This week's Brewer of the Week is from Mrs Velkyal's home state of South Carolina, indeed from the city in which we are spending this weekend, attending the wedding of her best friend.
Name: Tom Davis
Brewery: Thomas Creek Brewery, Greenville, SC
How did you get into brewing as a career?
When I discovered beer, I also discovered a lack of higher-quality beers in this region. Having tasted imports and a few other national craft-style beers, I took it upon myself to learn the art of homebrewing. From those beginnings, my career has evolved into commercial brewing over the years, ultimately affording me the opportunity to own and operate my very own microbrewery.
What is the most important characteristic of a brewer?
Probably tenacity! You have to be seriously persistent and driven to make it in this business.
Before being a professional brewer, did you homebrew? If so, how many of your homebrew recipes have you converted to full scale production?
Homebrewing is definitely where I began and I am very proud to have nurtured 5 of my original homebrew recipes over the years and developed them into commercial production. The mainstays that are still around are Appalachian Amber Ale, Dockside Pilsner and Deep Water Dopplebock. A couple of other beers that are out of production at the moment are my Multi-Grain Ale and Hefe Weizen. But hey, they might someday get a reprisal!
If you did homebrew, do you still?
I wish I had time! Several of my employees homebrew and I also run a homebrew shop out of the microbrewery. So, I have lots of exposure and connection to homebrewing to this day, but keeping up with the daily tasks of the brewery tends to occupy most of my time!
What is your favourite beer that you brew?
That’s hard to answer, I love them all! But I would have to say my Deep Water Dopplebock and Pump House Porter tie for that spot. Both those beers are so rich and filled with deep flavor and aroma. It’s hard not to love beers so multifaceted and the Dopple and Porter.
If you have worked in other breweries, which other beer did you enjoy brewing, and why?
The only other brewery I worked in was a brewpub. I founded the brewpub aspect of the bar, so the recipes I developed began as my homebrew recipes. Those same beers have evolved over the years with me at Thomas Creek.
Of the beers you brew, which is your favourite to drink?
I would have to go with the Class Five IPA & the Appalachian Amber Ale. As much as I love my dark beers, you just can’t have as many of those in one sitting as you can a good ole IPA or Amber. I like to put down a few at a time!
How important is authenticity when making a new beer, in terms of flavour, ingredients and method?
Authenticity is extremely important! When I make a beer and put it out into the world with a label on it, it has to be right! Craft brewers are held to strong guidelines set forth by the brewing community. I want to mirror those guidelines as best I can. Every reputable review and opinion of my beer will compare it to those judging guidelines, and trust me when I say I want to be accurate! And on a more theological level, I’m taking cues from centuries of brewers before me; I want to credit those time-honored beer styles and brewers by paying homage to their years of hard work.
If you were to do a collaborative beer, which brewery would you most like to work with and why?
I would probably most like to work with Brian “Spike” Buckowski from Terrapin Beer Co. in Athens, GA. I consider Spike a friend and have a deep respect for him and the work he does. I also think we have similar brewing styles and could put together an amazing collaborative beer or two.
Which beer, other than your own, do you wish you had invented?
I would have to go with Duvel, mainly because it is one of my top favorite beers of all time! It holds true Belgian characteristics and achieves a great level of drinkability all in the same glass.