Craft beer is no longer the cutting-edge kid it once was. It’s a mature business nowadays, and one that is losing some of its most iconic personalities. People like John Mallett, Bell’s Brewing’s Vice President of Brewing & Quality, who has announced that he was leaving the company in February.
Beloved for his expertise and rich sense of humor, Mallet was always a fun guy to enjoy a beer with. He’s also a larger-than-life character with a disarming humility in spite of his considerable contributions the the craft beer community.
When American Craft Beer first met him he was in drag at Dogfish Head’s 2016 CBC party in Philadelphia. Mallet took the evening seriously winking behind his female persona in an industry that had not yet begun to shed its overiding maleness.
At the party (which also featured a rousing rock performance by rock artists Cracker) Mallett, hit the stage, convincingly in drag, and launched into Lou Reed’s classic “Walk on the Wild Side,” complete with industry backup singers. It was an envelope-pushing performance characteristic of the man that further set the tone for an evening of music, drinking, and dancing, that felt more like a private “insider after-party”, than an industry event.
Mallet, who has worked at Bell’s for more than two decades, spent the last year helping lead the brewery’s integration into the New Belgium/Lion family following the company’s purchase by the Australian beverage firm, which in turn is owned by Japan’s Kirin Holdings.
“As I reflect on my 20-plus years of working out of Comstock, the brightest point by far is the relationships I’ve built with coworkers, beer fans, farmers, researchers, suppliers, tradespersons, students, the media, publicans, design professionals, educators, distributors, regulators and fellow brewers,” Mallett said. “I can say without hesitation or doubt, that this has been an experience beyond my wildest dreams.”
During his years with Bell’s, Mallet has been a driving force behind the brewery’s commitment to both quality and safety.
But his many accomplishments pale in comparison to the mark he has left on the entire craft beer industry, and on those of us lucky enough to have come to know him.