Pick Six: James Dugan & Andy Miller

Which beers stoked James Dugan and Andy Miller passion for brewing? The mad geniuses of Great Notion Brewing in Portland, Oregon like a mix of craft classics and cutting-edge favorites for their Pick Six.

James Dugan & Andy Miller May 14, 2019 - 9 min read

Pick Six: James Dugan & Andy Miller Primary Image

If you’ve ever tasted a hazy IPA, flavored stout, or fruited sour beer from Great Notion Brewing, you know they don’t mess around. The flavors are vivid, clearly defined, and imminently satisfying. There is no halfway with their beers—they go all-in, and yet they do so with a deft hand, finding balance despite the intensity.

Brewers James Dugan and Andy Miller cofounded the business with partner (and neighbor) Paul Reiter in 2016, and set out to make beers they couldn’t readily find locally—the kinds of beers that inspired their homebrewing. Juicy, hazy, fruity, sweet, and culinary-inspired beers have become their hallmark, and their beers have made a mark not just in their corner of Oregon, but on the national beer scene as well (their Mandela IPA was one of Craft Beer & Brewing Magazine®’s highest rated IPAs of 2017). Dugan and Miller come from different backgrounds, but share a common vision and culinary-inspired language that they apply to their brewing. For this rendition of Pick Six, they split a six pack between them, sharing anecdotes and personal histories that make the beers within meaningful and impactful to their brewing lives.

Trillium Brewing Artaic (now named Cutting Tiles)

(Boston and Canton, Massachusetts)
In 2012, a friend brought over a bottle of Artaic double IPA from Trillium Brewing that helped change how I thought about IPAs. It was brewed exclusively with Mosaic hops, which at time was known as HBC 369 before (thanks to Jason Perrault at Select Botanicals) it became Mosaic—a hop we all know and love. Artaic was brewed with Pilsner malt, white wheat, Mosaic hops, and wildflower honey, and it spurred a serious question in my mind—how could a beer be so simple, yet so complex? Artaic made me realize that my home brew recipes were overly complicated; it really changed my approach to brewing, and directly inspired the first batch of Juice Box DIPA. —James Dugan

Russian River Pliny the Elder

(Windsor, California)
Pliny brings back so many good memories. Over a decade ago I stumbled upon it at the Oregon Brewer’s Festival having no idea what I was getting myself into, and explicitly recollect being blown away by this elixir of hops—the memory is so strong I can almost still taste them. It really opened my mind as to what was possible with my growing passion for homebrewing. Right around the same time, I had built my first all grain system and ordered a bunch of stainless parts from an online retailer. In the box they had an advertisement for The Brewing Network. Beer Radio? I really didn’t understand how beer radio could possibly be entertaining, but here I am 13 years later still listening.


Anyway, Vinnie shared his recipe on one of the shows and I, along with probably every other homebrewer in the world brewing at the time, attempted to recreate this game changing beer. 10 years later I met Vinnie at a beer festival brewer’s dinner and confirmed that he is one of the most humble, wonderful people in the industry. While the beer still stands on its own after all these years as a leading example of what’s possible, it’s the pioneering spirit behind it and the positive memories of the brewer who selflessly shared the recipe that keep it so meaningful. —Andy Miller

Sante Adairius Rustic Ales Saison Bernice

(Capitola, California)
I lived in the bay area before moving up to Portland, and one day found myself at Toronado on Haight Street. The bartender poured me a glass of Saison Bernice, and I was blown away by the beer sitting in front of me. I remember sipping it slowly, appreciating every nuance, and it changed my idea about what a saison could be. The beauty of Saison Bernice is in its balance—there’s the funky Brett, a bright acidity, and a classic farmhouse yeast character, all in one glass of dry and refreshing beer! It still inspires me today, as I try to achieve that level of balance in our mix culture beers. —James Dugan

Sierra Nevada Pale Ale

(Chico, California)
Sierra Nevada Pale Ale still tastes exactly like it did the first time I had it, and brings back fond memories of college and my first experience with craft beer. A friend took me on tour with Phish one summer and we stocked up on beer in San Diego then traveled up the coast slinging beers in the parking lot to pay for our beer and concert tickets. We drank and sold a lot of Pale Ale that summer. I grew up in Alabama where craft beer was harder to come by, so it was a bit of a revelation at the time. On that same trip, we stopped through at a brewery in Breckenridge, Colorado, that had a map of the United States on the wall. The entire Southeast was grayed out and said “Southern Beer Wasteland.” After trying all these amazing beers out West, that map really pissed me off, and was one of the reasons I started homebrewing—to make beers of the same high quality we drank on that trip.

Thankfully, the beer scene in Alabama has grown and improved immensely, thanks in part to the hard work of legal advocates who finally pushed the legislature to legalize homebrewing. Today, my home state is not only not a wasteland, but is producing very good beer.

Still, it was that experience slinging Pale Ale in the parking lot that helped open my eyes to all that’s possible with craft beer. —Andy Miller

Bottle Logic Fundamental Observation

(Anaheim, California)
I had the chance to sample this beer for the first time at a bottle share around the time Great Notion opened, and while I’d had my share of imperial stouts over the years, this one really surprised me with its intensity of flavor. Since that time I’ve gotten to know the Bottle Logic guys and realize just how crazy they really are, so the beer makes even more sense. They use an insane amount of vanilla beans in each bourbon barrel, and after some aging the beer takes on a really cool toasted marshmallow-like flavor. For the high ABV, it has a softness and drinkability that is enticing, but dangerous. For me, this beer sets the standard for barrel-aged imperial stouts. —James Dugan

Jolly Pumpkin Bam Bière

(Dexter, Michigan)
Like others, Jolly Pumpkin was one of my first trips into sour territory. I found the beer confusing at first as it confounded any expectations I had, but after the first few sips it grew on me, and I realized just how much complexity they packed into a very small beer. I’ve always been a sucker for table beers—hoppy, spicy, tart, and refreshing—and Bam Bière delivers on all fronts.

As a homebrewer at the time, I initially bought this bottle to add to a saison project I was working on. I drank the beer then dumped the dregs into a carboy which became my first sour project. If I remember correctly, the culture was really aggressive and the beer turned out incredibly sour, but it set me on a path I’m still exploring to this day.— Andy Miller