This week's interviewee is the brewer for Devils Backbone. As you are probably aware, I have attended a couple of brew days out at the brewpub, and had a wonderful time on both occasions, so I am particularly pleased to be able to post this interview today. By the way, the chap in the picture of the brewhouse is Aaron, Jason's assistant and another top bloke. For those of you able to get to Devils Backbone on or after February 1, the Morana tmavé we brewed in December will be available, and from what Jason has told me, it promises to be a wonderful beer!
Name: Jason Oliver
Brewery: Devils Backbone Brewing Company
How did you get into brewing as a career?
In 1995 I stumbled across the job title of brewmaster in a career book called "Unique Careers" and it clicked. It was if the clouds parted and the angels were singing. It was perfect. I wouldn't have figured it out by my own. It was fate that led me to that book. What else can a person with a history degree and a minor in philosophy do?
What is the most important characteristic of a brewer?
I think there are many. For me it's a never ending thirst for learning in the subject of beer & brewing. There are so many dynamics in brewing that if you are a good brewer, you are constantly learning. It keeps it fresh and stimulating. If your not striving to learn more, to become a better brewer, it's going to show.
Before being a professional brewer, did you homebrew? If so, how many of your homebrew recipes have you converted to full scale production?
I did homebrew for about a year. I loved it. I haven't scaled any up but if I did it would be this Persimmon Grand Cru I did once. It was a great beer.
If you did homebrew, do you still?
I practically live at work, so does that mean I still homebrew? I don't really have a good set-up for homebrewing anymore so I haven't hombrewed in a long time.
What is your favorite beer that you brew?
There are so many. Usually it's the seasonal ones because I may brew that individual beer only once or twice a year. Variety is the spice of life. Of the year round beers it would be the Gold Leaf lager. It's a simple pure pale lager. Off flavors cannot hide so on a technical level it's a good one.
If you have worked in other breweries, which other beer did you enjoy brewing, and why?
I enjoyed most of them, it might be more interesting telling of the brews that were a bitch like the first time I brewed Winterbock at Gordon Biersch in DC. It was a 15 hour brewday, or the first time I filtered Triple at Virginia Beverage Company in Alexandria. I was learning how to use a DE filter and it was a 14 hour day. That said, both of those beers were great despite being a pain in the ass. I really enjoyed brewing the seasonal / special beers at all breweries I worked at.
Of the beers you brew, which is your favourite to drink?
It changes. The keller pils called Trukker Pils here is a favorite as is the Four Point Pale Ale. I like the Four Point because it is hoppy as hell but only 4% abv. A great complex session beer that you can really throw back. I like the pils because pilsners are probably my favorite type of beer. Pale, crisp, and hoppy. Delicate yet slightly assertive. They are awesome beers.
How important is authenticity when making a new beer, in terms of flavour, ingredients and method?
It is of the most importance to me. I studied history after all. I think the ingredients are as important as the method. I am intrigued by technique as much as I am about recipe.
If you were to do a collaborative beer, which brewery would you most like to work with and why?
I would love to do something with Firestone Walker or Russian River. Both Matt and Vinnie are amazing with hops, and I dig what Russian River has also done with sour beers.
Which beer, other than your own, do you wish you had invented?
Free beer for everyone.