Brewmaster, Joel Johnson

Joel Johnson


Over 20 years ago, prior to commercial brewing, Joel was an active homebrewer whose love for the craft planted thoughts beyond just working in a brewery. He wanted “his own” brewery. His first goal was to become more educated in all things beer. So in 1996 he enrolled in the Craft Brewers Apprenticeship Program of the American Brewers Guild in Woodland, CA (founded by Dr. Michael Lewis, professor emeritus of brewing science at UC Davis). After 23 weeks of “intensive, comprehensive and pragmatic science and engineering” and a five-week apprenticeship under brewer R.J. Trent at Barley & Hops in San Mateo, CA he had accomplished his first goal – knowledge of beer and the beer business. Through a fortuitous encounter, he was offered a brewing position by one of Sonoma County's top craft breweries, Bear Republic Brewing Company in Healdsburg, CA.  Before long, Bear Republic appointed Joel Head brewer, where he teamed with co-owner and Brewmaster Rich Norgrove collecting nearly 20 awards over his eight year tenure including a coveted Gold Medal in 1999 for Racer 5 IPA at the Great American Beer Festival (GABF) in Denver, CO. They earned a second Gold Medal at the GABF in 2004 for Pete’s Brown Ale, a tribute beer brewed in memory of Peter Brown, Bear Republic’s first (and only) sales rep and a great friend to Joel.

Nearly a decade later, Joel left Bear Republic and began planning and researching potential locations for his brewery which landed him in Sacramento. According to his younger brother, Sacramento was the perfect location – expanding population, cheap real estate and little competition - compared to other metropolitan areas (by the way, his little bro Jake lived in Sacramento).

Fast forward six months…brewery plans had to take a back seat.

“You’re gonna be a dad!”

Back to Sonoma County…and an offer as head brewer/brewmaster at Mount St. Helena Brewing Company in Middletown, CA. Although a smaller brewery (brewpub actually), his responsibilities grew much larger (he now had twin boys) as the new position allowed him to run all aspects of the brewing operations including packaging, distribution, sales and quality control. Four years (and hundreds of diapers) later, Joel felt it was his time. He found a brew system in Plattsburgh, NY and a location in Petaluma to put it. For nearly a year, he worked days at Mount St. Helena and nights building his dream. The result…

101 North Brewing Company