Marin Brewing Co.'s Arne Johnson

Categories: Ask A Brewer, Beer

Arne Jonson's been brewmaster at Marin Brewing Co. for 15 years.
Brendan Moylan founded Marin Brewing Co. in 1989 and has since launched Moylan's in Novato. Fifteen years ago, Arne Johnson became the brewmaster at Moylan's Larkspur original, where the always-sunny patio is a favorite ferry destination for pints. Johnson has since earned numerous medals for his beers named after local sites and landmarks, such as Mt. Tam Pale Ale and San Quentin Breakout Stout. Recently, he won gold at the Great American Beer Fest for Pt. Reyes Porter.

SFoodie: Besides brand names, how else does brewing in Marin affect the beers?
Johnson: Our water in Marin is excellent for brewing. We have a great community of brewers here in the Bay Area, and we all help/inspire/push each other to be better.

What are your favorite ways in which you or the brewery gets to interact with the community? I love brewing in a brewpub because I get to interact with the people drinking my beer every day. MBC [Marin Brewing Co.] has always been very active in supporting our local organizations and charities, and the pub has become a prime gathering spot for the local communities, so I have gotten to know the locals pretty well. I participate in many beer festivals, which keeps me in touch with all the local beer lovers.

Brian Yaeger
Johnson scored a gold medal at the Great American Beer Fest in 2009 for his Pt. Reyes Porter.
Do you prefer brewing big beers or the session beers? Same for drinking 'em? As far as brewing big vs. session beers, they each present their own challenges. A session beer can be really tricky to balance out, and your flaws can really stick out. Brewing big beers are more work, are more complicated, and take more time. There's a fascination these days among connoisseurs with extreme beers, which makes them more rewarding to brew. I love to taste big or extreme beers, but if I'm thirsty for a pint, it's usually a session beer.

Are there any ways in which you and [brewmaster] Denise [Jones] from Moylan's try to create similar beers, or disparate ones? We've always been careful not to overlap too much with our styles and brands. The hoppy beers are a West Coast trademark, so we make some similar beers in that department. Denise and I were classmates in brewing school and have been good friends ever since, so we have always fed off of each other, but we have fairly different tastes and styles and I think the beers reflect that.

It's your last meal. What is it and what do you pair it with? Pan-seared duck breast with ancho-orange sauce, soft polenta with queso fresco and sage, and Mt. Tam Pale Ale-braised mustard greens, served with White Knuckle Double IPA.

Marin Brewing Co.: 1809 Larkspur Landing Circle, Larkspur, 461-4677. [Note: From S.F., you can take the ferry to the Larkspur terminal; the brewpub is in easy walking distance.]

Other brewers in this series:
Kushal Hall from Speakeasy Ales and Lagers
Dave McLean from Magnolia Pub
Kirk Hillyard from Half Moon Bay Brewing Company

Follow us on Twitter: @sfoodie. Follow Brian Yaeger at @yaeger.
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