Meet a Green Bay Racker

Hello Green Bay Rackers,

At the October meeting at Paul Chamber’s house, I brought up an idea of doing a series of interviews with Racker members. 

I’ve been with the club for twenty years and I know several folks that have been around a lot longer, so I thought this would be a great chance to learn a little more about each other, how/what they brew and spark some conversations at meetings and other club events.

I came up with a set of nine questions I will send out to each person.  You can respond in your own words.  If you need help you can contact me via email, a phone call or we could chat in person over a beer.

I will select each member from a random list I put together.  No one will know who until it’s posted in case someone doesn’t want to share their words. If I send you an invite, don’t feel you need to participate.  No worries, no pressure.

When you are finished with the interview you could send it back to me and I’ll get it posted or you can send it off to Shawn and he can get it posted.

To be fair I’m the first person interviewed.  You can see the format I put together and learn about me.

I’ll start out with one each month but if it’s working out, I might do a couple each month.

Again, I will select each person, no one will know in advance who it’s going to be.  If you don’t want to reply to my email all will be forgotten.

Thanks!

Don Vandeville

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Thanks Don! Onto the first Interview..

Meet a Green Bay Racker

1: Introducing:  Don Vandeville

2. When did you join the Rackers and what got you started?  I joined the club around 2003. Bob Franklin suggested I come to one of the meetings and see what it was all about. I recently moved to the area, so it was fun getting together with others who shared the same hobby as me. My father brewed beer although I never tasted his. Perhaps his stash of Meister Brau was more intriguing. While I was in college, I met a guy who brewed his own beer. After watching him brew a few batches I decided to try it out for myself. Brewing back then was primitive by today’s standards. I used a plastic trash can as my fermenter and bottled the finished beer in 40-ounce screw top beer bottles.

3. What do you brew (beer, wine, cider, etc.) and how is it packaged and served?  I brew mostly beer, almost always ale.  Occasionally I’ll make wine and this year after lots of reading I tried cider. Beer is force carbonated and served on tap.

4. How long have you been brewing and describe your brewing system?  I started brewing extracts around 1984. Back then ingredients were hard to come by. I was able to buy hopped malt extract in a metal can with a packet of non-labeled yeast taped to the top. Now in 2023 I brew all grain ten-gallon batches with a mash tun built from an insulated cooler with slotted manifold, natural gas fired brew kettle, plate chiller and a Spike CF10 conical fermenter. Hot mash water is provided by a modified electric water heater.

5. Where do you brew? I brew in the basement, a dedicated spot I built for my set up.  Over the years the layout has changed a little based on equipment upgrades.  On the opposite side of the wall, I have a bar with three beer taps. My thought is to enjoy good beer you need a good spot to enjoy it.

6. How often do you brew; is there a certain schedule you have or is it by season? I brew 4-6 batches a year. I don’t follow the seasonal type beers, meaning I’ll brew an Oktoberfest at any time of the year or a summer ale in the dead of winter. I feel you should enjoy what you brew anytime of the year.

7. What aspects of your hobby would you like to improve upon? I like the brewing process as much as the outcome (when it turns out good). I want to learn more about each style I brew, the history of the process and anything else I can find. Brewing beer has been around for a very long time. I want to learn how styles came to be and what motivated brewers to brew.

8. What advice would you pass on to others considering this hobby: Do your research. Starting any hobby takes some planning. Don’t just jump in thinking you will save lots of money and brew beer as good as what you can buy. I’m not saying that your brews won’t be good, but it takes time to hone your skills. Study the process, take good notes, and learn from every batch. Join a club, like the Rackers, talking to others who share your hobby helps in a lot of ways.

9. What have I forgotten to ask, is there something else you’d like to share?

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3 Responses to Meet a Green Bay Racker

  1. Paul Chambers says:

    Great idea, Don. Thanks for taking this project on. There is always something to learn from your fellow brewers at the meetings so I encourage everyone to attend as many gatherings as possible.

  2. Bruce says:

    Was a member for a year, found it hard to be the new guy, Suggested name tags so the new guy could learn who was who. Idea didn’t go anywhere. Wish I had a better vibe

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