Seth Morton is the head production brewer for Jackie O's Brewery in Athens. The brewery, which has been consistently rated as one of the 100 best breweries in the world by RateBeer.com, is gearing up for its 13th annual Anniversary Extravaganza on Jan. 4.
Question: Why did you become a brewer?
Answer: After coming to legal drinking age while I was a student at Ohio University, I immediately fell into craft beer, led on by some fellow engineering students. The stuff at the bottle shops was great, but what [Jackie O's brewer] Brad [Clark] was cranking out of that brewpub was so much more progressive. The level of eccentricity, coupled with the outright quality of the beer had me hooked.
I remember sitting at the bar in the brewpub while Brad was brewing, dumping gallon after gallon of local honey into wort in the kettle. I thought: “That guy’s crazy. I want to do that!” After getting a job at Jackie O’s in 2011, I was lucky enough to wind up on the construction project for the production brewery. It was around then I realized that if I played my cards right, I could wind up maybe doing something with brewing. [Owner] Art [Oestrike] and Brad both inspired me to dive headlong into learning about brewing, and fostered my career path along the way. I owe it to them.
Q: Jackie O's is known for brewing a million different styles — that's probably only a little bit of an exaggeration — and doing them all well. What's your personal favorite and explain why?
A: Not quite a million, but close! Dark Apparition will always have my heart. It’s not only a great base beer in its own right, but it’s a beer we’re very familiar with messing around with. All of the different adjunct and barrel treatments we’ve done along the years have been so rewarding to be a part of. So I guess my favorite Jackie O’s beer is around a dozen different beers?
Q: What are your favorite and least favorite craft beer trends right now?
A: My favorite trend in beer is the continual evolution of what hoppy beer can be. Watching the segment swing from malty and piney, to citrusy and bitter, to soft and fruity has been such a fun ride to be on. It keeps you on your toes, and I’m excited to see what the future holds.
My least favorite trend, which I’m starting to see fade, is overtly offensive beer names or labels. You’re not doing yourself any favors, and consumers are being more forward on calling breweries out for this.
Q: What's your best-selling beer and why do you think it's so popular?
A: Our best-selling beer is Mystic Mama, our West Coast-style IPA. IPA is king, and I think Mystic’s success is due to its balance, reliability and accessibility.
Q: Which beer — any beer in the world — do you wish that you created/brewed and why?
A: I’d have to say Allagash’s Coolship program, and all the beers that have come with it. Diving into the deep end, doing something progressive yet historical that no one else in American beer had done before is so inspiring.
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