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Beer & Business! My Exclusive Sip Down Interview with Blue Moon Founder Keith Villa

rsz savvy spice blue moon founder interview

Do you remember your first Blue Moon? The Belgian-style beer with an orange slice of course. My first memorable experience drinking beer was in college (to blog responsibly, let’s say after age 21), at Chico State in N. California. It was notoriously known as a ‘party school.’

Between journalism courses, studying, and minimum wage restaurant jobs at night, my ‘party schedule‘ was pretty tame. Although I did notice every Chico party, get-together, or Sunday BBQ included kegs. Or at least one on the front porch with Journey’s ‘Don’t Stop Believin‘ blaring in the background. Kegs of Bud Light (aka the LaCroix of beers) and Sierra Nevada Pale Ale (as heavy as a full course meal) were pretty standard at Chico State parties. ‘I wonder if I’ll ever just enjoy the taste of beer with a meal?’ I thought at the ripe old age of 21.

Then I graduated, moved to the Bay Area and had my first Blue Moon at a bar in Berkeley. I was immediately ‘Wow’d‘ as the bartender garnished my beer with an orange slice. It was love at first gulp. Fast forward to 2016’s Bottle Rock Festival (coming up again this weekend in Napa) where I had a sit sip-down interview with the Founder of Blue Moon, Keith Villa. We drank Blue Moon, talked about his success, and Keith’s fascinating life which led him to start the company that just celebrated its’ 21st birthday last year. And now, meet Blue Moon’s Founder, Keith Villa…

Blue Moon beer tasting Napa Valley

<The Scene: Last year’s Bottle Rock Festival in Napa – hence my casual ‘festival’ attire in high-waisted Zara skinny jeans, a knit tank and custom Lilith+McRae beaded necklace. If you’re a beer lover or brewmaster yourself, I hope you meet Keith one day. He’s friendly, easy to talk to, plus he’s literally a brewing Dr.! First, he poured us samples of Blue Moon’s Raspberry Imperial Tart, Belgian White, White IPA, Cinnamon Horchata and Belgian Table Pils before we sat down to chat>

Blue Moon CEO interview

Q. You received a PhD in brewing at University of Brussels in Belgium (an honor only a handful have received). For anyone looking to become a brewer as a career, do you recommend studying in Europe where brewmasters must have a credential?

K. Villa – ‘In brewing, I always draw inspiration from the people I meet and places I’ve traveled. My experience at the University of Brussels, one of just a handful of universities in the world to offer a Ph.D. in brewing, was incredibly inspiring and impactful. Not only did I learn from some of the most creative brewers in the world, but I realized my passion for Belgian-style beer, and it was a passion I wanted to share with others. When I returned to the U.S. I put my own unique twist on the Belgian style and the result was Blue Moon Belgian White.’

Why does Blue Moon use Orange garnish

Q. I read you were studying to become a pediatrician after getting a degree in molecular biology, but instead became a brewmaster, and brewed craft beers in your dorm room. Do you remember what interested you the most about craft beers in college to make you change your career path?

K. VillaBeer fascinated me in college because I learned that craft beer is a beverage that is brewed with a lot of scientific knowledge combined with artistic expression. The fact that a simple organism like yeast can convert the sugars in beer into alcohol and flavorful compounds is like a miracle in a glass that you can enjoy. Once I was of legal drinking age, and particularly during my time in Belgium, I fell in love with Belgian-style beer.’

Blue Moon Beer tasting berry flavor

Q. You mentioned when you wanted bartenders to start serving Blue Moon with an orange garnish, you brought oranges to bars and restaurants because most only had lemons and limes. Clearly, the idea was a huge success in branding Blue Moon. How did you decide on oranges?

K. Villa-Blue Moon was the first American beer that called for an orange garnish and it’s probably one of the first images that comes to mind for Blue Moon fans! Blue Moon Belgian White is brewed with Valencia orange peel and a touch of coriander, so an orange slice was a natural garnish that heightens the citrus flavors of the beer.’

