You may know him as a Logistics and Supply Chain Management instructor from the Marketing Department but did you know David Hammons also home brews the occasional batch of beer in his free time? Using a special ingredient from his family’s company and his creative mind, David was able to craft a black walnut beer. After working with larger-scale brewers, beer with his influence can now be found nationwide.
David’s family owns a black walnut business here in the Ozarks. What started in 1946 by his great grandfather has continued in the family for generations. David worked at Hammons Product Company until he decided to start teaching. During his time in the black walnut business, he introduced a few products into the marketplace, including the black walnut beer, which began as a passion project.
David began his home brewing hobby a few years back with a good friend. The two would get a little competitive and feed off each other to see who had the better style. “If you can’t do it perfectly, do it differently is my philosophy. I knew I would never make a really, really good beer but what if I made something that no one else had ever tasted before?” David said. One of the ideas he had was to take some of the smaller black walnut kernels that don’t have a large market and use them as an ingredient in beer.
Black walnut beer was on the market before David’s brew but most made it with a wheat beer using an extract flavoring. David’s goal was to use real black walnuts to replace the artificial flavors and even substitute the hops, a major ingredient in most beer, since they both add some bitterness and a fruity quality.
David found a few breweries that were using the artificial flavoring and called them to convince them to stop. He sent them free samples of his family’s black walnuts and even shared his techniques. “Brewing is more of an art form than a specific recipe,” David says. To get to a specific recipe is challenging so he shared the steps he took and how he applied them.
Word got around that he was sharing samples. Soon, other craft brewers in the area began contacting David to request his black walnuts. These companies ran with it, tested it and customers liked it so they launched it on a larger scale. One of the popular brewers that got involved was the Piney River Brewing Company. They ended up producing an award winning Black Walnut Wheat.
Black walnut beers are widely available now. During a visit to New York City, David went to a bar that carried many interesting beers. One was from a brewery in St. Louis that he had sold nuts to and they were making a black walnut beer. David went to the bartender and said, “I invented that beer.” She responded, “Oh, yeah. Sure you did.” Although she was a bit skeptical, David enjoyed seeing something he’d help develop as far away as New York City.
“To this day, you can’t replicate that flavor with anything else. It is a unique beer and you can’t find anything else like it. I knew I had something special when I drank it.” David still has a bottle from his second batch that is going on five years old that he’s saving for a special occasion. He kept a few bottles from the early batches and cracked one open after just three years to find that it tasted very different from the fresh batch. It tasted better, possibly due to the lipids or flavonoids from the bitter, dark nut flavor, David predicts.
David still home brews as a hobby but doesn’t use black walnuts much anymore. He says, “I feel like I’ve done my part. People are out there smarter than me doing it and they’re the ones that are going to be the innovators.” While David doesn’t claim to have invented black walnut beer, he certainly pushed for it in the area and is glad to see it succeeding.