Brewer Profile: JT Dalton of Barley John’s Brewing Company


JT Dalton of Barley John’s Brewing Company // Photo by Aaron Davidson

Artist. Teacher. Cook. Car detailer. Brewer.

Not many people have a resume quite as colorful or diverse as JT Dalton. The 31-year-old grew up in Lakeville, Minnesota, and never had a clear direction of what he wanted to do beyond make art, skateboard, and snowboard.

After high school, he moved to Minneapolis and started racing cars, making the most of the industrial areas and backstreets of St. Paul around University Avenue. The cops showed up once, but not until after the night’s events. In court, JT talked his way out of prison time by claiming ignorance. He was just there watching, he said. Was that a crime?

Those close calls and pivotal moments define JT’s life. While a student at the Minneapolis College of Art and Design (MCAD), he attended an event at the Walker Art Center that involved painting on vinyl. He was studying printmaking, papermaking, and book arts at the time (“Basically, I’m a badass scrapbooker,” he says, followed by the full-body, from-the-gut laugh that bookends many of his sentences), and decided to try his hand at the vinyl. Little did he know his experimentation would lead to a job.


Teaching art, working as a cook in a retirement home, brewing full time: JT’s resume is as diverse as his tattoos are intricate // Photo by Aaron Davidson

“I was smashing vinyl, then inking up and putting it through a press to create different imagery,” JT says, describing that afternoon at the Walker. “Professor Teslow saw what I was doing, and asked if I could come by and teach it to his students.” Bob Teslow worked at The Blake School, teaching visual arts and photography. JT agreed, and became Teslow’s assistant. He worked there for two years, assisting Teslow and subbing elsewhere throughout the school.

He was still a part-time student at MCAD at the time. As if that weren’t enough, it was also during this period that JT began homebrewing. He was a broke college student with an affinity for craft beer, so he did what any driven, creative, and single-minded person would do: he taught himself to make the thing he craved.

Next page: Brewing his first batch

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About Ellen Burkhardt

Ellen Burkhardt is a freelance writer. When she's not writing, editing, or interviewing, chances are she's on the road seeking out good food, drink, and fodder for her next story.

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