To get to know Founders representative Jon Henderson a little better, we had his friend and Khyber Pass Pub bar manager Rocco Renzetti take him out for a few beers and ask him those deep questions you don’t often see in interviews.
Stop 1: Strangelove’s
Jon: Bring it on.
Rocco: I just want to get it out of the way right now. Can I call you Jon?
Jon: You can call me Jon, Jonathan, Bookie…whatever you like.
Rocco: Jon. So it’s OK that I call you Jon. Why don’t you get the bullshit out of the way first? How did you get started doing all of this?
Jon: Doing what?
Rocco: Being a part of the beer illuminati.
Jon: That’s actually an interesting story. Before I was working in beer, I ran my own photography business. Had a nervous breakdown one day, went to Central America, dropped out of the world and came back and tried to figure out what was next. I had a good, dear friend who worked for distributors and breweries for a long time. I was always interested in what he did and had a passion for great beer. I never really thought I wanted to be in sales, but over the course of a few months of talking to him, I got a job working for Union Beer in NYC, really entry level working off-premise, servicing grocery stores in the Bay Ridge part of Brooklyn. From there, moved on to another distributor doing on-premise sales and really found my way, and came into my own through them. Spent a couple years out in Oregon working for Rogue. Learned a lot about marketing and got to sit at the alter of some great people like Jack Joyce and Jim Cline. Here we are today, flash-forward a couple years, having the time of my life working with Founders.
Rocco: Well, good, you should be. You should be having the time of your life.
Jon: It is and it is that way. I wake up every day and have that self-reflective moment. The hairs on the back of my neck still stand up and [I] say, ‘Oh my God, I love what I do and, God, I love my life.’ I get so much joy day-in and day-out working for them and getting to represent one of the best breweries in the country and be a part of this beer scene.
Rocco: So, do your parents approve of what you do for a living? Like, what does your dad tell his friends you do?
Jon: My dad LOVES what I do.
Rocco: Ok, then what does your mom tell her friends?
Jon: My mother, she tells people what I do. She’s really proud of the fact that I’m professional in something. She disapproves of the drinking aspect. She would prefer I sell copiers for a living. My father, on the other hand, loves the culture of good beer. He’s the man that didn’t drink much growing up. Now, he’s drinking a lot of really great beer. His favorite beer is Morimoto Imperial Pilsner.
Rocco: So, let’s see what I got here. I got a lot of notes. So you grew up in New Jersey. Growing up a Jersey resident is quite an affliction. How have you overcome your handicap and triumphed over adversity?
Jon: That’s kinda like saying, being born on top is adverse to success. I have a saying, I’ve lived in many states in this country and through all of them, I have never gotten rid of my NJ license plates or license. I’m proud of being from New Jersey and I challenge anyone.
Rocco: Well, most people from NJ do.
Jon: I’m from a really interesting part of NJ. I’m from the northern most part of the shore and it’s very a different place than what’s portrayed in the media.
Rocco: Did you ever think about going into politics?
Jon: No, never.
Rocco: Really? Because you bullshit with the best of them. You do it with a smile too.
Jon: My mother always said I should be a lawyer, but I never saw it.
Rocco: I don’t think you should be a lawyer. I have no doubt that you like to argue a little bit but I think politician, at least a congressmen.
Rocco: Yeah? You want to go straight Ted Kennedy?
Jon: I don’t see any other way, Rocco. Or, maybe some of that back-alley Philly bullshit, like neighborhood captain, making things happen.
Rocco: There are a lot of crooked City Council people too, you know what I mean?
Jon: You forget I’m from New Jersey…
Rocco: ….I don’t forget. I just asked the question…
Jon:….we show New Orleans and Chicago what crooked politics look like. The Traveling Wilburys have a great line in one of their songs, ‘Everything is legal in New Jersey, until you get caught.’
Rocco: Wow. I like your Wilburys’ reference. There aren’t a lot Wilbury fans hanging out.
Jon: Well, I’m one of them.
