Rogue of the month: Jack Joyce
If you have ethics and integrity, you don’t need someone to tell you the right thing to do. ‘You can’t be controlled by what somebody else thinks of you.’
ROGUE MEISTER Rogue Ales founder Jack Joyce is a businessman of the first order, I noted. No nonsense. Gets right to it.
DRINK UP Jack takes a hit off his tea, mentions jail time he served as a boy….
Father of a Rogue Nation
Story and photos by Stacey Warde
After our first year of publishing The Rogue Voice, friend and supporter Scott Meigs brought over a fat bottle of beer, labeled appropriately enough, “Rogue Ale.”
Time to celebrate. And we did. “Goddamn that’s good beer,” I said after my first taste.
A light flashed, and thus began a series of calls to the nation’s largest microbrewery located in Oregon.
“I’d like to speak to Mr. Jack Joyce,” owner and head honcho, I told the woman answering the phone.
“He’s not available right now. Can you call back?”
Finally, after several calls and emails over the next few days, Jack Joyce answered the phone. “I’m in the middle of a meeting right now, call me back in the morning.” He hung up.
Busy guy, I thought, as I put down the receiver and marked my calendar to call the owner of Rogue Ales once more the next day.
“What do you want?” he asked after I introduced myself. Man, this guy’s direct and blunt, isn’t he? Businessman of the first order, I noted. No nonsense. Gets right to it.
“Well,” I struggled, looking for the right words, “I edit a magazine I think you’d enjoy and may even want to support….”
You mean, advertise? he challenged. “I’ve got my own publication. We don’t need to advertise. Why should I advertise with you?”
“Let me send you copies of our magazine, if you like them, we’ll talk, OK?”
“Do it,” he answered.
Gruff, to the point and open to dialog, Mr. Jack Joyce, a former executive and attorney with Nike, opened the door to what would soon become a symbiotic relationship between an established rogue enterprise and an upstart rag from Central California with nothing to recommend itself but its own surly roguishness.
In our next conversation, Jack warmed to the subject. “I love your paper,” he said. Soon publisher Dell Franklin was on a plane to meet the man and swill a few of his fine microbrews. When Dell returned, he said: “You’ve gotta go up there. It’s great. Portland’s great. The pub is great….”
And Dell had an agreement, made over beer and a handshake, with Jack to feature the only advertising Rogue Ales places in a print publication.
When associate editor Amber Hudson and I arrived at the Flanders Street pub in Portland’s booming Pearl District last September, Jack sat in casual dress at a tall table by the window with some suits, doing business. He nodded a welcome and kept to the business at hand.
Hungry, and just off the plane, we found a table in the dining area, ordered beer and chili. Moments later, a slight man with formidable bearing and graying beard and steady eyes—and an uncanny resemblance to one of my uncles—stood before us and presented a closed fist in a kiss-the-knuckles greeting.
“Glad to meet you,” he said. “I’ve got some other business to take care of. Let’s get together tomorrow afternoon. Enjoy your meal.” And he was gone.
Our first day in Portland, the mercury rises to 93 degrees, good drinking weather, and we spend most of our time in the cool refuge of the Flanders Street pub, sampling a variety of delicious, refreshing Rogue beers, going on a tour of the distillery where rum and spruce gin are handcrafted and served. We belly up to the bar, bullshit with the locals, make ourselves at home. The atmosphere is friendly, welcoming, a beer drinker’s paradise with plenty of good eating.
When we meet Jack the next day, the sun continues to beat down on Portland’s sweltering streets. We sit at a table outside the pub, cooling ourselves with beer under the shade of a tree. Jack drinks iced tea.
“I don’t like to drink beer before I go the gym,” he says, lighting up a cigarette. (“It’s funny isn’t it?” one of his employees said later. “He works out religiously and smokes.”)
We ask him when he first realized that he was a rogue, someone who, as contributor Steve Bird likes to say, “has the balls to step out and do what he thinks is right,” regardless of what anyone else thinks.