Interview with CEO Blue Moon Keith Villa

Q. At Bottle Rock ’16, I was able to try the Raspberry Imperial Tart aged in Napa barrels. Will this also be available in ’17 and will there be any other fruit beer this year?

K. Villa – ‘Raspberry Imperial Tart was an exclusive limited-time offering at BottleRock last year. We’re always experimenting with and creating new brews for our beer lovers. We are releasing a Mango Wheat Ale in ’17 our Summer Variety Pack. The brew won a silver medal in the Fruit Wheat Beer category at the 2016 Great American Beer Fest and was inspired by beaches in Mexico, where fruit vendors bring freshly cut mangos and put them on a stick to enjoy in the sunshine.’

(sidenote: Yum, I love mangos!)

Blue Moon beer in can

Q. You told me the three most important factors for Blue Moon is that its ‘flavorful, drinkable and pairs well with food.’ Would you say making beer based on these principles has been a key factor in Blue Moon’s success?

K. Villa –  All Blue Moon beers are meant to be enjoyed alongside food, whether you’re dining out with friends or cooking at home. They help to bring out flavors in various dishes. I think one of the reasons our fans love drinking Blue Moon beers is that our beers complement meals. The summer beer pairs well with warm-weather fare such as grilled shrimp or chicken with mango salsa.’

Savvy Spice interview Keith Villa Blue Moon CEO

Q. I read in an article that as a third generation Mexican, drinking Horchata at home as a child inspired you to create Blue Moon Cinnamon Horchata Ale in 2014. What business or life advice did you learn from your parents or family that you feel has helped with your enormous success founding Blue Moon?

K. Villa – ‘Work hard, never give up and always appreciate your family.’

________________________

Thank you for the great interview Kieth and beer! If you’re headed to Bottle Rock this weekend in Napa, keep an eye out for Blue Moon. Or if you want to visit the Blue Moon brewery for a self-guided tour in Denver’s RiNo Art District and do a tasting session, here’s the info to make a reservation. Thanks for reading. Be sure to subscribe as I have more interviews coming this summer. Do you enjoy beer and do you remember your first Blue Moon?

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10 Comments

Comments

  1. Great interview Dale – so interesting I have to confess to not knowing about Blue Moon before.
    So interesting how people make such changes in their regular career paths.

    You’re looking awesome as ever!

    xoxo Yvonne
    http://www.funkyforty.com

    • Thanks Yvonne! Don’t worry, I don’t think I saw it often in Switzerland, but definitely keep an eye out for it when you’re traveling. You would love it. 😉

  2. Judy Bloom says:

    I love Blue Moon, & Love this Savvy Spice Post!

  3. Jody Steliga says:

    Inspiring and interesting! Nice post. I love Blue Moon & the Coors factory in Golden, CO.

  4. A great interview Dale, I never got into drinking beer, these ones look fun with their different colors xox

    I wanted to thank you again for the pillow cases, I am in love with those deep blue ones… I really want to get a gold set this summer, I’m going to save up to treat myself… they are amazingly soft xox

    I am sorry I haven’t been around lately, I took a couple of months of to deal with my health, I am finally feeling more myself and getting caught up with blogging xox

    • Thanks Launna! Glad you enjoyed the read and I think you’d love Blue Moon if you get the chance to try it. You’re welcome for the pillowcases and thank you again for the order. 🙂

  5. Dale, he is absolutely amazing! I loved reading this…great interview! His beer sounds delicious. I will have to try it. His beer sounds so unique. I love his twist on the brew. Plus he’s so knowledgeable in other aspects (molecular biology, pediatrics). Very diverse!

    Dale, you will love the Murad Ultra Gentle Daily Peel. I was more than skeptical, but after the first one you will feel the difference. Sephora does have another box for about $48 (you get half the amount of the $88 one). So give them a try. The next morning or night when you wash your face you will feel the difference. Thank you for trusting me 🙂 I stay true 🙂 Glad all is well. I recently downsized my blog reading list.

    http://www.averysweetblog.com/

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