VINTON–Jason Horn is enthusiastic about cooking. He is enthusiastic about breweries and wineries, and he is enthusiastic about history and culture. His passions in life are about to coalesce in the production of a series of programs he plans for Blue Ridge PBS—a beer/wine/distillery cooking show which also incorporates some of the history of Virginia.
He says the series will allow him to learn about the state, to cook professionally, and to explore the culture of alcohol.
His focus will be “portraying a positive and historical aspect of the Virginia alcohol industry,” using the product in a cooking segment during each show.
The cooking is based on his theory, stated during an episode of his “Bru Appetit” series that, “Man can’t live on beer alone–gotta have something to eat with it.”
His plan is to start out in early March at Devil’s Backbone Brewing Company located in Central Virginia to “get an in-depth look at their operation and how they put beer in your bottle.” This brew/pub located on 100 acres is one of the largest craft breweries in Virginia.
Horn says that the Devil’s Backbone segment will allow viewers to see a relatively rare lagering operation. The program will also include a cooking segment with the chef at an outdoor kitchen location featuring one of their beers.
Second on his list is Chateau Morrisette in Floyd and the “Our Dog Blue Vineyard” along the Blue Ridge Parkway. This segment will feature a behind the scenes view of the wine-making process plus cooking with the chef at their four-star restaurant, featuring Virginia’s oldest wine.
Third on the list is Appalachian Mountain Spirits in Marion for a look at the process of distilling and making moonshine and whiskey, with a cooking segment featuring that particular product.
Episodes involving Foggy Ridge Cider in Dugspur, Stone Brewing in Richmond, and Blacksnake Meadery in Carroll County are on his radar for subsequent productions.
Horn is brimming over with ideas for fascinating features for the series. He plans to highlight the istory of cider in the state of Virginia. He has in mind a program involving the glassblowing of wine glasses which will be used in a cooking episode, one that involves organic farming, and another about the making of chef’s knives at Viking Knife Works. He loves soups and broths and plans to feature recipes which contain alcohol as an ingredient.
The first season will be comprised of six 30-minute episodes, with a second season of 13 programs. Horn’s goal is for the series to be picked up by PBS markets around the country.
He wants the programs to be educational, informative, and historical in nature. He notes that beer had a hand in shaping the history of our country. In the early days when Europeans first arrived in America most of the water was not potable, so the settlers drank beer, with a one to two percent alcohol level instead.
A current television beer ad makes the claim that the Pilgrims were dropped at Plymouth Rock because the ships were out of beer. Research doesn’t bear out those facts, but it does show that the pilgrims did, in fact, drink (somewhat weak) beer. Beer was a much safer beverage than water and would destroy bacteria prevalent at the time and ships like the Mayflower did carry wine and beer for long voyages.
Horn grew up in the Vinton area, living in Montgomery Village, and then in Bonsack. He attended East Vinton Elementary School and the junior high, and then graduated from William Byrd. His parents’ Southern Comfort Heating and Air Conditioning business was located on Walnut Avenue in Vinton for 27 years. His mother Nancy is now Commissioner of the Revenue for Roanoke County.
He worked for his parents off and on but “didn’t find my passion in the HVAC industry.” He moved to Atlanta when he was 20 years old, enrolled in bartending school, and became a certified mixologist.
The next year he returned to Roanoke and was hired as one of the first bartenders at the Tanglewood Grand Pavilion Macado’s. He also began working in the insurance industry and moved to Tennessee a few years later doing catastrophic claims around the country with Memphis as his home base.
The 80-hour work weeks led him to rethink his career choice and he eventually open his own insurance agency and then a mortgage company. His desire to become involved in the community led to the founding of a Kiwanis club and serving on the Chamber of Commerce board.
While he was working in insurance and finance he continued to work as a bartender and then took up “personal chefing.” That interest eventually led to working for Fresh Market as an instruction chef–going into their stores to teach people how to cook using their ingredients.
He went on to host television shows based around craft beers, write about beer, cook with beer, travel to sample beers, and became a Certified Cicerone—a beer professional. He estimates that he has sampled 600 different beers from around the world.
Horn returned to Roanoke around 2014 because although he wanted to see the world, he also “missed the mountains he was raised in.”
He shares many of the favorite food memories of others who grew up in the valley—the Roanoke Weiner Stand, Texas Tavern, and especially Deb’s Lemonade which at one time was located in Vinton.
Horn describes Deb’s as “not about the food—it’s about tasting a memory. It’s about the bell ringing when you walk in and the smells of being a kid again.”
He says that when he left Roanoke, the downtown market area was struggling and businesses had closed. One of the reasons he returned to the area is the newly booming downtown with shops, eateries, and loft and apartment living.
Even more dear to his heart was the fact that “Roanoke is experiencing a Craft Beer explosion, becoming known for its local craft beers and breweries.” He was especially inspired by the Flying Mouse Brewing in the Daleville area which “made him want to be part of the craft beer industry.”
Will Anderson of Blue Ridge PBS and Southwest Virginia Public TV, which focuses on programs of regional interest, describes Horn as a “go-getter” and believes his series will appeal to viewers in southwest Virginia and the state. Their goals are similar in giving voice to and becoming the region’s storytellers.
Horn also has in the works opening a brew/pub in downtown Roanoke, which will eventually factor in to the cooking/beer/culture programming.
Horn says that his simultaneous interests in insurance/finance along with wines and beers have been fortuitous. His success in his day job has funded his life’s passion.