“My dad worked for Southern Pacific Railroad,” Jack starts. “We lived in the compounds owned by the railroad. The local townsfolk wouldn’t rent to railroad workers. I realized then that if people didn’t like me, I couldn’t worry about it. I never could be controlled by what anybody else thinks.”
“How old were you when you realized this?”
“I was about 4 or 5 years old.”
He takes a hit off his tea, mentions jail time he served as a boy for laying into a bully with a rake. He learned from his father afterwards that he’d “attract more bees with honey. My dad always set the guidelines, by his example, just from the way he was—never made a big deal out of it—for integrity and for what was right.” Now, Jack says, “I talk straight to people, regardless, no matter who they are.”
Then, as a young attorney, he went to the slammer for refusing to represent a man he knew was guilty of rape. “I wasn’t going to represent a person like that,” he says. “I spent three days in jail because of it.”
If you have ethics and integrity, you don’t need someone to tell you the right thing to do, he says. “You can’t be controlled by what somebody else thinks of you.”
And that’s the way he runs his business.
“We do everything counterintuitive,” he says. “If the brewing world does 12-ounce bottles, we do 20-ounce bottles, or jugs. We do it our way. You can’t worry about what other people are going to say. If you have a quality product, and if you’re guided by your own personal ethics and integrity, it doesn’t matter what the herd says.”
Equally important, he adds, especially for rogues, is that “you’ve gotta have a good sense of humor. You’ve got to be able to laugh at yourself.”
He never had a boss until he started working with Nike as an attorney. Consequently, things didn’t always go well with his immediate supervisor, who did things by the book.
“I probably got fired two times a year” in the six years he worked for Nike, he says. Each time, he says, “My wife and I’d go to Hawaii for vacation until the owner, Phil Knight, would call and ask, ‘Hey, Jack, what’re you doing?”
He’d return to his job, where his peers showed their admiration. “They thought I was being courageous, but it’s probably just that I didn’t know any better.”
Phil Knight, in fact, played a big role in shaping Jack’s views as a businessman. “He didn’t look at the world the way other people looked at it,” Jack says. “He wasn’t putting all his money into advertising, at least while I worked with him, but into putting shoes on people’s feet.”
Additionally, Knight backed disgraced Olympic ice skater Tanya Harding when the world had other ideas about her attempt to terrorize another competitor. “He wasn’t influenced by what other people were saying.”
Another influence, Jack notes, was Norm Kobin, the first lawyer he worked for as an attorney. He had his own style and way of doing things, Jack says. “He had a cigar in his mouth at all times. It was never lit, he never smoked it, he just chewed it while he was in court and he wasn’t too dignified about it either. He’d drool all over it and chew it down. But you could never underestimate him because in court he was always prepared….”
A waitress comes to the table. “Hot, isn’t it?” I say.
“I don’t mind. I like being outside. Can I get you some more beer?”
“Sure,” I say.
“Jack, more tea?”
He’s OK, he says, tipping his glass. The waitress turns inside to get our beer. “You know what a ‘mensch’ is?” he asks.
“Funny, you should ask. We just ran a story about another attorney, Ilan Funke-Bilu, a Jew and a rogue who isn’t afraid to stand alone, or go against the tide. We subtitled the piece, ‘A mensch among men.’ A mensch is a regular guy.”
“A mensch,” Jack intones, “is a stand up guy who can be trusted. He does what he says he’s going to do. He’s not afraid to say or do what he thinks is right.”
We toast the mensch and the rogue who goes his own way.
PARTY GIRL Associate editor Amber Hudson accompanied editor Stacey Warde to the Flanders Street pub in Portland’s booming Pearl District last September to sample Rogue Ales and Spirits.§
Stacey Warde is editor of The Rogue Voice. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
To find out more about the fine beers and spirits from the brewers and distillers at Rogue, and to learn how to become part of Rogue Nation, visit the website: www.rogueales.com.
Meet some of our previously featured "rogues" here: