Hurray for IPAs

Know your brewer: Tyler Barrett of Toxic Brew Company

Photo: Toxic Brew Company was the first brewery in over 50 years to produce beer in Dayton

By Tom Morgan

Tyler Barrett has been a part of the Toxic team for 16 months. He left behind a career as a machinist, and started out at Toxic as a cellarman, learning how to keg beer and clean fermenters in addition to brewing from Patrick Sullivan. As Patrick began pursuing his own ventures as gypsy brewer for Nowhere In Particular, Tyler began filling in at the brewhouse, and the next thing he knew he was the brewer. I sat down with Tyler a couple of weeks ago to learn more about his experiences at Toxic.

How did you get your start as a brewer? 

Tyler Barrett: Pretty much here at Toxic. I had a few unsuccessful homebrewing attempts in my early 20s, but I’ve always been a fan of the craft. I came to know Shane Juhl [one of Toxic’s owners and current Brewmaster] through mutual friends and started joking that I should come work for him as I wasn’t too keen on my current job—I was a machinist ten years prior to coming here. Always interested in brewing, and I never mind trying something new, so one day when he gave me an offer, I was like, fair enough!

What is your favorite style of beer? 

TB: IPAs. IPAs absolutely. I like getting kicked in the teeth by hops. I also love black coffee, so really just anything bitter is right up my alley. I guess have a taste for bitter. My favorite beer at Toxic is probably Cap City Hustler. Safety Third is a close second, though. Both feature what I like in beer: hops and bitter.

What was the craft beer that opened your eyes to craft beer? 

TB: I think it was Flying Dog’s Raging Bitch. When I first had that I was like, “Wow! This is a hell of a lot better than Miller Lite!” I remember drinking that beer when I was like 21 or something, and thinking, “What is this? What are all these flavors I am experiencing? This is something else.” That was pretty much the one that opened me up. Stone’s Arrogant Bastard as well. It was another one that did the same thing to me.

People tend to think of brewing as a glamorous job. How would you describe working in a brewery to them? How is working in a brewery different than you initially thought it would be? 

TB: Well, coming from a machine shop, a very, very grody un-air-conditioned machine shop, I am no stranger to sweating my ass off for a paycheck. And brewing beer is no different. A lot of the process in brewing is waiting, to a certain degree. You may work for 20-30 minutes, you get 20-30 minutes off, and you repeat the process, more or less all day. But you know, when you are trying to bring 250 gallons of liquid to a boil, it gets pretty hot. So it’s not all glamour. You have to earn it. Some of the large commercial breweries, all the brewers do anymore is push buttons. We’re quite a bit more manual here. Shovel it. Lug it around. Stir it. Sweat it out.

What is the best part of working in craft beer? And what is the worst part? 

TB: The best part is attending all the regional events to represent ourselves. Being set up at a table underneath a tent with a dozen to two dozen other breweries, and getting to rub elbows with other brewers and try their product and see how it stacks up against yours. I like that. I like that quite a bit. There’s some good camaraderie there, nobody’s turning it into an unnecessary pissing contest, you know? It’s like, we all brew beer for a living. I like my beer. You too? OK, sounds good. We can all go home happy. Awesome.

The worst part is demand. When you’re fermenting a beer, a lot of that process is up to nature. And sometimes you gotta be patient with it and babysit it and nurture it. Give it the right environment to thrive and hope it all comes to fruition. And street demand is a big thing. It’s a constant learning process, trying to feel out sales requirements, and trying to anticipate seasonal changes. Recognize the seasonal process to fill the gaps in our portfolio, learning to think six weeks ahead of time, and not let anything slip through the cracks. Which unfortunately does happen.

How would you describe the Dayton craft beer scene? 

TB: It’s booming. I love the fact that it is booming. We were the first brewery in the city limits after Prohibition, which is something cool, and there are now 14 different breweries in the area all of a sudden. That’s all just in a handful of years. It’s a really cool scene. It brings a lot of cool people into the area. I’ve met great people here in the taproom that are traveling from out of state, have heard about the Dayton scene, and they are just making a day of it, going the rounds. I love it when they show up here with a little bit of a buzz tied on, and say we’re the best. I love being a part of it. It’s awesome.

How much opportunity have you had to experiment and develop your own recipes? 

TB: I’ve actually had quite a few. We just finished a collaboration beer with Nowhere In Particular, which is Patrick Sullivan, the brewer who was here before me who is my professional mentor in brewing. We did a collaboration that we just canned up for the first time last week, so we’re going to be releasing that tomorrow. It was one of those things that just came together. We decided to do a DIPA with a hazy strain of yeast that is really flavorful and make it a real hop bomb. It’s called Turnt Out, and it comes in about 8.5% ABV. We also canned up Practice Yoga, our session IPA, which is 5.1% ABV and a mix of Amarillo and Citra hops.

I also have an ESB [Extra Special/Strong Bitter] coming out very soon, which we are doing in loose collaboration with the Columbus representative from Tullamore Dew. He wanted a nice beer pairing for his whiskey, and we decided this was the best style for it. I’m really excited for how it is going to turn out. It’s already smelling amazing and tasting amazing, and it is not even carbonated yet, not even done fermenting yet. Wow! I did a bang-up job! I did my homework, and it shows. It paid off. I’m really excited about that one, I’m really eager to bring this style to Dayton. Nobody else brews an ESB.

Toxic Brew Company is located at 431 E 5th Street in Dayton. For more information call 937.985.3618 or visit ToxicBrewCompany.com.

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Tom Morgan
Reach DCP freelance writer Tom Morgan at TomMorgan@DaytonCityPaper.com.

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