by Ryan Guess

For craft beer drinkers in Tennessee, the name Wiseacre has become synonymous with great beer. Behind every great beer, there has to be a great brewer and that’s where Wiseacre’ very own Davin Bartosch steps into the ring. Just like Jerry Lawler was the King of Wrastlin’ to me, Davin is the King of Lagers. If you have any doubt, drink The GABF Bronze Medal Winning “Tiny Bomb” and tell me that it doesn’t piledrive your taste buds.  

Like many brewers, Davin didn’t grow up thinking “I’m going to be a brewer when I grow up.” Instead he has memories of his dad cutting the grass on a Memphis summer day and drinking a cold Michelob when he finished the yard. He remembers going to a convenience store with his buddies and paying someone a little extra cash to grab them some Bud Ice quarts, then jumping on a trampoline and getting “spinny headed.” The fondest memory  was of a family trip to Boston when he and his brother (Wiseacre co-owner Kellan) stole their parents’ rental car and went to Sam Adams for a tour. Beer was the fabric of his being he just didn’t yet know to what extent.

Davin went to college at The University of Tennessee Chattanooga, where his frugality kicked in during his freshman year. That’s when he decided to make his own beer. The first beer he attempted was a cream ale, which he loaded with table sugar trying to boost the ABV. The result was less beer than stale gym socks.

Did he dump the beer? Nope. He drank every last bit of it.

After brewing a few more batches he took a brief hiatus from homebrewing to focus on working and attending school at the same time. The extra cash and a job at a local liquor store introduced him to a whole new world of beers. He took special interest in Trappist beers, which many hold as the foundation of all things great in the beer world. He was specifically introduced to Westmalle Tripel, which is his desert island beer to this day.

Davin married his wonderful wife Rachel after graduation and they moved to Nashville to begin their new life together. Little did he know that this would be the first step of many toward building his brewing empire.

Davin found himself wanting to learn more about brewing to the point that he would bang on the doors at Yazoo until Linus let him in so that he could help pro-bono. He cleaned out the mash tun, rinsed kegs and anything else Linus needed him to do just to get experience. This re-kindled his love of home brewing again, which was only amplified when he met Ivan Chester (brewmaster at Yazoo Brewing) at the local homebrewing store.

He was so single-mindedly obsessed that he literally photocopied “The Joy of Homebrewing” by Charlie Papazian because he was wearing the pages out of the book. The book changed his perspective on brewing and he recommends it as a must read for anyone who is interested in brewing.

That passion for beer was not only in Davin, but his brother Kellan. They decided that they needed to figure out how they could make beer their future together. Davin continued to perfect his homebrew craft and finally decided to make a leap faith and enrolled in the Siebel Institute of Technology in Chicago, IL for brewing, one of the top ranked programs in the country. This would begin to lay the foundation of what would become Wiseacre. Part of the program requires them to study in Germany at The Doemen’s Academy, which specializes in the production of Lagers.  It was here that Davin fell in love with the production of lagers.

After graduating salutatorian from the Siebel Institute, he and his wife moved to Chicago for the next step of their journey. Once again, he knocked on doors and finally Pete Crowley from Rock Bottom hired him and took him under his wing. There he learned to deal with the challenges of working at different locations. Whether it was working with old equipment or different types of water supply, this all played a key role in shaping his brewing future.

Rock Bottom gave Davin his first shot at being a head brewer at the Warrenville location in the suburbs of Chicago before he was offered the head brewing at the main location in Chicago. During this time he also won medals at The Great American Beer Festival and FOBAB (Festival of Barrel Aged Beers) which continued to legitimize his goal of going out on his own.

Meanwhile Kellan was concentrating on the marketing and selling aspects of beer so that eventually the brothers’ paths would intersect. That intersection was the birth of Wiseacre (which was a name their grandmother called them when they were being a bunch of smart ass kids.)

Wiseacre opened in September of 2013 and they have never looked back. When they opened they released Tiny Bomb, which would become a GABF bronze medal winning Pilsner. Tiny Bomb turned Memphis (and eventually the state of Tennessee) on its head as it gave people a new appreciation for a style that isn’t often focused on by craft breweries. Davin is always looking for new ways to make the final product better. He’s always striving to make himself and Wiseacre better; he feels that he’s never done growing and learning.  

Davin never says that beer is perfect. He looks at the process and tries to take it one more step closer. If you ever see him in the brewery with a beer in his hand I’d be willing to bet that it’s a Tiny Bomb because that’s the way Tennessee King of Lagers likes it.