By Bobby Bush
Mike Duffy is an admitted beer nut. In his profession, that's almost a requirement. Mike is the brewer for Green Man Brewing Company, the one-man brewery that makes beer for Jack of the Wood, a quaint Asheville bar, restaurant and live music venue. (See www.jackofthewoods.com). [authors note: Mike Duffy depart Green Man for a job with Highland Brewing in January 2003].
While Duffy came across his love for beer innocently enough, his professional path has taken a more dedicated course. With only brief homebrewing experience under his belt, the brewing-curious lad became a volunteer assistant for Ipswich Brewing in 1996. By his second year at the Glouchester, Massachusetts brewery, Duffy was thrust into the head brewers slot, where he remained until the company's financial trouble forced his departure.
Still in love with the craft of brewing, Mike accepted a brewers job with regional micro Harpoon. During his one year tenure in Boston, Mike became disenfranchised. He unfortunately learned that productivity demands at the large brewery took precedent over craftsmanship. "It was too much, too big," he exclaimed. His hands-on brewing tutorial had all but ceased.
Rather than jump into another dead end position, Mike reassessed his history and his goals, choosing an advanced brewing education at the University of Sunderland, a renown English brewing academy. During the five month program, he worked at six different English and Irish breweries, often using equipment that was over 200 years old. This experience included open fermenters, ancient brewing techniques, even lager brewing. As an Associate Member of the Institute of Brewers, Mike was ready to start brewing his own beer. He wanted to be a head brewer again.
He found Green Man's want-ad on a professional brewers' website. After speaking with the owners by phone, graduate Duffy flew directly from London to Asheville, where he's been ever since. Working in a somewhat cramped seven-barrel brewhouse, Mike took little time to establish his beers. He also substantially improved the brewing equipment, replacing the old mash tun and adding several tanks to the walk-in cooler. Two new conditioning tanks, which will keep four beers on tap at all times, remain from his original wish list. Green Man cask conditioned beers are also new for Jack of the Wood. Mike dry hops and primes two firkins each week for the busy bar's hand pump.
Not a strict traditionalist in spite of his UK training, Mike likes to keep things simple. With one exception, his beers are adorned with plain names. He rotates eight recipes throughout the year, throwing in an occasional seasonal selection. Personally Mike likes to drink Porters and Stouts, but for his Asheville crowd he keeps a variety of styles available.
Green Man Pale Ale is medium bodied, light amber in hue. It sports 5% abv and a maltier finish than the lighter but hoppier Light English Ale. ESB, made smoother from cask conditioning, provides a pleasing balance of malt sweetness and mid-taste hop floral flavor, without being overpowered by obvious bitterness. Done English in style, Brown is rich in its maltness, while Green Man Porter revels in malted barley complexity with flashes of roasted barley and bittersweet coffee tastes, all supported by a smooth, almost milky mouthfeel. foundation. The House Stout is a dry stout: black, rich and full bodied. Named for the Celtic Goddess of Fertility, seasonal Anu is a full-bodied, malty, high alcohol brew. Other Duffy recipes include IPA, Mild and Pumpkin Ale (planned for Fall 2002). He's contemplating a Bavarian Wheat and a Strong Winter Wheat as well. Assisted by a few volunteers, Mike brewed 700 barrels in 2001. Those two new wished-for tanks will bring capacity up to 900 barrels.
But does Mike miss New England? He'd rather be drinking beer in Edinburgh. Honestly, he's enjoying Southern living, especially the mountains and the weather. Mike wears shorts to work almost every day. You can't do that in Boston. As for Green Man and Jack of the Wood? Mike fell in love with the authentic Irish/English pub atmosphere. And for his beer?
Well, his "beer stands for itself." Simple, but effective.
This article first appeared in Focus, a weekly paper published in Hickory, North Carolina.
© Bobby Bush