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10 April 2024

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Interviews

Know Your Distillers: Evan Brewer

Meet Evan Brewer: A passionate distiller blending science and culinary arts, driven by a lucky twist of fate, and dedicated to crafting exceptional spirits.

Evan Brewer, a dedicated distiller with a passion for both science and culinary arts, embarked on his journey into the world of spirits following a childhood fascination with fermentation and a stint brewing beer with his father. After venturing into the service industry and later co-founding a catering business, Evan's entry into the distilling world was a stroke of luck, thanks to a former employee who introduced him to TX Whiskey. Now, Evan serves as a key figure at the distillery, overseeing the entire production process from grain to barrel. His dedication to creating exceptional spirits and his ability to answer technical questions for the sales and marketing teams make him a valuable asset in the industry. With a penchant for experimentation and a commitment to sustainability, Evan Brewer represents the future of craft distilling. Get to know more about him in this interview.

Tell us a little about your background and journey into distilling.

From a young age, I’ve had a passion for science and cooking. Then, in 8th grade, I began brewing beer with my dad (living up to the family name, of course). Those things combined led to me becoming a bit of a fermentation geek which hasn’t really subsided since. After high school, I had to enter the job market pretty rapidly and went into the service industry as a server and then bartender. That’s where I got to see, firsthand, the joy and discussion a great drink or meal can bring to an occasion. From there, I opened a catering business with a friend in the industry. I may have distilled a few natural essences during that point in time as well… Getting into the distilling industry was pure luck, though, when one of my former employees from the catering business landed a job at TX Whiskey and invited me to join the crew when a job opening came about. I got on board and hit the ground running – learning as much as I could about every aspect of spirits production. It’s become a passion and obsession since.

Your current role and what does your day look like?

I oversee production from grain to barreling. That means that each day can be completely different from the next! I could be running through data from previous batches, helping to troubleshoot issues with the system, ensuring the correct information is being collected for compliance, or tasting through new-make and maturation samples with our Head Blender, Craig Blair. No matter what, it’s bound to be a fun and/or interesting day.

What inspired you to become a distiller?

As I said before, I’m a fermentation geek through and through. But, what ultimately inspired and continues to motivate me in the industry is being able to create something that brings joy and interest to others. It’s also a perfect combination of hands-on work and science!

What are some of the most important skills for a distiller?

I like to half-joke that, a lot of times, a distiller is just a glorified janitor. It can definitely be a dirty job and being able to balance the hard work, cleanliness, and intrigue is extremely important. Problem-solving and attention to detail are two other skills/attributes that make or break someone wanting to thrive in the profession.

How do you think a distiller can help in driving marketing and sales personally?

Being able to answer the more technical and one-off questions for our sales, marketing, and brand home teams seems to be the biggest help. They get asked some of the craziest questions and it’s a blast to answer them! Presenting and interacting with our consumers during our experimental releases has also been a great driver in engagement. 

Define a good distiller.

Good distillers are the ones who can consistently make good distillates and do so in a safe and efficient manner. Also, being able to step back and look at things objectively – you go through a lot of hard work to get to the point of tasting the product of said work; being able to say, “Well that didn’t turn out right” instead of drinking your own Kool-Aid can be difficult but necessary.

Image Source: Evan Brewer & TX Whiskey

What is the hardest part of a distiller's job?

Patience. No matter how much chemical analysis or data you pull, it takes time to see if your hard work pays off with good whiskey at the end of maturation. That, and working in the Texas heat!

What are the current challenges the spirits industry is facing according to you?

I think being able to differentiate yourself from the multitude of brands on the market is a major challenge.

What skill or topic you are learning currently and why?

We just got a GCMS in our lab and I’m going through the training on how to operate that. It’s exciting to run a sample and see each chemical present that has an impact on flavor and aroma! I’m also always working on my leadership skills, but my awesome distilling team makes it a little too easy for me.

What is your idea of a good life?

One where you’re able to step back for a moment and find joy with the people you get to share it with. Not taking things too seriously or being bogged down by the minutiae of the day-to-day.

Which is your go-to drink and what is the perfect setting you enjoy it in?

My go-to drink is water, but I enjoy a nice cold beer at the end of the workday. On the weekends, I’ll usually go for a whiskey on the rocks with a little extra water added. Even though it might be considered sacrilege, proofing down your spirit can really help in bringing out and separating the flavors and aromas. I usually enjoy outside with some fresh air and a good book.

Your favorite 2-3 distilling or spirits books?

1. The Alcohol Textbook

2. Fundamentals of Distillery Practice

3. The Compleat Distiller

How do you take care of production waste?

Being in Texas there are a lot of cattle around to take care of our stillage. We send that off to a dairy farm in the area. I’ve heard that they do a little dance when our spent grain is added to their food!

How do you create complexity in the fermentation stage?

We’ve been lucky to be able to run 3-5 day fermentations each week on our system. That alone creates some complexity during fermentation due to different temperatures (therefore different congeners produced by the yeast) and late-lactic/organic acid-producing fermentation creating some cool esters. We also make multiple different mash bills that behave differently during fermentation, especially with our proprietary yeast strain named “Brazos”.

What steps do you take to become more sustainable?

Pernod Ricard has a global 2030 Sustainability & Responsibility strategy (“Good Times from a Good Place”) based on the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals. The company, including TX Whiskey, is focused on addressing every part of our business, from grain to glass. Major commitments include: Running on 100% renewable energy by 2025, 100% of our priority agricultural lands following regenerative agricultural practices, 50% reduction of the intensity of our scope 3 carbon emissions by 2030, eliminating all single-use plastic promotional items, becoming water-balanced in all high-risk areas and ensuring responsible drinking campaigns in each of our markets. We also engage with our main corn supplier on regenerative agriculture, minimize waste by selling distillation by-products to local farmers, and have an integrated recycling program and reuse opportunities on site.

What trends do you anticipate in the beverage industry in the coming months? Where do you see the domestic craft distilling scene going? What's next for the industry?

The last few years have shown it is quite hard to anticipate anything in the industry. But, I think there is a growing niche in the one-off or limited releases. Even with our growth, we've been lucky in being able to test out different grains, yeast/fermentations, distilling methods, barrels, or unique blends here and there to see what works with our aging spirits and the Texas environment. If they turn out well, we periodically do a distillery-only release via our "Experimental Series". It's a great way to talk with the people who enjoy our products or are just being introduced to them while also getting feedback on what they'd like to see next.

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International and Domestic Submission deadline is February 22. If you are looking to grow your brand in 2024, looking for product feedback, or looking to get in front of real trade buyers. It's time to enter your brands in the London Competitions. Here's how to enter, costs and benefits.

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