The new brew: Rogue snaps up talent for Issaquah Brewhouse
August 10, 2010
By Chantelle Lusebrink
For some, it’s all about the wine, for others the sweetest part of life is coffee, but when it comes to quenching a thirst for Steve Luke, 26, it’s all about the beer.
“Beer is fun, it’s social and you get to make a product not only you enjoy, but other people enjoy, as well,” he said at a Meet the Brewer event Aug. 4.
“What I like most about it, though, wow, that’s tough. I like drinking it,” he said, with a laugh.
Setting foot inside Rogue’s Issaquah Brewhouse June 15, just days after passing his international brewers’ exam, Luke has hit the ground running and is planning to take the brews served there to new heights as the new master brewer.
Can you say, Modest Frog and Pumpkin Frog? Just two new beers, Luke said, he is crafting that will be available in mid-August and mid-September, respectively.
Modest Frog, a light American pub ale, pays a bit of homage to the rock band Modest Mouse that started here, Luke said. The pumpkin ale, he said, is a Belgian-style Dubbel brewed with 200 pounds of local pumpkins and will be spiced with vanilla bean, nutmeg and cinnamon sticks.
But don’t worry, White Frog fanatics. You’ll still see your favorites on tap, he said. He’s not shaking it up that much.
“We’ll still do mostly Belgian, because that is what this brewery is known for, but for those that don’t particularly like the taste, we’ll do some non-Belgian styles,” he said. “I’m most excited for the Café Frog, because I love dark beer.”
Though he just graduated from the University of California, Davis’ Master Brewer Program in June, he’s no stranger to crafting mouthwatering microbrews.
In the past five years, he has worked in the burgeoning microbrewery business in New England.
“I didn’t really have a job, so I drank beer,” he said, remembering his summer at Allagash Brewing Co. between his junior and senior years at Colby College in Maine. “One day, I just said, ‘Hey, I really like your beer and I would do anything to work here.’ So, I moped floors, cleaned tanks and sweated on the bottling line. Basically, all the stuff other people wouldn’t do, but it moved me up in the industry.”
While working in New England, he earned himself a silver medal at the Great American Beer Festival for his Three Steve Stout at the Cambridge Brewing Co. and another gold medal at the Great International Beer Fest for his black lager.
“It’s really fun coming up with new stuff. It’s what a master brewer lives for. It’s a nice meld — part biochemistry and part art — a nice meld of creativity and science,” he said. “You have to have both, because if you’re just into the science, you end up with boring beer. But if you’re all art, your end product will be all over the place.”
When he was hired with Allagash, he said he knew his degrees in economics and psychology wouldn’t really come in handy, except to know what to price to set for the beer and understanding, perhaps, what drove consumers to buy it.
After deciding brewing was the life for him, Luke made a run to California to earn his degree while his fiancée was finishing dentistry school back East. The couple decided to make Seattle their next home.
“I’ve been a fan of Rogue since the early days of drinking,” he said. “They do so many different styles of beer so well.
“I drink a lot of beer, but I always find myself coming back to Rogue, because they make beer that is so fundamentally solid.”
As for his favorite beers, the Shakespeare Oatmeal Stout, black lager and Mocha Porter, are always in heavy rotation, he said.
In addition to mad brewing skills, Luke said he also enjoys cooking — especially cooking with beer or pairing foods to go with beer.
With that in mind, he said he’s looking forward to developing this year’s Brewhouse Roe Ale, for Issaquah’s annual Salmon Days Festival, Oct. 2-3.
He said he’s planned a Belgian pale, because “it will pair really well with salmon and fish,” he said. “I’m looking forward to it. I’ve heard it’s a big event here.”