Get to know Danny Connors, Rogue’s Innovation Brewer, and his epicurean take on life.
“I get to make brews like this all the time,” Danny Connors says while swishing a glass of cloudy-orange beer. “It’s a cool part of the job.”
It’s an experimental West Coast IPA, bitter, dry and hoppy, what’s left of a small batch he made that didn’t get the greenlight. That’s no problem for Danny, Rogue’s Innovation Brewer, as most of his job is experimenting with new, creative beers.
It’s Monday, but Danny doesn’t work the typical nine to five. Sometimes the job requires him to come in at odd hours. Because of the brewery’s small scale, he’s got a hand in every phase of the process — sanitizing, brewing, bottling, stacking palettes, and driving the forklift to load beers on the truck. He even came up with the recipe, truly bringing a hands-on approach to the entire process.
“Hopefully the beer’s good,” he jokes. “Otherwise I’m the one to blame.”
Danny, a Portland native, attended Portland State University before transferring to the University of Redlands and earning his bachelors in General Biology. After graduating in 2011, he came back up to Portland.
“I knew I wanted to be a brewer,” he said. “So I came back home and started applying.”
Around that time, there were a lot of breweries popping up around the Portland area. Danny didn’t have a formal background in brewing, but he was willing to start from scratch if he had to. So he interviewed with Rogue and knew it was the right fit.
“They hired me pretty much on the spot,” he recalls. “We were pretty short-staffed at the time, so I kind of did a bunch of everything.” Which was great for Danny, eager to learn.
Joining Rogue as a cellarman, Danny relocated to Newport. He started out cleaning and sanitizing barrels, but soon worked his way around the brewery, learning the ins-and-outs of the brewing process. He absorbed as much as he could until he was offered the opportunity to become a brewer. After that, he spent a lot of time studying, practicing, and brewing in Newport.
Danny laughs when he thinks of his early days as a brewer. “I brewed a lot of Dead Guy back then. A lot of Dead Guy.”
Around 2013, Rogue expanded operations in Portland and asked if anyone wanted to move to Portland to run the Buckman Botanical Brewery, now the Pilot Brewery at the Eastside Pub. So Danny took the opportunity and moved back to his hometown. He’s been there ever since.
“We have this ready availability of ingredients, and a closer control on what we’re getting when it comes to quality,” he says when asked what made Rogue so attractive to him in the first place. Rogue’s Farm, cooperage, and the distillery make Rogue stand apart from the rest.
Since becoming Innovation Brewer, Danny’s appreciation of that Rogue approach has only grown. He’s excited to dive into the next round of brewing, creating and crafting new and unique beers.
“We’re going to come up with some good stuff here soon,” he says. “We’re focusing more on hop varieties and what we can do with them.”
What that means for future releases, Danny smiles and sips his beer. “You’ll just have to wait and see.”