Interview with Nick Davidson the Co-Owner of Tin Man Brewing Company

Sometimes the best stories come passed along from friend to friend. That’s exactly how the story of Tin Man Brewing came to us from Evansville, Ind. A great friend recommended a great brewery, with a belief in heritage and some unique methods. We went out and found the Tin Man himself, Nick Davidson, co-owner of Tin Man Brewing Company, and made him share a few secrets.   Sit back and enjoy what he had to say:

BM: How did you get into brewing?

Nick DavidsonND: I’m sure my story is similar to many brewers out there, but it all started with a homebrew kit I received as a Christmas gift around 11 years ago.  It was a small extract brewing kit, but it sparked my interest and I continued to upgrade through the years, buying bigger kettles and better equipment.  It didn’t take long before I ditched the extract kit and started all grain brewing.  It became a passion of mine and I read as many books about brewing as I could get my hands on.

BM: Why did you decide to open Tin Man?

ND: Evansville was always a beer city — we had four breweries operating at one time in the late 1800s.  I grew up on the west side of Evansville, Ind. and remember the days of the old Sterling Brewery on Fulton Ave.  It was a sad day when they raised the 135-year-old brewery in 1998.  Being a home-brewer, I am an avid fan of craft beer and wanted to bring the beer culture back to Evansville.

BM: What makes Tin Man unique?

ND: At Tin Man we don’t shy away from new and innovative brewing techniques.  We are one of the first craft-breweries to utilize a mash filter system.  We are also the third brewery in the world to use a Beer-In-Box system instead of kegs.

BM: What makes Tin Man an Earth-friendly brewery?

ND: The mash filter system we use for brewing, which is ordinarily found only in larger breweries, helps us conserve water and energy.  We produce the same output as other traditional methods with 40 percent less water and 15-20 percent less grain. The Beer-In-Box system replaces our use of kegs. Developed in Germany, this system provides many advantages over traditional keg systems. Beer-in-Box is a one-way container, which means it doesn’t need to be returned to the brewery. This cuts down on pollution that would normally be attributed to a kegs return trip back home. Kegs also have to be washed with some nasty chemicals before they are reused. Beer-in-Box is completely broken down and recycled.

BM: Why did you decide to go with cans over bottles?

ND: Beer doesn’t need sunlight or oxygen, even dark, amber-colored glass allows sunlight to reach beer, causing reactions that can give beer a skunky odor or flavor. The metal cap that seals a glass beer bottle is not airtight, allowing oxygen to permeate the beer. This causes reactions that can create stale, papery or even cheesy flavors. Aluminum cans present a stable, airtight, lightproof container. Also, the approximate cost to produce an aluminum can is 13.5 cents. The approximate cost to produce a glass bottle is as much as 40 cents, which helps us price our product more reasonably. _5D_9185

BM: Which brew do you believe really epitomizes Tin Man?

ND: No one beer epitomizes Tin Man, but we do have different series’ of beer that we feel appeal to different beer lovers.  Our first series is the Converter Series, which includes Circuit Bohemian Pilsner, Rivet Irish Red Ale, 3 Gear Robust Porter, Alloy American IPA and Dry Cell Irish Dry Stout.  These beers were designed to be very sessionable. We wanted people to be able to drink more than one without getting drunk or burning out the pallet with hops. Overlord, Imperial IPA will be the first canned offering in the Precision Series. The Precision Series will include beers that are higher in alcohol and are much hoppier.

BM: How does the Mash Filter alter the flavor of your beer?

ND: In the brewhouse, milled grain is steeped with hot water in a vessel to create what is called a mash. This converts starches in the grain into simple sugars, which the yeast will convert into alcohol. This process is the same for all breweries. Where we differ is the next step, where we separate the liquid, which is now called ‘wort’ from the grain. The mash filter doesn’t alter the flavor at all it just replaces a lauter tun. A lauter tun is the traditional vessel used for separation of the extracted wort.  In a lauter tun the wort and grain are separated by a screen, leaving behind excess water and unclaimed sugar. We instead pump all the wort and grain into our mash filter. The mash filter mechanically squeezes the wort from the spent grain, so we can reclaim almost all of the available sugars. photo 3

BM: I’ve gotten positive comments about your brewpub, what makes it so great?

ND: Taverns in early American history where places to gather and meet, and served a greater purpose than just imbibing alcohol. Civilized towns were few and far between, so taverns sprung up as a combination of meeting hall, trading post, news hub, business center and post office. We wanted our Tasting Room to have that same feel as a historic tavern. The building that Tin Man Brewing Company now inhabits has a rich history of its own. It was constructed in 1869, and was the home to a boarding house with a tavern on the bottom floor. In this tavern, problems were solved, questions were answered and ideas for the future were hatched. We strive to bring the feel of the old tavern to our modern day Tasting Room.

BM: What can consumers expect from you all in the next few years?

ND: The great thing about craft beer is that it’s always changing.  Customers’ pallets change and different styles become popular. Even batch-to-batch beers can be slightly different.  We love and embrace the ever-changing nature of craft beer and will always continue to listen to our customers and what they are into.  Brewers are also ever-changing and we like to try new and unique stuff.  The tasting room is a great place to see what new beers we are working on.  We release small batches of new beers every week and get feedback from our customers in the tasting room.  You’ll definitely see some of those “experiments” become part of our regular line-up.

BM: What are you doing to help consumers throughout the U.S. get their hands on Tin Man beers?

ND: We started self-distributing in Evansville, Ind. and are now branching out past the Evansville market.  We are starting to talk to beer distributors so we can begin to reach our customers that are outside of our area.

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