Brewers Series: Who Makes Your Beer?
Austin Ford is Denton County Brewing‘s newest back-of-house hire, starting as Assistant Brewer just this past April. As far as professional craft brewers go, he is still wet behind the ears but Ford’s sharp culinary skills and eagerness to perfect his craft more than make up for a lack of academic brewing credentials.
The Deets: Hometown is Bristow, Oklahoma. Graduate of culinary school, commercial chef for 6 years with experience in some notable North Texas restaurants, most recently Denton’s Barley & Board. As an amateur homebrewer of a year-and-a-half, it was in Denton that Ford worked as a line/station cook and eventually took the reigns of B&B’s struggling in-house brewing program.
“One Bourbon, One Scotch, One Beer” by John Lee Hooker
What was your (nonprofessional) entry into craft beer? It was a bottle share not that long ago with the then-manager of Barley & Board, a bottle of Avery Brewing‘s Liliko’i Kepolo [a Belgian-style witbier with passionfruit]. Also enjoys bourbon, and has a much wider alcohol taste range than many his age.
What is your brewing philosophy (if you have one)? Craft brewers fall into two schools of thought: Overall, 20% prefer the classic, traditional styles and 80% prefer experimentation with styles and ingredients, sometimes carried to an extreme.
The best way should be a middle path, able to satisfy fluctuating customer tastes while remaining true to your brewing self. It’s the same balance as in cooking, say, a perfect omelette: There is a prescribed recipe and technique for the ideal French omelette yet plenty of room for variation and customization.
What was the best beer you ever made? The worst? The worst beer he ever made was an early homebrew batch, possibly his second brewing attempt, with a traditional scotch ale recipe. He added a handle of Jack Daniel’s post-fermentation and turned it into a hot and undrinkable alcoholic blend.
“Mommas, Don’t Let Your Babies Grow Up to be Cowboys,” Waylon Jennings
The best beer he has made to date was the house ESB while at Barley & Board.
Beer is food. What are your dietary habits (likes, dislikes)? Until recently, it was a typical working chef’s diet of eating out (working with food all day, resist cooking at home). The diet has improved considerably while working more regular hours at Denton County Brewing. He prefers fresher food packed with more flavor, such as pasta or vegetables.
Likes seafood but fed up with the difficulty of getting quality seafood this far inland. Favorite soup is gazpacho; worked at a kitchen’s broth station, so enjoys a good dashi or flavorful broth. Recommends The Brewer’s Table in Austin.
What do you think of the current state of the craft beer industry? Where do you see it going in the near future? The industry is certainly not facing a commercial downturn; it is here to stay, not pessimistic of the industry as a whole. But a quickening is expected, reducing numbers of craft brewers hopefully based on quality.
Over the hazy IPA fad, wishes brewers would focus more on quality beer than commercial novelties. Breweries benefit from diversification, which includes continuing with the traditional styles as well as the experiments.
“Catfish Blues,” Gary Clark, Jr.
What other breweries or brewers do you admire (either the products or the people)? Abe Hernandez at Community Beer Company, Bobby Mullins at Armadillo Ale Works, Seth Morgan [Ford’s boss and Hollywood leading man] at DCBC. Austin’s Jester King and Roughhouse Brewing in San Marcos. The early creativity of Dogfish Head. Admires those breweries that attempt to apply principles of terroir, or are involved in local community development as well as commercial brewing.
What are you obsessed with? An avid outdoorsman, Ford enjoys camping and kayaking. Growing up with his father’s woodworking shop, he is currently building his own river kayak to fulfill a dream trek of kayaking the full length of the Mississippi River from source to sea.
And, of course, cooking: Recommends Ratio: The Simple Codes Behind the Craft of Everyday Cooking by Michael Ruhlman, and On Food and Cooking by Harold McGee.
Austin, welcome to the Wolf Pack. SD