By Gail Oberst
It would be just like Jack Joyce to show up at his own memorial celebrations and laugh at our gullibility. “So what?” he’d say. “I just wanted you all to rethink the definition of death.”
But maybe this is just wishful thinking from a person who wishes he had not walked on so soon. June 6 patrons, friends and family raised a glass to the man who founded Rogue Ales. Born in Eugene, he died May 27 at the age of 71 in Honolulu, Hawaii. His wife, Joan, his son, Brett, his daughter, Anna Joyce, two grandchildren and his sisters Sandra Nelson and Marilyn Hyncik survive him.
Brett has been managing the business for several years. His daughter is the solicitor general for the State of Oregon.
Joan was raised on Oahu, so the Joyces lived there part-time. “I like it over there. It’s warm,” Jack had said.
Jack Joyce’s influence extended far beyond the boundaries of his breweries and pubs. By 1988 (at age 46) when he started the original Rogue River Brewing Co. in Ashland, he’d already had a notable career as an attorney and a Nike executive. With partners, he expanded his Rogue brewery and pub in 1989 to Newport’s waterfront, finally consolidating headquarters in a boat repair shop on the south side of Yaquina Bay, where all official Rogue beers are brewed. Rogue now has 12 “meeting halls” in Oregon, Washington and California, two farms and a few other properties. Rogue beers can be found nationwide and in several foreign countries.
Stories about Jack have now officially ascended to legend.
But it was his management style – both feared and beloved – that attracted my son to a brief employment with Rogue as he was exploring careers in Oregon’s beer industry.
“He would personally train everyone who came into Rogue, even the bartenders. He would even bring in his old pals from Nike and Adidas to teach us about what real customer service looked like,” Will said. Will helped start up Rogue’s Independence Farm pub in 2011-12, before he developed plans for this publication.
“He was a hard guy to work for, sometimes refusing to let us eat breakfast if we were late for a meeting. But he would always send you a gift on Christmas, and if you were ever in a bad place, he would get you anything you needed to help you recover. One time one of his managers had a death in the family. He took all her shifts so she could take as much time as she needed to help her out,” Will said.
Throughout his life as head Rogue, Jack Joyce attributed his success to John Maier, who has been Rogue’s head brewer for 25 years, insisting that Maier join him as the Grand Marshal leading the Oregon Brewers Festival parade this month in Portland. Maier, it turns out, will lead it without his late boss.
At a celebration of his life in Newport June 6, Rogue staff prepared an eight-minute video, which included many of his revealing “Joyce-isms.” The entire video is on Rogue’s Facebook page. A few of my favorites are listed here:
“I was born ... not on the wrong side of the tracks. I was born on the tracks.”
“I hate rich people, even though I am one.”
“Keep the business people out of product development.”
“We’re Newport-fucking Oregon. Do you want to be part of our adventure?”
“Good things take time; great things do not.”
“If at first you do succeed, try something harder.”
“We prefer to hire the hard-core unemployable.”
“The risk of insult is the price of clarity. Clarity is hard to get used to.”
“Some drink at the fountain of knowledge: others just gargle.”
“You’ll get further by accepting criticism than rejecting it.”
“How did we kick their ass, other than the fact that I’m a genius?”
Stories from the print edition of the Oregon Beer Growler.