By Bobby Bush
Jamie Bartholomaus has been brewing for Olde Hickory Brewery since October, 1998.
Born in Queens, NY, but raised in Delaware and Pennsylvania, Jamie attended the
University of Georgia in Athens, choosing anthropology as his major. His first encounter
with beer, at age 15, was unexciting Busch beer. College provided a better experience.
He found California-brewed Sierra Nevada Pale Ale during his freshman year in Georgia.
Life has been kinder ever since.
Moving from dormitory to apartment for the sophomore semesters, Jamie and his
roommates discovered homebrewing. The local homebrew supply store, owned by John
Gayer, became their hangout. When Gayer later became the brewer for Blind Man
Brewing in 1994 or so, Jamie was there to offer help, especially with the labor-intensive
bottling process. Graduation in June 1996 changed the game a bit. Putting in 30-40 hours
per week as an underpaid employee, Jamie began brewing for Blind Man in early ‘97. Just
a few months later he found a real job digging through historic sites for Southeast
Archeological Services. But beer was pumping steadily through his veins. So when
brewer David Fowlkes, a friend from Athens, left the head brewer slot open at Vista
Brewing in Columbia, SC, Jamie jumped at the chance to re-enter the brewing world,
even though the tiny brewpub’s beer consumption was small as well.
Leaving bones and artifacts behind, Jamie took the summer of 1998 off. He
moved to Bat Cave, near Asheville, and commuted to Columbia to brew a Vista beer each
week. Once, while on a trip to visit his sister in Greensboro, Jamie stopped in for a beer at
Olde Hickory Brewing and happened to meet owners Steven Lyerly and Jason Yates.
Barely two weeks had passed when Doug Riley, brewer at Asheville’s Two Moons (now
known as Asheville Pizza and Brewing) alerted Jamie that Olde Hickory had feelers out
for a brewer. Five interviews later, the slender northerner-turned-Georgia boy landed the
job at the west Hickory brewpub.
In short time, Jamie learned the peculiarities of the OHB seven barrel system and
the taste preferences of his customers. His brewing touch was immediately noticeable as
he tweaked the Olde Hickory extract recipes ever so slightly. A moderately bitter IPA,
Table Rock Pale Ale is the brewery’s best seller. Brown Mountain Light and Piedmont
Ale are easy-drinking beers, designed for beginners and budmillercoors drinkers. Crawdad
Red is malty, revealing only a faint hops flirtation. Big, bold and slightly harsh from black
patent and chocolate malts, Hickory Stick Stout rounds out the brewery’s regular
Well versed as brewpub brewer, Jamie now has the opportunity of brewing those
regular brews at the new Olde Hickory Brewery in all-grain batches at over three times the
volume. The downtown, distributing microbrewery, which acquired the brewpub’s name,
has a 22 barrel brewhouse, six cylindro-conical fermenters, two conditioning tanks, glycol
coolant system, grain mill and plenty of room to grow. A bottling system awaits electrical
work, though the brewery is underway now as a kegs-only operation. And with all this
going on, the bearded, bespectacled brewer is teaching his successor at the brewpub,
August Lightfoot, the finer points of the brewpub’s brewing system.
Jamie has been itching to brew all-grain again. Though it means more work for
him, all-grain “beers will taste different, better,” he states. The energetic brewer is
“focused on making beer.” That is why he’s here. And to prove it, he recently bought a
house and has obvious intentions to stay put for a while.
The immediate game plan looks like this. When Jamie’s not brewing, he’ll be out
selling and delivering, as will co-owner Lyerly. OHB beers will be self-distributed within a
100 mile radius, covering Charlotte, Boone, Asheville, Greensboro and all cities
Though malted barley, hops, yeast and water are essential ingredients, it takes
good people to make good beer. In Jamie Bartholomaus and August Lightfoot, Olde
Hickory has found two bright and sincere individuals. These brewing dynamos not only
work hard, but love good beer. Stop in and let Jamie and August know how much you
appreciate their superb craftsmanship. A toast would be appreciated.
Log-on to http://holisticpage.com/ohb for the latest on Olde Hickory and Amos
(Read about Olde Hickory's other brewer: August Lightfoot).
This article first appeared in Focus, a weekly paper published in Hickory, North Carolina.
© Bobby Bush