If you were to sit down and try to create a recipe for what it takes to become a successful brewer, then you might want to take some notes from Dallas Archer of Upstream Brewing Company. I had the pleasure to spend a couple of hours to get to know Dallas better and see what’s brewing!
I remember the first time I met Dallas. It was during a brewery tour at the 2015 Omaha Beer Week. Dallas was an engaging speaker telling the group about all things brewing and what was going on at Upstream. I thought to myself, “How did such a young guy learn so much about brewing?” This was a story that I wanted to learn more about!
When it comes to learning an industry inside and out, there are several of ways you can go about it. For Dallas, the journey began back in 2007 as he started out as a server at Upstream. At that time, Upstream represented a way for Dallas to pay for some of his college. Little did he know that he would be there 12 years later!
One of the things Upstream likes to do in hiring bartenders is to promote from within. It didn’t take Dallas long to become a bartender. Dallas told me one of the best parts about this job was the in-house training that was provided. An introduction to brewing that included shadowing a brewer on a brew day was a great way to learn about craft beer.
A huge smile lit up the room as Dallas told this part of the story. You could see there was a lot of passion in his journey to becoming a brewer!
I then asked Dallas, “How did you go about learning to brew beer?” Dallas replied, “I learned about the various beer styles through home brewing and going through the Beer Judge Certification Program (BJCP), but most importantly through mentors.
We chatted more about the journey. I had to ask, “Dallas what was your first job inside the brewery?”
Dallas responded with, “My first job was cleaning kegs. I was doing this part-time and if was a great opportunity to get my foot in the brewery door, sort of speak.”
Dallas continued learning about brewing and it was Mike Hall that gave him his first full-time brewing job. It wasn’t long after that, when Dallas became a house brewer and then in 2012, head brewer. Wow head brewer at the age of 25, now that is impressive!
This is great! Now I have to learn more about the beers that Dallas has been brewing.
Upstream Brewing has been a brew pub since 1996. I remember one of my first beers at Upstream and still a favorite is the Dundee Scotch Ale. So being a brew pub primarily and just a small footprint in terms of any distribution, Upstream has the ability to be very creative when it comes to the seasonal beers. Dallas said that the typically do 35 to 40 different seasonal beers a year.
“So, Dallas, what are some of the more current seasonal beers you have enjoyed making?” Dallas replied, “The Afterglow White Stout has been really fun to make. We used the We Don’t Coast Roast coffee from Hardy Coffee. Along with cacao nibs from Cultiva Coffee. Then to round out the flavor, some vanilla bean.”
I can tell you from my own experience that the coffee flavor comes through up front with the chocolate flavor. The finish from the nitrogen tap is creamy and slightly sweet. You nailed this one Dallas!
“There is another beer I have to tell you about also”, said Dallas. “This one was incredibly fun to brew and was very popular. It is the Space Monkey Biermosa. The Space Monkey is a Berliner Weisse style of beer which is a tart wheat. This one has a citrus characteristic that comes from ….. “ I just couldn’t spoil the special ingredient on this one. You will need to try it yourself to see if you can figure it out!
Dallas also said that when they serve their regular Berlineer Weisse beers, it the same way you would get them in Germany. That is with a shot of flavored syrup such as raspberry or woodruff. Upstream actually makes their own syrups which adds to the experience! Dallas has a passion for creating German styles of beer such as the Berlineer Weisse and Munich Helles. Dallas remarked, “German beer styles are very technical styles that require a great attention to details to capture what the style is truly about.”
When visiting Upstream, you will see barrels throughout the restaurant area. Upstream does many different styles of barrel aged beers. Dallas said one of the most challenging styles to make in barrels would be sour beers. This is where science and art come together when blending the different bacteria strains to get the sour flavor you are looking for.
Another big part of Upstream are the Cask Conditioned beers that they brew. Cask Ales or Real Ales as they are called in England were the early standard of kegged beer because you didn’t need a sophisticated tap system to get the beer out, just a hand pump. Cask beers are unfiltered, and no extra carbonation is added to them. The beer is placed in the cask with yeast that is still alive to continue fermenting. Cask ales are using served at a warmer temperature and will typically have a soft, silky mouthfeel.
Dallas has helped to organize the Firkin Good Beer Festival each winter typically in February. Why is it named Firkin, you ask? Other than a cool name, a Firkin is a specific size of cask. It is a 1/4 barrel or 10.8 gallons cask.
The Firkin Good Beer Festival supports local charities. Proceeds from the event last year went to benefit the Food Bank for the Heartland and the Nebraska Craft Brewers Guild. I see Dallas at many charity events representing Upstream. He is also active with the Nebraska Craft Brewers Guild and is on the Nebraska Hop Growers Association Board of Directors.
The recipe for success that Dallas has put together is one of many long, passionate hours learning a trade. The results can be seen sitting in the brewery and restaurant where the smiling faces of everyone are talking about the beer they are having.
Dallas is an advocate for helping to grow both Nebraska craft beer and the local hops industry. The story doesn’t stop with just the beer though. Dallas cares deeply about the community and local charities and is very active supporting both.
The last thing that really stood out in the interview is seeing that Dallas has a great purpose of sharing with everyone what he has learned to carry on the brewing tradition. Spending time at the brewery training other employees is something Dallas enjoys doing and I am sure they enjoy it even more!