Piloting the Issaquah Brewhouse

Rogue’s newest Innovation Brewer in Washington has a license to fly.

“I love the chance to experiment and design my own beers, as opposed to a large-scale production brewery where I used to work.”

Brendan Smith is describing what drew him to Rogue. “I put in a resume four hours after the job was posted.”

Our new Innovation Brewer sits just outside the Rogue Issaquah Brewhouse in Issaquah Wash. where his five-barrel brewing system (similar to MOJO, the pilot system John Maier uses to brew small batches in Newport) is located.

Brendan Smith stands next to his five-barrel system at the Rogue Issaquah Brewhouse.
Brendan Smith stands next to his five-barrel system at the Rogue Issaquah Brewhouse.

“I wasn’t educated in the brewing arts,” Brendan admits. It wasn’t until his brother got a job as an electrical engineer at Rainier Brewing Company that he gained an interest in brewing. That’s when Brendan started hanging out with brewers.

“In 1985, I had a friend who was a production manager at Grant’s Ales,” Brendan remembers. “I jokingly asked him if they had any openings and he told me to come in the next day.”

He spent a few years at Grant’s (which later turned into Yakima Brewing until it shut down in 2004) before moving onto Redhook Brewery’s Woodinville production facility, where he worked for 18 years until it closed in 2016.

When he’s not innovation brewing, Brendan flies the Cessna 172 single-engine, four-seater airplane he co-owns with his brother. The two of them got their pilots license at a young age (Brendan was just 17 when he received his) but, as Brendan puts it, “it’s easy to get your license when your dad owns an airplane and paid for the classes.” It’s a handy hobby; over Memorial Day he flew his nephew out to the Orcas Islands for lunch—a 45-minute flight as opposed to a 7-hour drive.

Our “Pilot” Brewer is already crafting World Class ales and lagers at Issaquah Brewhouse. Just recently, he spent a day crafting a collision with stylists from the newly opened Bishop’s Cuts and Colors, a Watermelon Smash Brut IPA, that will be exclusively available on draft at the Issaquah Brewhouse in the coming weeks. Stop by and have a pint with him next time you’re in town.