Little Rock's Vantage Points
September 29 - October 5, 2014
Moody Brews, new brew in town
By Becca Bona
By Becca Bona
Choruses of “That’s actually surprisingly good!” fill the air in Maumelle’s Lake Liquor store off I-40. It’s a Thursday evening, and the words come from surprised patrons who have just sampled the first commercial beer to come from the Moody Brews label – Half Seas Over.
Coming in at 8.5 percent alcohol, cautious drinkers were wary of an in-your-face-taste, but brewer Joshia Moody anticipated that way before he got to the bottling stage.
“That was part of the design … IPAs are bitter, but there’s some cool stuff that surrounds that in this,” he explained. The Half Seas Over is loaded with hops, with a citrus kick, that has quite the drinkability factor.
One patron was reminded of a beer from Vino’s, which is not too far off the mark as Moody spent a little over three years working as the head brew master for Little Rock’s beloved brewpub. And while making the switch from brewing thrice or four times weekly within a restaurant to brewing commercially makes sense, the switch from med school to full-time brewing might not be as clear.
Moody, a native of Arkansas since his middle school years, finished a master’s in Biology at UCA before attending medical school at UAMS, and was well on his way to a decided career path. Unfortunately, he hadn’t counted on disliking medical school. “It was a terrible decision for me as an individual … I hated it,” he explained.
Moody then took a position at Colonial Wine & Spirits working to pay rent and trying to calculate his next move. Eventually, he was introduced to the Vino’s crowd and would work his way to brew master.
He’ll tell you, though, his interest in brewing dates before he even saw Vino’s vats. He was into home brewing during his time at UCA, but as he said, “Never gave it much attention, just enjoyed it.”
During his time at UAMS he lived in the Hillcrest area, and as it turns out, one of his neighbors at the time began to show him the facets of home brewing that he’d never thought about.
“[My neighbor] ended up being one of my greatest friends and mentors who really taught me a lot and got me genuinely interested in it. And then what I started to kind of find, ... man I can go as deep into brewing as I want too,” he said. Namely, his interest in biology at the molecular level could be taken to the brew process.
Moody figures that during his time at Vino’s he must have brewed over 300 times, and if anything, “gained a lot of experience.” Towards the end of his tenure he was ready to “get crazy.” He experimented, within reason, one day adding more fruit than he ever had before to a batch.
“I just went to the grocery store and threw all of this fruit to the basket, and I never weighed out anything. And it came out one of the best
beer’s that I’ve ever brewed. … By the end of that, I was ready to do this kind of stuff,” he said, laughing.
Luckily the opportunity presented itself, in the network of distributor/brewer relationships he forged when at Colonial, and likewise, Vino’s. The owner of Choc Brewing based in Krebs, Okla. was looking around for a brewer, as he believed something similar to Krebs’ own Prairie Ale would do well in a Central Arkansas market.
Moody’s name came up, and he jumped at the opportunity, although it put him in a “Gypsy Brewing” situation. He brews out of the facilities that Choc has in Oklahoma, and distributes exclusively to the Central Arkansas market, currently. As Moody felt that he was a small operation, he chose a small distributor for Little Rock, Custom Beverage to help him get the word out. “You could say I was thinking quality over quantity,” he said, as he’s the company’s only beer so far.
For the beer that’s on the market today, Moody said the recipe process, “took about two/dozen or three dozen emails. And some on the fly adjustments during brew day.”
Moody was nervous for the outcome, but as the sampling demonstrated, he need not be. In the past hour of the interview at Lake Liquor nearly every beer drinker has stopped to ask how Moody got his IPA to taste the way it does.
“What I wanted to have happen was really to celebrate the aroma and flavor of the hops rather than the bitterness or malt or the alcohol,” he explains, detailing the ingredients and IBUs, for those keeping up.
The minimal black and white label design on the brown-bottled four pack is eye-catching and Moody laughs when asked about it. “This was kind of last minute,” he began, explaining that a collaboration between he and his grandmother was on the books after he found an inspiring book of Art Deco designs.
In the future, most likely Moody fans will see a new type of brew, as well as plenty of the Season for Half Seas Over.
“I like living in Little Rock, I own a house … I’m here and I like it. I think I have something to contribute to the craft beers. But I want it to be a place people go for Craft beer,” he said. And for that to happen, he said Little Rock needs to get a little crazy.
To keep up with Moody Brews, find his blog-like website: http://moodybrews.wordpress.com/, and find him on Twitter. You can also find him on tap at Vino’s and at The Flying Saucer, as well as bottled in local providers around town.