Entrepreneur and NAU alumnus Michael Marquess combines brewing and community as CEO of Flagstaff’s Mother Road Brewing Company.
On the wall of the brewpub, behind Michael Marquess, is a guitar. “That belonged to one of our regular guests,” Marquess said. “He liked to strum the guitar, so he brought it in, and when he moved out of town, he left it for all guests to use.”
Marquess, who graduated from NAU in 2001 with a bachelor’s degree in Hotel and Restaurant Management and a minor in Photography, is the founder and CEO of Flagstaff’s Mother Road Brewing Company. Building community is part of Mother Road’s mission, whether it’s housing a guitar, providing a place for people to hang out, or helping NAU students complete their internships. The complete mission is “to brew distinguished beers and build community one pint at a time.”
Since the age of 15, Marquess knew he wanted a career in food and beverage. “With brewing especially, there’s great beauty of taking four ingredients with your own two hands, work with them for a day, and two weeks later, you have a pint of something absolutely divine that you can share with your friends and family. That’s cool,” Marquess said.
Mother Road Brewery opened to the public in 2011 and expanded to a second location on Butler in 2018. While the new site concentrates on production, they experiment with new processes and flavors at the old location. The concept of community continues with Mother Road Brewery’s beers—from the names “Pluto Porter,” a limited-edition brew honoring the discovery of Pluto in Flagstaff at Lowell Observatory, to the sales of “Conserve and Protect Ale,” where a portion of proceeds are donated to Arizona Fish and Game.
One of our four values is “dauntless.” Sometimes you just have to keep going. The crew depends on you to be around, make good decisions, and do what you need to do.
Marquess and his team are governed by Mother Road Brewery’s values: curiosity, puckish, dauntless, radical hospitality. These values help them through challenges. “One of our four values is ‘dauntless,’” he said. “Sometimes you just have to keep going. The crew depends on you to be around, make good decisions, and do what you need to do.”
Paying it forward to NAU students
Even though Marquess jokes he wasn’t the best student at NAU, he remembers his college years fondly. “It was where I learned to be an adult; I guess you could say,” he said. “I remember living in the dorms the first couple of years at Peterson Hall. A group of us formed a friendship, and those guys and gals are still my friends today, 25 years later.”
He has also remained in contact with NAU professors. The brewery is a co-inventor on a patent with Interim Associate Vice President for Research and Biochemistry Associate Professor Andy Koppisch. Marquess works with various professors to bring students in for projects. These professors include The W. A. Franke College of Business Senior Lecturer Emy Tice, from the School of Hotel and Restaurant Management, Associate Professor Wallace Rande, and Senior Lecturer Mark Molinaro. NAU students who work with Marquess are provided a “testing ground” for their ideas. These have included a student from Franke working on cash-flow issues and another designing a restaurant brewpub for a capstone.
As Marquess puts it, helping these students is part of the Mother Road Brewery culture, but it’s also his way of making sure the students get the experience they need.
“One of the hardest things when I was a student was actually getting internship hours or trying to get experience,” he said. “Not a lot of businesses back in the ’90s wanted to take a chance on a punk kid. If someone asks and I have the time, I really try to help any NAU student that comes here asking for anything. It’s a cool thing that we do.”