Rocco: Who’s your favorite Wilbury? And, don’t say one of The Beatles because that’s cheap.
Jon: No, no…my favorite Wilbury is, by far, Dylan.
Jon: Or Orbison or Springsteen if you want to do the Jersey thing.
Rocco: Springsteen wasn’t a Wilbury.
Jon: I believe he was.
Rocco: The Wilburys were George Harrison, Tom Petty, Bob Dylan, Jeff Lynne and…
Jon: ….what about Wilburys volume 2 and volume 3?
Rocco: No, I’m not playing this divisions, New Testament nonsense.
Jon: So, Old Testament Wilburys?
Rocco: Right, the only testament.
Jon: I’m not a musician. I know you are.
Rocco: That was one of my questions actually. Do you play an instrument?
Jon: I’ve dabbled with the drums and I can hold a beat, but I’m not a musician. Sometimes you just need to embrace what you’re not.
Rocco: I embrace it every day. Have you been to my job?
Rocco: With the increase in production of gose, do you think it’s affected the salt industry at all?
Rocco: Really? You don’t think that the salt industry is like, ‘Whoa…the spike in gose.’ What is this gose? I mean, that’s a lot more salt in beer than there was before. I mean, that was just on my mind.
Jon: If I had to take a guess, I don’t think that they’d be using everyday, American table salt, iodized Morton.
Rocco: What about the kosher sea salt?
Jon: Maybe Diamond Crystal Kosher Sea Salt has taken a hit.
Rocco: I don’t think that they’re taking a hit.
Jon: Yeah, but it is increased production. Maybe they can meet the demand. Maybe they can’t.
Rocco: I don’t know. It is a lot of gose.
Rocco: Do you think that when we drink together, it gets on peoples nerves?
Jon: I really haven’t taken a poll.
Rocco: I haven’t said, ‘Do you know?’ I said, “Do you think?’
Jon: I don’t care.
Rocco: I didn’t say, ‘What do you care about?’
Jon: Why would they? You’re lovable. I’m lovable.
Rocco: Right, but we can get pretty cantankerous. I would say gregarious.
Jon: One man’s gregarious is another man’s cantankerous, but I don’t want to drink with that man. I want to drink with you, Rocco.
Rocco: Oh Jonny, you’re making me blush.
Rocco: Do you like drinking plain seltzer water?
Jon: I need my seltzer water with lime.
Rocco: So you don’t like just regular club soda or seltzer water?
Jon: Well, I don’t like club soda because it has salt in it.
Rocco: Right, it’s a little different. I get it.
Jon: Have we talked about my affinity for seltzer before?
Jon: I am a massive seltzer fan. I love seltzer and I can drink it plain, but if I have the option for it, I prefer it with lime. However, you will find me a man that does not complain. I do love bubbly water.
Rocco: See, now, I never liked it my whole life, unless there was cranberry juice in it. I was thinking the other day, why am I one of the only grownups I know that doesn’t like just plain seltzer water?
Jon: Can you drink plain water?
Rocco: Yes! I love water. Plain, fucking water.
Jon: I can drink three glasses of plain water a day.
Rocco: I can drink three gallons a day. I love water.
Jon: At some point I reach a terminus with how much still water I can put in my body.
Rocco: Do you drink coffee?
Jon: I don’t drink coffee.
Rocco: That was my next question. Same thing with me, I drink coffee, but not a lot. I drink more tea than coffee.
Jon: I’m hyper enough. Coffee sends me over the edge.
Rocco: Recently, I have a cup of coffee a day. I have one. I put a little tiny bit of cream in there and a little tiny bit of sugar. Everybody’s like, ‘How do you take your coffee?’ I say a little bit of cream and sugar and they’re like, ‘really?’ I always wondered if it’s like a grownup thing that you drink black coffee.
Jon: I don’t think it’s a grownup thing. I think it’s a personal preference thing.
Rocco: Alright, I think it is but…I really like seltzer water with some fruit in it, but I know a lot of people who love plain seltzer water and I never liked it.
Jon: I could drink it warm.
