An Interview with Josh Wilson: Fifty West’s Original Haze Boi

Written by Tyler Hooley

It seems like the “Is This Really My Job? Moments” keep coming in full force these last few months. And the “assignment” that came with writing this blog post was no exception. Recently, I was able to sit down with the lead brewer at 50 West Brewing Company, Josh Wilson, to talk beer.

Josh has been brewing with 50 West for the last 3 years. Originally working in their distribution department, he set out to learn about brewing and logged over 250 volunteer hours brewing Fifty West beers. Now Josh works as lead brewer for Fifty West’s Production Works.

After talking brew day specifics, beer sales, and general shit shootin’, we turned our conversation to beer styles. Although Josh’s favorite style to drink is barleywine, (Good taste.  #BIL.), he loves to brew witbiers. Doom Pedal, over the years, has become his baby. Named as a tribute to their late employee, Alan White, who hated Belgian beers, Doom Pedal got its name from Doom Metal. And the brewery worked tirelessly perfecting the beer, making every iteration just a tad different than the previous batch, tweaking until the beer was exactly where they wanted it to be.

So what exactly is a witbier? Also known as white ale, the witbier was the dominant style back in 18th century Brussels. Wits must contain 50% wheat and spices – traditionally coriander and orange peel. Witbiers were the power house of their time and drastically different in look and taste from the other styles of beer available. The use of wheat and sometimes oats gave it a hazy appearance while every other beer was clear, I suppose you could call it the original hazy brew. In the 1960s, however, the beer almost met its demise. The pale lager came onto the scene and crushed the witbier in popularity. Along came Pierre Celis, the savior of the witbier. A loyal drinker of the style, Celis opened his own brewery, De Kluis (The Cloister) and used it as an opportunity to revitalize the style. He then expanded his operations by opening Celis Brewery in Austin, Texas in 1992.

With the resurgence in popularity of witbiers, we saw the birth of many great beers including Allagash White and Avery’s White Rascal entering the scene. And now we have one of the best witbiers right here in Cincinnati. Josh’s best compliment came from Adam Avery himself who said he “loved Doom Pedal”. Now Doom Pedal serves as Josh’s personal playground. He’s currently working on a number of variations, including a wine barrel aged sour Doom Pedal that may or may not have soured off one of his beard hairs. Looks like a little bit of the brewer really does make it into every batch.