Interview with Beer Geeks Host Michael Ferguson
For this weeks episode of the newly syndicated television show Beer Geeks, the show will be highlighting Portland. Beer Geeks is hosted by Michael Ferguson, who by day is BJ’s Brewhouse’s Director of Brewery Operations. We were able to discuss with Ferguson his background and his thoughts on craft beer and what lies ahead for his show Beer Geeks.
This past summer Beer Geeks crew visited Portland to film segments featuring Alameda Brewing and Burnside Brewing’s Fruit Beer Festival. Previous episodes from the first season have already featured Hair of The Dog Brewery and another featured Rogue Ales and Spirits in Newport, Oregon.
The 30 minute TV show is one that visits different cities to highlight a brewery in that city. Ferguson also spends some of the time in the kitchen to showcase some food dishes that are prepared with beer.
Here is the interview we conducted with Beer Geeks host Michael Ferguson.
Q: How did you get hooked up with Page Productions, the production company behind Diners, Drive Ins and Dives?
A: That is a very long story. I’m not sure all the events can or should be detailed here. But let’s try the Cliff’s Notes version.
I was contacted 4 years ago by the Talent Development Department at Discovery Channel. Someone had seen a YouTube video or two of me doing an interview or beer dinner or some such thing. I had no idea that I was out there at all let alone videos of me on YouTube.
They asked if I was available to fly to Boston in the next 32 hours to try out for a pilot about craft beer. You have to understand that this phone call reached me while I was waiting to board a flight back home from LAX to Houston.
Long story short, I gathered what wardrobe I could and flew into winter time Boston to shoot the pilot at Cambridge Brewing. That is where I met David Page and his production crew. They had been there for the week having shot a pilot around another industry person. I was a last minute addition.
Our show didn’t get picked up but for some reason David always kept me in the loop and was constantly looking for a show for me to host; preferably a show about the craft beer industry.
Q: At what point where you brought into the fold to become the host of Beer Geeks?
A: Just a little over a year ago. Matt and Ed were looking for a different production company and looked up Page Productions. David suggested that the Host should be a key professional from the industry and that he had just the guy for it.
Q: Are the originators of the show, Matt Sandell and Ed Bremer still involved with Beer Geeks?
A: Matt is always on the set and he drives the Beer Geeks bus to every location. Ed has been on many a shoot and does a lot behind the scenes. Everybody has plenty of irons in numerous of fires.
Q: Your bio states that you began your professional brewing career at Gordon Biersch Brewing Company in Palo Alto, CA at the original GB1 in 1990. What made you leave you your corporate job at IBM to get into brewing?
A: This is another long story with all the perfect actions and reactions that cause life to send you in unexpected directions. I never applied for a job as a brewer.
I left IBM to go to another high tech company; but I was laid-off on the day I reported with several hundred other people. I had no job! Not a comfortable place for me. I dabbled in all sorts of things some good some bad and some very bad. So I made the decision to get back to a High tech job,
While perusing the San Mateo Times newspaper I came across a want-ad that said “Engineer wanted. 640 Emerson ST, Palo Alto, CA.” that’s pretty much all it said. There was no company name and it didn’t say what type of engineer was wanted. So I sent a resume anyway. Six days later a Guy named Tom Davis ask me to come in for an interview. Imagine my surprise when I pulled up to the old Bijou Theater and discovered that it was now a brewpub. The very First Gordon Biersch!
Three interviews later (one just to see if I could actually fit everywhere I needed to fit) I was hired out of 60 applicants for the job and the rest…well, you know.
Q: Were you an avid home brewer or just a fan of great beer prior to jumping into professional brewing?
A: I was a lousy home brewer. My attempts were too early for the ubiquitous surge of Home Brew shops. Supplies were tough to get on a small scale and I had no one to clue me in. So there was a lot of bad beer like substance that I went through before I called it quits. BTW: I’m way better now!
Q: What was your first beer that enlightened you to a beer that was not brewed for mass marketing purposes?
A: In High school while all the jocks were drinking Pabst Blue Ribbon and all the bad kids were drinking Colt 45 my band of geek friends and I were drinking beers like Whatney’s Red Barrel and Dinkle-Acker. If it was new and unusual we tried it. I grew up in San Francisco so Anchor Steam was always a favorite.
Q: You have been with BJ’s Restaurants Inc. since 2004, and are currently BJ’s Director of Brewery Operations. Do you have any ambition to open your own brewery?
A: Absolutely not! What a ginormous pain in the butt that would be. I’ve built them, I’ve run them, I’ve consulted on them and I’ve torn them down. I know what it takes to do it right and I am just too old to go through that sort of misery at this stage in my life.
No, I’m going to go the other approach and retire with a bar that has far too many single malts and a bevy of great beer. Too many good beers out there and I don’t need to add to them. All I want to do is sell them. Plus, have you ever tried to manage brewers? I’d rather herd cats!
Q: When you are in Portland, what are your favorite breweries, brewpubs and beer bars to visit?
A: Way too many places to innumerate here and I’d feel bad if I left somebody out. But the Horse’s Brass will always be one of my favorite places to visit.
Q: Will there be a Season 2 of Beer Geeks?
A: We’ve already started shooting Season 2.
Alameda Brewing will be hosting a viewing party for this episode of Beer Geeks on Saturday, December 14th at 2pm. If you cannot make it out to Alameda the show airs in Portland on Saturdays at 2pm on KPDX or you can use the Beer Geek’s “Find The Show” locator to find it in your specific market.
I’ve known Michael since about 1997. One of the most funniest, down to earth brewers around. Great guy.