Whether you’re starting 2021 with a Dryuary or toasting the New Year until the corrupt aroma of 2020 has beat off, January’s become a time to get anxious about booze — what we love, what we abhorrence and what role it plays in our anew pandemic-stricken amusing lives. It’s additionally the ages when, in 1919, Arkansas ratified the Eighteenth Amendment, establishing prohibition in the accompaniment and ushering in a formalized accord amid booze and government. So, in January 2021, the Arkansas Times raises a bottle to all things boozy with a alternation we’re calling Drink/Drank/Drunk: our city’s abundant affair and mocktails, the history of abnegation in the state, brews to try afore you die, a boozy playlist and more.
The boondocks of Norfork sits at the assemblage of the North Fork and White rivers, aloof south of Mountain Home in Baxter County. It is, as a bounded fly boutique tells it, one of an angler’s best bets in the arena for communicable a “slam,” a case from anniversary of four types of trout we accept actuality in Arkansas — rainbow, brown, beck and cutthroat. It’s additionally now home to Norfork Brewing Co., founded in 2018 by Jason Aamodt, a Tulsa-based advocate from New York accompaniment who specializes in Native American and activity law. You could say Aamodt dabbles in brewing beer as a ancillary venture, but it’s appealing axiomatic afterwards talking with him for a few account that “dabbling”’ isn’t accurate; Aamodt’s degrees in analysis and allure beggarly he’s the array of actuality who can bang off the boilerplate abrasion amount of a accurate aggrandize ache and use the chat “saccharomyces” in a sentence.
Biochemistry bona fides notwithstanding, though, Aamodt’s added absorbed in “just authoritative a acceptable aboveboard beer” that bodies enjoy.
“I’m so annoyed of beers that are aggravating to do a bifold backflip afore they get into your glass,” he said. “The criticism I’ve had of ability beer for a while is that we’re all aloof aggravating to beat ourselves, and we’ve abandoned that what we absolutely charge to do is aloof accomplish absolutely acceptable beer.”
Norfork Brewing, he says, does “some crazy things, too. We bandy in elderberries or mulberries. We do a sumac-based beer. But we absolutely aloof wanna accomplish a acceptable beer that tastes like beer. Doesn’t beer aftertaste good? Isn’t that array of the idea?”
After aggravating an calm “flight” of all four Norfork Brewery cans on the shelves at Colonial Wine & Spirits — the bland Black Oak Stout, the blue Woodsman Pilsner, the amenable EZ Ryder Lager and the citrusy Scurvy Dog Ale — I talked with Aamodt over the buzz about brewing, business and how a affiliate of Southern bedrock accouterments Black Oak Arkansas concluded up as the stout’s namesake and ambassador.
I adulation the Black Oak stout. It’s not, like, a high-commitment stout. You could alcohol it with a burger or a salad, and it doesn’t intrude. I will say I was bent a little off-guard by the pilsner. Was not assured that.
Yeah, it’s not what you apprehend to appear out of a pilsner can, right?
No! I feel like I was added able aback I caked it into a bottle and saw the color, but still.
You know, there are these old rustic pilsners in Germany and Czechoslovakia, like from farmhouses, absolutely rustic. So that’s what we were aggravating to connote, the abstraction of it actuality the Woodsman’s Pilsner — a bequest to what pilsners acclimated to be.
And you congenital the pawpaw in the pilsner, right? From the White River?
Yeah, I formed with a guy alleged JR Kent, bottomward in Mississippi. He’s absolutely started up a cidery and taproom, but he’s a microbiologist, and he and I met at the Southern Brewers Conference several years ago. He’s absolutely absorbed in aggrandize that can be calm from agrarian fruits and acclimated to brew. So we were sitting there accepting a beer in the covering one day and I said, “Have you anytime heard of pawpaws?” And he says “No, what are they?” And I said, “Well, they’ve got ’em all forth the rivers out there.” They’re basically Ozark bananas. They’re fantastic. Additionally accepted as custard apples; they aftertaste like a custardy adaptation of a mix amid mangoes and bananas, depending on the array you get — if you can get to them afore the squirrels do. So beneath his direction, I harvested some of these pawpaw fruits and then, in a antiseptic way, set them out abutting to the Norfork River one night for a few hours to let them aggregate the aggrandize that are ancient to the river system, and they did aloof that. Aback he again took the samples that I beatific him, he begin nine altered abiogenetic strains of saccharomyces, which is the ale brewing yeast. He again took three of those that he anticipation appeared to be the strongest, beatific them to me, and again I brewed a few altered beers with anniversary of them, and again affectionate of acclimatized on one that had a actual aerial abrasion amount — over 80 percent. It was actual quick, a absolutely abundant yeast. And that’s our pawpaw yeast. But it’s additionally why, aback you aftertaste that pilsner beer, it’s like, “Oh, this is affectionate of saison-y, Belgian-y, blue because it’s absolutely a agrarian yeast, and that’s what you get.
So how does a Tulsa-based advocate end up alive with a microbiologist in Mississippi to breed aggrandize for a ability brewery in rural Arkansas?
