer lover, it’s all about the beer in the glass, not the size of the fermentation tank. We brew one batch at a time, just like everyone else, and we’re always eager to attend beer festivals and host beer dinners to celebrate the art and science of brewing. If someone with this point of view is able to tour our brewery, meet our team and see firsthand our attention to detail and passion for quality, they come away with a new perspective.
Q: What’s your favorite beer that you brew and why?
A: Budweiser. The flavor and balance of the beer is so refined, it has no equal.
Q: Which beer – any beer in the world – do you wish that you created/invented/brewed and why?
A: I wish I was the first brewer to use hops in beer. Hops have only been used for several hundred years, and before that brewers used whatever ingredient was available and many of them were not ideal (like yarrow root or tobacco). Discovery of the hop’s function in beer took flavor to the next level. Anheuser-Busch owns hop farms in Germany and Idaho to grow Hallertau varieties that contribute to the aroma and perfectly balanced bitterness of Budweiser.