Christian Layke, the brewer at Gordon Biersch in Rockville, has successfully made a mid-life career change to becoming a excellent professional brewer. A longtime homebrewer since college days, Christian was unhappy with his work life at a nonprofit and longed for brewing full time. He spent a 10-week sabbatical in Belgium brewing with Jean Louis Dits at the Brasserie B Vapeur and nearby breweries. Afterward, he served as a volunteer at the District Chophouse and then in an assistantship with Gordon Biersch, becoming the head brewer in Rockville in 2011.
Christian exudes a passion for his craft and a desire to constantly improve. He is very comfortable with his brewing role, describing it as “An innovative approach to traditional beer styles. Building on brewing traditions based on Gordon Biersch guidelines. It’s a combination of art and science.”
Christian defines success as seeing other people enjoy his creations and making a beer free of flaws, hitting the style specifications. His perfect pint is one which “makes you want to keep drinking.”
Gordon Biersch has historically focused on German beer styles including Helles, Pilsner, Schwartzbier, Märzen and Hefeweizen, in addition to some seasonals. Recent corporate brewing guideline changes now allow for much more flexibility. Christian has recently brewed Rauchbier, Belgian IPA, Chocolate Stout, Witbier, Scottish Ale and White IPA. About half of the nine taps are traditional German lagers, and the other half are his Brewer’s Select beers.
During his tenure at Gordon Biersch, Christian has taken two medals at the Great American Beer Festival and more medals than any other Maryland brewer at the annual Brewer’s Association of Maryland Comptroller’s Cup.
He loves brewing because he is a significant part of the entire process from ordering the raw ingredients to the final product. The work also includes imagining the beers and developing recipes, customer interactions and some marketing events. He is always busy with almost no downtime. If time is available and he is not brewing, Christian gives tours of the brewery.
Golden Export (5 percent alcohol by volume), is a Helles-style lager and one of the two best-selling beers along with the Märzen. It has a moderate malt nose leading into a medium sweet malt front that flows through the middle. The finish adds a light noble hop with all the flavors fading in the late finish and aftertaste of this refreshing and flavorful brew. Ratings: 8.5/8.5.
Rauchbier (5.9 percent ABV), based on a Great American Beer Festival 2014 gold medal winning Gordon Biersch recipe, has the prototypical full-smoke aroma. The deep malt front segues into a middle which adds a lovely hint of bacon. The malt deepens in the finish, and further in the aftertaste, nicely balancing the smoke. This is a very smooth and drinkable rauchbier. Ratings: 8/8.5.
Scottish Ale (6.3 percent ABV) has the profound malt bouquet typically found in this beer style. Very velvety, the Scottish ale has an intense malt front that continues throughout. While not complex, it is for malt lovers and an excellent example of the style. Ratings: 8/8.5.
Czech Pilsner (5.6 percent ABV) has a well-balanced subdued hop and sweet malt nose. The enticing malt front continues in the middle. The finish adds a crisp muted Saaz hop. In the aftertaste, the malt fades as the restrained noble hop lingers. Ratings: 8.5/9.
Chocolate Stout (4.3 percent ABV) has an aroma of chocolate with a note of wine. This creamy stout begins with a modest chocolate and tinge of roast. The chocolate increases in the middle as the roast ebbs slightly. The finish continues the medium chocolate and mild roast joined by a trace of wine. The chocolate continues as the roast increases a modicum in the aftertaste. Ratings: 8.5/9.