Lack of acceptable sense, I figure. So what happened was, as a adolescent advocate I was alive at a actual ample Houston-based law firm. My appointment was in Tulsa, and one of our contractors arrive us all to go to the White River. Two of us took them up on it. I grew up in the Northeast, and had been trout fishing aback I was, literally, 5 years old. And I saw this river, and thought, “Wow. This exists? Here? No way.” So I actually kept the block of my car arranged with a covering and a cooler, and I would go over to a abode alleged McClellan’s and go fishing at atomic already a month. That was in 2000, and again in 2009 I bought a abode over there, and again in 2015 I bought this architecture that the brewery’s in. It was absolutely absolute out. I capital to buy the baiter that was for bargain at this auction, but somehow I absent and bought the building.
Yeah. And the windows were gone. The roof had holes in it. It was a absolute mess. So I put it aback calm and my nephew and I were hunting one abatement — Ben Folta’s his name, he’s a classically accomplished chef — and he said, “You know, I’m absolutely annoyed of actuality a chef. I’d kinda like to do article else. And I was, like, “You know, I’ve been kinda cerebration it ability be appealing fun to put a brewery over here.” I’d been brewing beer for years, and you know, we aloof got crazy abundant to do it.
Then aftermost year, appropriate afore the communicable started, my best acquaintance from college, Mitch Krauss, alleged me up and said, “You know, you charge me to run your brewery.” I said, “Mitch, you’re right. I do. But I can’t allow you.” And he said, “Well, you know, I charge a change of scenery.” At the time, he was the sustainability administrator for Burton Snowboards in Vermont. Appealing adult and busy guy. He was the administrator of the sustainability board of the [National Outdoor Apparel Manufacturers Association.] He’d announced all over the apple for the U.N. about sustainability, and is a chemist. And his big complaint was that the places he admired to backpack in the Northeast had become absolutely overrun. We both grew up hiking in the Adirondacks and acclimated to be you could go up there and backpack a aisle and you wouldn’t see anybody. Now it’s like Manhattan in the woods.
And your nephew is accomplishing best of the brewing?
Yes, and we assassin addition guy, Joe Dobson, who does best of the canning and packaging.
Was the canning article you were cerebration of accomplishing anyway? Or was it accelerated by the pandemic?
Yes and yes. So, I’d been affectionate of boring surfing auctions and added bargain places and acrimonious up accessories about at what would be a actual acceptable price, or was aloof absolutely acceptable equipment. … For about a year or so, alive that I was activity to appetite to aggrandize sometime, I’d booty a little banknote and put it aside, get a abundant accord or acquisition absolutely what I was attractive for. And I did the aforementioned affair with the canning line. Like, “OK, I’ll aloof stick this abreast ’til we’re ready.” And again we came into the communicable aftermost spring, and I said, “Guys, it’s time to beverage some beer we can put in cans. What do you appetite to do about that?” So that’s what we did. We took the accessories and brought it online, and we started by self-distributing in our bounded area, and a little bit bottomward your way. So we’re absolutely aloof starting out.
The columnist absolution I got says you use baptize from an Ozark limestone aquifer. That’s in Norfork?
We accept a able-bodied that we draw from that’s alluvial to the White River. But we do article altered with our baptize — we bandage it all with a about-face assimilation membrane, and again for anniversary appearance of beer that we make, we acclimatize the allure of that baptize application things like adhesive and epsom salts and calcium chloride and calcium carbonate and added things to actualize a baptize allure contour that is accurate to the affectionate of beer that we’re making. Like, our lager is like what you ability accede a pilsner to be like — it’s actual light, actual clear. Aback you pop that open, you kinda think, “Oh, this should accept been in the pilsner can.”
I kinda did anticipate that.
Right. So that has a actual ablaze baptize contour — actual little calcium, actual little hardness. Low alkalinity. But on the added hand, with the stout, we accomplish this absolutely adamantine baptize allure application a lot of calcium chloride and a lot of calcium carbonate to accomplish a baptize that’s agnate to what you’d acquisition in Dublin. What I’m appreciative about with our beers is that they don’t aftertaste annihilation like anniversary other.
Right. That’s actual accurate of the four I had.
There’s no affectionate of accumulation acidity amid the four of them. With some breweries, you’ll aces up a beer and go, “Oh, they all kinda aftertaste the same.” One of the affidavit we’re able to do that is because we’re absolutely accurate about accepting a altered baptize allure for anniversary beer.
The absolution additionally says you alleged your stout afterwards the bandage Black Oak Arkansas?
Yeah! So Andy Tanas is the above bassist for Black Oak Arkansas, and for a abundant metal bandage alleged Krokus. And one day he kinda wanders into the brewery and says, “Hey, uh, would you like me to comedy some music?” And we had no abstraction who he was, and we were like, “Sure! Why not? Go ahead. How abundant do you want?” And he starts playing, and he’s incredible. … So we got to be accompany with Andy — not because he’s famous, but because he’s a absolutely air-conditioned guy — and so as we were cerebration about packaging names, we thought, “Well, we charge to account Andy and account the band.”
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