Meet Justin Maynard, Illinois Craft Beer Evangelist

I have been producing a series of profiles of craft brewers and distillers for the blog published by my friends at Hop Head Farms in Michigan. One of the most fun things I've done so far was an interview I conducted recently with Justin Maynard of the Illinois Craft Brewers Guild.

You can’t necessarily tell a book by its cover, or a person by his resume. Since February, Maynard has been enthusiastically promoting the interests of local beer-makers as executive director of the Guild, which seems some distance from the degree in electrical engineering that he received from University of Illinois at Chicago in 2001.

Justin Maynard Illinois Craft Brewers Guild

In fact, Maynard worked in IT support for several years out of college. But the longtime punk rock fan then worked for a small, independent record label — which stages concerts that have an eclectic mix but are heavy on punk rock and heavy metal — and in the course of that work developed promotional relationships with breweries that made him a familiar figure in the craft beer world.

The accelerating rise of craft brewing in Illinois prompted the 15-year-old Guild to recruit an executive director to better serve their growing membership. And Maynard, a burly, ultra-friendly evangelist for craft beer, fit the bill.

[Editor's note: After this story first ran on the Hop Head Farms website, Justin's brother posted on Facebook that the above description -- "a burly, ultra-friendly evangelist for craft beer" -- was the "most awesome moniker in the history of awesomeness." That may be the most awesome compliment I've ever received as a writer.]

Maynard’s background also illustrates how the now-widespread availability of craft beer to younger consumers, who are just developing their tastes, can have lasting benefits. Maynard says that, with the assistance of an older brother, he started sampling the wares of major craft beer pioneers such as northwest Indiana’s 3 Floyds. Maynard relates how, about a decade later, 3 Floyds was the first brewery that provided beer and swag for musicians that he booked at small venues.

Small world.

To read excepts of the interview I conducted with Maynard in the barrel-aging cellar of Haymarket Pub and Brewery, located in Chicago’s West Loop community, please click the following link:

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