Get to know the people crafting, brewing, distilling, and shaking the top drinks around Little Rock. This time we get to know Josh Davis of Rebel Kettle Brewing Co.
Where are you from? Do you remember when you first had brewing on your radar?
I live in Little Rock, but I grew up in Mayflower. This is kind of funny to think about, my stepdad used to be a home brewer when I was growing up. I vaguely remember it, I was five or six at the time. He would make beer, and he also shopped at Fermentables, like I would do later. … His home brewing didn’t really get me into the process or anything, I just thought it was cool later on.
When did you get into brewing yourself?
At one point, a friend of mine brought me some home brew and I thought it was really cool. …I had never had any kind of craft beer at all, I just drank Red Stripe. The first IPA I ever got was New Belgium Ranger and I wondered why anyone would drink something that tastes like biting into a pinecone. Funnily enough though, I had it again a couple of years ago and thought it was a pretty solid IPA. … All that aside, I honestly started brewing beer to impress a young lady.
What was your first brewing experience like?
I brewed a Bock Ale. I pretty quickly got into specialty beers – maybe four beers into my home brew journey I was trying to do some crazy Belgian Pumpkin Beer thing.
At what point did you know you wanted to go pro?
That thought never really crossed my mind. I made beer for fun – I would make beer for the holidays and parties. …The majority of the beer that I brewed, I gave away. It’s pretty much the same as cooking or anything like that – you’re playing with flavors and blending stuff – I love it.
How did you get your feet wet, professionally?
Before all this I started going to home brew events. I went to Food & Foam Fest in 2014 with a beer called Southern Snake Charmer – a Mango Habanero IPA – and I won People’s Choice. Omar Castrellon from Lost Forty Brewing liked that beer, which actually peaked my interest in professional brewing because he is world-renown for his stuff. … He even asked me if I wanted to brew on Lost Forty’s pilot system a day or so a week right before they opened, and I did do that a couple of times and I was hooked.
At that point, what did you do to get more experience?
I started to go to the home brew contests and festivals, and met Ian Beard from Stone’s Throw Brewing. I ended up helping Theron Cash and Sean Tobin brew at Rock Street. If Stone’s Throw hadn’t let me hang out and brew there I doubt that I would be doing this professionally now. I actually used Stone’s Throw as a reference for Vino’s. At the time Josiah Moody of Moody Brews was leaving Vino’s and I messaged him because I wanted to work there for a bit – get that commercial experience and try out different equipment. He told me that they could use some help, so I met with the team and used Stone’s Throw as a reference, and Vino’s hired me as an Assistant Brewer.
How was working at Vino’s?
At the time, I worked with Brandon Mize to brew my first commercial beer – that Vino’s Oatmeal Brown. … The manager asked me to make a sour beer, so I did, even though I hadn’t ever tried it before. We kettle soured a huge batch at Vino’s and I we were all just waiting to see what would happen. Long story short – the original Rob Gnarly, the one we’ve had on tap here, was born at Vino’s.
How did you end up at Rebel Kettle?
I started working here before the brick and mortar even opened. John Lee and I brewed at his house and did some events together. I remember we took ten beers to Rocktoberfest in 2015 and I just fit into his growing team. John is the owner/head brewer, and while I’m technically the assistant brewer, it says “Hostess” when I clock in.
What’s your favorite part about working at Rebel?
We work well together – John and I – I feel like we make a good team. That, and the fact that I get to play around with specialty beers is awesome – we’ve made over 100 beers in our first year and I wouldn’t want it any other way.
How do you feel about our local brew scene?
I’m all for everybody making the best beer possible – sometimes I don’t think that happens, and I think we have to make quality beer on the whole as a scene to get better.
What do you do in your spare time?
Anything that’s fun. I like hiking and I’m into motorcycles. I’d like to travel more – I don’t really get to do that. It’s kind of funny, I don’t have any official hobbies anymore, because it used to be beer.