After quitting his post as brewmaster at Bike Rack Brewing Co. in Bentonville, Arkansas, Joe Zucca returned to his rural Ozarks homestead near Cassville, Missouri, to produce premium beers in the backwoods under the name Hungry Hollow Brewing Co. In September, he and his wife, Veronica, officially opened their cozy brewery to the public, where they sell merchandise and beer. Hinged between a limestone bluff and a rural road, the brewery makes beers like the Three Point Five imperial IPA, with American and New Zealand hops and a heady zing. His beers hit stores and restaurants this month, but up until now, the whole operation was “pure hillbilly,” and that’s just fine with Zucca.
Hungry Hollow Brewing is a self-described hillbilly operation. What exactly does that mean? Well, just look at our homemade, wood-fire steam-power house (pictured above). It’s hillbilly. I haven’t finished it to look nice, but it works well. It’s made from a keg and ceramic insulation, and my friend and I welded all the parts together. You just make your fire, put water in the keg, and make low-pressure steam to power the kettle. It’s all indirect and doesn’t affect flavor. Brewers usually just use a boiler, but to do that you need three-phase electricity. Out here, that’s not an option. We don’t have the power. You can do direct fire with a propane tank, but with the type of beer I’m doing, that would burn it. So my friend and I just figured, “Hey, let’s go wood-fired.” And it runs for $5.
You consider yourself a "hillbilly" – what does that mean to you? I was born in California, but I grew up here and I love the country. Some people use hillbilly as a derogatory word, [but] lot of the “hillbillies” I grew up around are really smart guys basically living life without a lot of money, so they just use what they have. It takes ingenuity. That’s how I define hillbilly – just trying to make do with what I have. But it’s not easy, I’ll tell you that.
Tell us about your beers. I’ve got two. We’re doing an imperial IPA called the Three Point Five. It uses 3½ pounds of Waimea, Mosaic and Glacier hops and a Cascade hop burst at the end of the boil, which is big for hop heads. The Ozark Farmhouse French Saison has a little less alcohol, about 8 percent, and it’s sweet, but fruity. I’ll be drinking Three Point Five [this fall]. It’s over the top, that’s for sure. I personally like it with barbecue.
Hungry Hollow Brewing Co., 14396 Farm Road 2140, Cassville, Missouri, hungryhollowbrewing.com