Kurt Smith’s affinity for craft beers developed early, after a family friend brought a six pack of Sierra Nevada Pale Ale to Kurt’s Wisconsin home on a hot summer day. For Kurt, that first bottle of craft beer signaled a tasty alternative to the products of America’s mainstream brewers, seemingly crafted more to avoid offending, rather than to impress, their customers.
A few years later, while Kurt earned his degree at the University of Minnesota, Minneapolis, he came to recognize that the Twin Cities’ home-town brewers were accomplishing more than just making complex and interesting beers; they were also building and sustaining a sense of community. A semester in Prague further inspired Kurt’s dream to help foster a craft-beer culture in the United States and, as an outgrowth, to contribute to more vibrant, dynamic cities.
Later, while living in Austin, Kurt studied the science of beer making and became a passionate home brewer, often crafting three or more batches per week, in part to keep multiple yeast strains alive and happy. Kurt’s hobby not only took up more and more of his time; it also consumed an increasing share of his living space, with fermentation and serving refrigerators occupying the lion’s share of his 650-square-foot house.
Over time he learned to modify his brewing method to capitalize on Austin’s often sweltering temperatures by using summertime heat to incubate wild strains of Lactobacillus bacteria, useful in crafting sour beers. Kurt also volunteered regularly at local Austin breweries, where he noted the passion and collegial spirit shared among professional brewers and the regular customers who visited their tasting rooms.
Kurt eventually found his way to a more “traditional” job traveling to all corners of Texas and around the world as an environmental and risk consultant. However, he took advantage of the experiences there to develop management skills while being able to work towards something of his own. Still home brewing, he lugged corny kegs and gas tanks around to share the beer, friends and coworkers questioned his priorities for not making a living off beer.
Eventually, Kurt met Adler Lentz, whose extensive experience in craft brewing perfectly complemented Kurt’s business acumen, and the two relocated to Nashville and formed the Smith & Lentz partnership.
Adler Lentz traces his love of brewing back to 2004, when, at the ripe age of 18, he embarked on a six-month adventure through Europe. While staying with family friends in Holland, Adler was introduced to the art of home brewing, and, with his first pint, was smitten by the chemical process that magically turned a mixture of water, grain, hops, and yeast into an infinitely drinkable beverage.
Once he returned home to Wisconsin, Adler cultivated his home-brewing skills before he set out to build his avocation into a professional career, and he determined to learn about all aspects of the brewer’s craft. He began his apprenticeship as assistant brewer at a small brewpub in Milwaukee, where he learned the basics of commercial brewing.
From there he moved to San Diego, where, as a brewing equipment installer, he mastered the hardware side of the beer-making process. For years, Adler’s “installs” led him to points across the country—and even to a few foreign nations—where he built systems for start-up breweries ranging from modest neighborhood pubs hoping to serve their own customers to larger commercial ventures whose products would see regional, national and even international distribution.
Eventually, Adler grew weary of the road and decided to set down roots so he could pursue a career crafting the beverages he had long facilitated from the equipment side of things. He accepted the position as head brewer for a startup brewery in Austin, Texas.
During his tenure as head brewer, Adler extended his expertise and honed his beer-making skills, particularly in the development of innovative recipes, cellaring techniques, and radical aging methods. His efforts bore fruit. The brewery’s craft beers grew in popularity and gained market share among Austin’s beer connoisseurs and won top honors at international brewing competitions.
Adler’s years in Texas paid other dividends as well, providing Adler with the know-how and confidence to launch his own commercial venture. In early 2014, he relocated to Nashville where he and business partner Kurt Smith established the Smith & Lentz brand