David Jimenez didn’t start out as a brewer. He was a bartender, first at Sundance Mountain Resort, and then at Strap Tank Brewery in Lehi, where he landed in 2019. That’s where he fell in love with craft beer.
“I knew it was made in Utah,” Jimenez said, “but that’s about it. Then I met the brewmaster, Shawn Smith. He was making 12 different styles of beer, and I was just blown away by the flavors and the smells.”
Jimenez also realized that every time he explained a beer to a customer or recommended something, he served as an ambassador for the brewers’ hard work and artistry. Though Jimenez has a fine-tuned, instinctual beer palate, he wanted to know more — not just about the beers, but about the people making them.
“Brewers don’t see people much. We’re here early in the morning, and we leave when the nighttime crew gets here,” Jimenez said. “They’re these artists creating these awesome beverages, but no one knew who the hell they were, or where they came from, or their story.”
So Jimenez started “shadow-brewing” at Strap Tank. He went to the brewhouse before and after his bartending shifts, watching the brewing process, throwing in some malt or some hops here and there, befriending Smith and assistant brewer Derik DeBoard.
In January 2020, Jimenez recorded the first episode of his Taste Masters Podcast. His goal, he said at the time, was to bridge the gap between beer-drinkers and beer-makers, and educate people about brewing, beer and specific brews being made in Utah — on a scale he couldn’t do as a bartender.
In the second and third episodes of the weekly show, he interviewed Smith, who explained light lagers (and why people love them), and then explained the history of beer in the United States. Episode four tackled the elephant in the room: Utah’s alcohol history and why “Utah’s alcohol laws SUCK!!”).
A few weeks later, the COVID-19 pandemic began, “and the world ended,” Jimenez said. Life as everyone knew it made a hard shift, including at Strap Tank: DeBoard became head brewer, and he asked Jimenez if he wanted to come in and start brewing.
“I was just tickled,” Jimenez said. “And I was like, ‘Hell, yes! I absolutely want to come brew.’ So I became the brewer’s assistant, I got my hands dirty and was able to learn the brewing process really well. Then within months he gave me free reign, and said, ’I know you have a creative palate and this awesome sense of beer. Let’s make a recipe.’”
Using his homebrew set and the kegerator at Strap Tank, Jimenez made a Scottish ale he dubbed Little Scot, which eventually went through the taps at Strap Tank. He’s now a brewer at Strap Tank’s Lehi and Springville locations. At the latter, he brews with Julia Schuler, Utah County’s only female brewer.
“And Derik’s the only veteran who’s a brewer, and I’m the only Latin American brewer in Utah County,” Jimenez said. “We’re very much like a family. You can’t separate us. You’re going to have your disagreements or whatnot. But Derek and I have never once gotten down each other’s throats. And it’s always been a fun time. And I’m always coming up with ideas. Julia’s coming with ideas. We’re all coming up with ideas. And we’re sharing them, you know, breaking them down.”
Meanwhile, the podcast continued; the pandemic hit around episode 11, when Jimenez interviewed Scott Parker, the brewmaster at Salt Flats. By episode 16, he was dedicating the whole month to a “support your local breweries” theme.
“During the pandemic, all these brewers, all these artists, weren’t being showcased,” Jimenez said. “None of their beer was being drank. Sometimes it takes months to make a beer, and a lot of them were being put on hold, or dumped or destroyed. And I was able to say, ‘You know what? If you guys can go out and about, this individual is producing this liquor or this beer, or this coffee stout — go try it out, it’s awesome. You don’t have to just sit on your phones and be scared of the world. There’s still cool stuff happening outside, and we can make that happen.’ So I focused on becoming a mouthpiece for these beautiful individuals.”
Many of the earlier episodes took deep dives into specific styles of beers, including stouts, porters, Hefeweizens, sours, IPAs and brown ales. These days, he focuses more on specific people within the Utah brewing community. He’s talked to the women brewers of color who call themselves the Brown Gradient Beer Wenches. He’s interviewed Chad Hopkins of Hopkins Brewing, Kevin Templin of T.F. Brewing (who came on for the 100th episode), and Jason Stock, head brewer at Squatters Downtown.
“I love my episode I did with Jason Stock,” Jimenez said, explaining that a lot of Utahns know him because he’s featured on Squatters’ Hop Rising double IPA label. “He looks like a farmer with a pitchfork who’s angry at a hops [blossom],” he said. “But that’s him. He’s the face of that can. I had all these deep questions about how this beer came to be, and — long story short — that’s not actually his beer! It’s not his recipe. He never made it. But he’s the face of that beer.”
Jimenez also interviewed the women who are part of Utah’s Pink Boots Society chapter, which is part of a larger collective of women brewers around the world. Jimenez said that some of his best friends in the industry, who he thinks are some of the best brewers in Utah, are women.
“But I don’t call them female brewers,” he said. “They’re just brewers. Whether you’re male, female, you’re still just a brewer.”
Last week, Jimenez posted episode 126 of The Taste Masters: An interview with Matthew Ostrander of Ibantik Craft Beverages, who explains single varietal ciders.
Whoever Jimenez features on the show, he wants to talk to them face-to-face. Not just because his guests often bring beers, coffees, liquors or kombuchas to sample on-air and discuss, but because it brings a very specific quality to the interview.
“I don’t do interviews over the phone,” Jimenez said. “I can’t come to terms with it. There’s a type of camaraderie, to have a beer or a coffee in front of you, and say, ‘Let’s just talk.’ If you and I were talking right now, face to face, it would be a much different conversation, because I could see your emotions in your face, your eyes. You react to how I react. And it’s just more human. It’s just more realistic.”
That warm approach is in keeping with the personality of the Utah brewing community, which Jimenez describes as very familial — all about collaboration, rather than competition.
“It’s all about helping each other out,” he said. “You won’t find a cutthroat brewery here in Utah. And if there is one, it’ll knock itself out quickly, because we don’t have room for that. There’s no room for that in this community.”
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