Rocco: I like warm beer.
Stop 2: Pub on Passyunk East
Rocco: Have you ever been satisfied with just salad?
Rocco: You have? Interesting.
Jon: It’s a new thing in my life.
Rocco: You clogged artery mother-f’er, how have you ever been satisfied with salad?
Jon: So, I’m going to give you the short version of a long story…
Rocco: It’s a short question, so I want a short answer. I’ll find out your life story other ways.
Jon: I spent seven years as a vegetarian, but then I realized that being a vegetarian was the definition of messing it up…
Rocco: …you’re lowering yourself down the food chain.
Jon: Well, it’s not even lowering yourself down the food chain, it’s things like bacon and things like cheesesteaks. Well, eff cheesesteaks; I never really liked cheesesteaks. A bone-in 16oz. rib eye with bone marrow butter is f’ing delicious and I’d rather live a life and eat that, than not live at all.
Rocco: You say that, but you ask me to stop smoking.
Jon: I do. Let’s talk about eating steak.
Rocco: No, let’s talk about eating salad.
Jon: I’ve been satisfied with a salad.
Rocco: Completely satisfied? You were hungry; you ate a salad and you were satiated and satisfied?
Jon: I spent so many years not being satisfied by just vegetables.
Rocco: So, the answer is no, you have never been satisfied by just salad.
Jon: Flash-forward, the pendulum swings the other way. I do nothing for seven years but eat piles and piles of meat. BBQ and beer has been my diet. I recently find out that I had to make some dietary changes because I have high cholesterol. Most of the days of the week, I eat a very healthy, low-meat diet with tons of vegetables, tons of fruit, and tons of fiber. Two days out of the week I eat whatever I want. Epic battle of carnivore…
Rocco: …but don’t you think that that’s binge and purge? Isn’t that worse?
Jon: It isn’t worse, because I think it’s moderation.
Rocco: There is no way that binge and purge is moderation.
John: No, no, no, it isn’t binge and purge because I ate a lot of it seven days a week before and now I only eat a lot of it two days a week.
Rocco: You’re being semantic.
Jon: It’s not semantic, when I ate a cheeseburger for lunch and then went to Fette Sau for BBQ for dinner maybe 3 days a week.
Rocco: What are you listening to these days?
Jon: The album that I am most enamored with as of late, is an album by a man by the name of JD McPherson. A guy from Oklahoma, grew up on a ranch…
Rocco: ….is one of those acoustic guitar stoppers?
Jon: He’s not. I’d call him pure rock n’ roll. Pure Rock ‘n Roll to the point where I’m talking Elvis…
Rocco… Chuck Berry.
Jon: Chuck Berry, yes! So, a girl I hung out with for a second, she introduced me to this album and I was blown away. I’m always on the lookout for new music, but I don’t pay as much attention to music as I used to. When something new comes along that really wows me, I’m all about it.
Rocco: But you listen to a lot of music.
Jon: I do. I listen to a lot of music. I am a huge fan of music, but regardless, this has been the album that I’ve been rolling around playing for people. We can listen to it later. I’ve been listening to this album for about 2 months.
Rocco: What’s your favorite band of all time?
Jon: It’s the Rolling Stones.
Rocco: I love the Rolling Stones. I like when they went country, especially.
Jon: My favorite song in the whole world that would be played at my funeral is Dead Flowers.
Rocco: Do you see yourself as a salesman, but like Willy Loman?
Jon: Like, do I go home and tear at my clothes and feel conflicted about my life and what I do and the choices that I made? I never wanted to be in sales. People tell me I’m a good salesman, but I’ve never seen myself as one.
Rocco: Willy Loman!
Jon: It’s interesting because the perception of sales is that you’re wearing a yellow shirt with a brown tie. You’re out there being a shill.
Rocco: Ahh, shill! Look at you. What an f’ing mince you are for not being a part of the chive.
Jon: Thank you. Thank you. It’s not that anymore. It’s relationship and I was blessed with the skill of I love people. It’s not a skill, I just love people.
