By Bobby Bush
Olde Hickory Brewery is celebrating its fifth year in business in grand fashion. The
western North Carolina city’s first and only brewery is growing. Owners Jason Yates and
Steven Lyerly secured the lease on one of downtown Hickory’s oldest structures, a
100-years-old, two-story brick building just west of the Post Office. The OHB team spent
most of 1999 installing brewing equipment, acquired at several auctions, and reworking
the building’s interior. This new operation, which brewed its first official batch on March
4, will take over the company’s Olde Hickory name. Brewer Jamie Bartholomaus (see
accompanying article), former brewer at the original brewpub on Highway 70 West, is in
command of the well-designed, spacious 22 barrel all-grain brewhouse.
Although Jamie took the Olde Hickory name with him, he leaves the friendly
brewpub in the hands of a very capable brewer. August Lightfoot (the name has English
roots) was exposed at an early age to homebrewing by an older friend. August grew up in
Boise, Idaho and like most youngsters, found drinking more fun than brewing. Later,
working in a pizza joint, the likable lad discovered that there was more to life than
budmillercoors, though it wasn’t until a high school era move to Seattle that he stumbled
upon craft brewed beer, the good stuff, by the local likes of brewpubs Big Time, Hales
and Pike’s Place.
When Elysian Brewing Company opened its doors in 1995, August got to know
the brewer and was allowed to hangout, watching and helping as needed, even borrowing
yeast for his own homebrewing projects. He was a regular assistant, but never an
employee of the company.
When the love bug bit in 1998, August followed his wife-to-be, Sandra, back to
her hometown in New Jersey. With no plans for employment in the Garden State, the
brewer-wanna-be quickly fell in with Climax Brewing Company of Roselle Park,
volunteering to help out. Shocked that someone would make an offer to help and then
actually follow through, August eventually became a volunteer brewer and spent 40 hours
each week on the road as a commissioned sales representative. He worked a little for his
father-in-law, as well.
Bernardsville Store Tavern, he learned, was in need of a brewer, so August took
the position in 1999. But the job was not what he had envisioned, so while looking for
other employment, the tall, bearded and eager lad took the short brewing course at Siebel,
the famed brewer training institution in Chicago. Through the school’s job placement
services, August learned of an opening in Hickory at the brewpub soon to be renamed
Amos Howard’s Restaurant & Brewhouse. (The name combines the owners’ middle
With his Siebel diploma, with commercial brewing experience in microbrewery
hotbed Pacific Northwest, and with practical knowledge learned as head brewer in NJ,
August brings a broad perspective of beer and brewing to Hickory. He started at the
brewpub on January 3. Youthful enthusiasm and the desire to please won’t hurt his
chances of success either.
Once the downtown microbrewery has met its start-up goals, the Amos Howard’s
facility’s primary charge will be to brew the seasonal beers for sale in the brewpub and at
the 20-handle Olde Hickory Taproom, the company’s restaurant and full service bar
located in the center of downtown activity.
August is still learning the system, yet many of the beers already exhibit his
personal stamp. His UK-style Mild, flavored with expensive Phoenix noble hops, is a
great, easy-drinking session beer. A flavorful, warm and almost flat Porter is succulent,
hand pumped in naturally carbonated state from a cask. Light and clear, Golden Ale is
perfect for beginner. Look for a Bavarian-esque Hefeweizen and dark, sweet Dunkel up
this Spring. Other than the early days of his homebrewing efforts, this is the first time
August has worked with an extract system. The challenge is one he relishes, though he’s
lobbying for a small mash tun for the cramped brewing area.
Look for subtle changes as August settles in at Amos Howard’s. At seven barrels,
such a small brewhouse will afford flexibility and room for creativity. More seasonal beers
are a definite possibility, as are unusual styles. He’s already revived a discontinued Olde
Hickory brewpub tradition - the tapping of a cask conditioned beer every Friday at 5:00.
You can join August for conversation and beer almost anytime.
(Read about Olde Hickory's other brewer: Jamie Bartholomaus).
This article first appeared in Focus, a weekly paper published in Hickory, North Carolina.
© Bobby Bush