Brewery Team’s Diverse Backgrounds Build Foundation

We continue our in-depth feature stories on the new brewery in Oskaloosa with a look at the crew working on the project.

Head Brewer Chuck Crabtree has been the brainchild behind the project, but the execution cannot be done alone. Under his guidance, two assistant brewers have come on board to help with the recipes and the process.

The first assistant to come on board was John McMains. McMains is originally from the area and has worked as a chef while home brewing the last few years. His involvement in this particular project came early on in the process.

“Back in January, I started talking with Chuck about the possibilities of opening a restaurant coinciding with the brewery,” said McMains. “That kind of fell through a little bit. I’ve been home brewing for four or five years… Love the career, love the field. Food and beer kind of went hand-in-hand for me, so I decided to make the leap over to the beer side of things and run with that.”

While McMains has a natural interest in recipes and is a native of the area, the road to the brewery was much different for fellow Assistant Brewer Robert Marks.

Marks is originally from Cleveland, Ohio, and found a posting for the brewery online.

“They had a posting on CareerBuilder,” Marks recalls. “It was the one brewery related position I could find on the website and thought I would give it a shot. I heard back a couple weeks later and came out for an interview.”

The differences don’t end there, as Marks has more of a natural interest in science rather than culinary arts, although he has been home brewing for the last several years.

“When I entered college, I started as an engineering major,” explained Marks. “I decided I was more interested in the microbiology side of things, and started looking at different routes I could go with that. Then I thought, ‘Brewing is something I’ve been doing for a while, might as well give that a shot.’”

The pair works with Head Brewer Chuck Crabtree on the brewing process. That process is challenging, as McMains explains.

“We bing a lot of things off each other,” according to McMains. “We’re constantly trying to figure out different ways and more effective ways to brew. There’s a lot more science than I ever realized in the brewing… There’s a lot of ideas floating around right now.”

The knowledge that each brewer brings from his own home brewing experiences has created an interesting atmosphere, according to Marks.

“The three of us have been trying to figure out between the three different ways that we all seemed to have brewed in home brewing, how can we reconcile those and find a good fit for the company,” said Marks.

While McMains and Marks will be working with Crabtree to brew behind the scenes, the brewery will have a large presence in the community.

William Penn graduate Melanie Mackey is the brewery’s Events Coordinator and is excited to get the product out and about in Mahaska County.

“We’re working really closely with as many local restaurants and food trucks as we can,” explained Mackey. “[We hope] to always be working together and providing a really awesome experience for the Oskaloosa community.

“By next summer we are really hoping to have our product at Friday After Five and other various events on the square so it’s going to be a really good time and I think we’re going to make a really cool impact.”

With a staff that is completely bought in to creating the best possible product and what is sure to be a visible, community-friendly image, this new brewery is sure to make an impact from the get-go in Mahaska County.

We will continue our look at this new endeavor next week with an in-depth view at the equipment that has been brought in to make the brewery a reality.


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