It's a struggle to find new ways to describe the local beer industry -- the "budding craft beer scene" just feels so repetitive and overused at this point. I think it's safe to say it has, indeed, budded. It's beyond "budded." It's blossomed. It's gone through the entire pollination process. Cross-pollination perhaps too. The fruits of the labor have been celebrated time and time again. We like beer. Confirmed.
Deep Ellum Brewing Co. was one of the first in the local wave of new craft brewers (outside of Rahr and Franconia) in this blossoming affair and it has shot out of the gate in the two years since it opened.
"A year ago we were capable of brewing 1,000 barrels a year," explained Tait Lifto with DEBC. "Now we're up to 6,000 barrels a year."
Way back in November of 2011, Jesse Hughey reported on the brewery's launch at The Common Table: "So far, The Common Table is his only confirmed account, but he's working on getting more once the brewery begins distributing early next month."
Now, their beer is on tap at more than 350 restaurants and bars. And starting in July, DEBC beer will be sold at 31 area Krogers.
One of the obvious keys to success for any brewery is hiring a good recipe-maker. Pretty elementary, but sometimes it's the basic things that get lost in the hoopla. Early on DEBC hired Drew Huerter, who had craft beer in his veins -- his mom and dad founded the Kansas City Beer Meisters and the year baby Drew was brought into this world, his dad won a homebrewing national title. Needless to say, Huerter was (and is) a true craftsman of the trade.
But, back in April, Huerter parted ways with DEBC and speculation as to exactly why is probably best left for craft brewing threads. But it might be because at heart Huerter is a small craft brewing guy and DEBC is now four times bigger (at least) than it was when he signed on.
So, after an extensive search for a new brewer that involved a not-so-modest amount of wooing, DEBC has found its new head brewer: Jeremy Hunt.
Hunt found brewing while he was actually looking for God.
"I went to Austria to become a priest," Hunt says. "I left married and a brewer instead."
A graduate of theology school, Hunt is at very least a devout Catholic. In 2002 he hopped over to Austria to finish his studies where he learned that monks brewed beer. Soon he delved into the many regional beers and the affair began.
When he returned home to New Hampshire, he submitted applications to a bevy of breweries. Soon, he landed his first job, cleaning kegs, at Mercury Brewing Co. in Ipswitch, Massachusetts. He then took a brewing job at Red Hook Brewery in New Hampshire, and, most notably, he was the head brewer at Dogfish Head Craft Brewery under the distinguished Sam Calagione, from whom he learned the importance of an inclusive brewery.
"Sam really thought about things differently," Hunt says. "His philosophy for designing recipes was one that involved everyone. The brewery didn't have employees, but rather co-workers. He didn't want to take all the credit for things."
After his time at Dogfish Head, Hunt moved to Bluegrass Brewing Co. in Louisville, Kentucky, where he was the head brewer over their three brewpubs.
He looks forward to the move to Dallas, which hasn't actually happened yet. He's in town this week meeting people and exploring the brewery. He'll head back to Louisville soon to help pack up his family and head south.
As far as beer, Hunt is an advocate of the inclusive approach he learned at Dogfish Head. "I'm open to suggestions from everybody," Hunt says. "I like to riff back and forth. I come up with an idea, throw it out to someone else, they put their spin on it. In the end, we come up with something that is better than the sum of its parts.
"For now, I can't say exactly what that will be though. I've literally only been here two days. But, in general, I like to take old world traditions and put a unique American spin on them. And, God willing, it's a good thing."
One of the most important beers for Hunt is the IPA and that it stays solid, "We have to honor the feat of that recipe. It took 240 batches before they nailed it. We want to just continue setting the bar high for Dallas."
Hunt will have plenty of time to ponder recipes while driving a big truck with his wife and kids in tow halfway across the country. It's a big move for the brewer and his young family, and we can only hope he finds a hoppy new home at the first little big brewery in Deep Ellum.