Rocco: Do you really love people?
Jon: I do!
Rocco: Do you love people or do you love the people?
Jon: I love individual people and then I love the people.
Rocco: But you don’t like being in a big crowd of people?
Jon: No, admittedly I don’t love being in a big crowd of people.
Rocco: Well, that’s people.
Jon: Right, but I like people on a one-to-one basis and I love making….
Rocco: I’m getting hard-hitting right now. I’m like Hugh-fucking-Downs right now.
Jon: Hey, that’s hard.
Rocco: You want me to be like Bernard Shaw? I’ll get the hard-hitting questions.
Jon: You struck me more as a…
Rocco:…you say Bryant Gumbel, I’m gonna fucking take you down to the ground. I swear to God. You’re gonna be on the floor of the P.O.P.E in minutes. Seconds, actually.
Jon: Oh my Lord, where have we gone? Down the rabbit hole, sir.
Rocco: I felt like you were gonna call me Bryant Gumbel.
Jon: No, no, no, I was gonna call you Barbara Walters.
Rocco: Oh God, you know what? I’m easy to beat up but I’m hard to kill, dude.
Jon: Like Barbara Walters.
Rocco: Yeah! Babs!
Jon: Remember later when you tell me that I’m not answering any of your questions that you cut me off half-way through the answer of all of them.
Rocco: Look man, this is a give-and-take. I give you enough time to explain things and then I take it away when you take too long.
Jon: You take everything away. You’re like my dad when I was growing up.
Rocco: Aren’t you glad the World Cup is over?
Jon: No, I’m not.
Rocco: You like soccer?
Jon: I’m a massive soccer fan.
Rocco: It’s stupid.
Jon: How? Prove it’s stupid.
Rocco: No sports game can end in a tie and um, if it ends in a tie, I just watched 22 men exercise for 90 minutes.
Jon: OK. Well that’s a very….
Rocco:…just say it. Obtuse way of looking at it.
Jon: You used a better word than I was going to. I was going to say that your criticism of soccer is very, very apt for our culture as it exists.
Rocco: That’s because soccer is stupid.
Jon: Is soccer more or less stupid than baseball or football?
Rocco: Than baseball, yes. It’s stupider than football. Baseball is the hardest sport. Hit a round ball with a round bat? That’s hard.
Jon: Bending a soccer ball from 40 yards away like Luis Suárez….
Rocco: …ties. Games end in ties
Jon: Games end in ties.
Rocco: No, they can’t!
Jon: No one ever said it was supposed to be fair, Rocco. That is not a promise we were made.
Rocco: Do you think that Philly Beer Week should be like the World Cup? There should be a winner?
Jon: It’s not about that.
Rocco; Right, it’s more about ties, like regular soccer.
Jon: How are you equating the two?
Rocco: I want brewers to get into an all-out brawl. I’m tired of this making peace with everybody. Can’t there be a Thunderdome?
Jon: So you want brewers to fight?
Rocco: I want a Thunderdome. Somebody’s gotta win, right?
Rocco: Do you feel like Shark Week has lost some of its luster?
Jon: I think Shark Week is back with a vengeance.
Rocco: Do you?
Rocco: You feel like it’s really tight this year?
Jon: Yes, Shark Week is back.
Rocco: Why? Do you feel like there are more sharks?
Jon: There’s tons of sharks!
Rocco: But, you feel like it’s more? Why would Shark Week be back? Every year it comes around. It’s like Christmas or Hanukkah, but why this year? Why would it be back with a vengeance? I feel like it’s lost a little bit of its luster. I feel like they’re not as afraid anymore. (Long silence) You’re a surfer.
Rocco: Well, it’s funny because you’re a surfer in Jersey.
Jon: What’s wrong with that? There are waves in Jersey.
Rocco: (Makes some untranslatable noise) Nothing. There’s nothing wrong with that. (Another moment of silence) But, sharks. You guys don’t encounter a lot of sharks.
Jon: Until you do.
Rocco: What’d you do? Did you kick him?
Jon: I never fought a shark.