The 2024 Green Bay Rackers Wine/Cider/Mead Contest

Congratz!

Paul Chambers take the Wine top spot and Steve Stary takes the Cider/Meads!

Look here for the category winners!

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Meet a Green Bay Racker: Jay Brown

Meet a Green Bay Racker

1: Introducing: Jay Brown

  1. When did you join the Rackers and what got you started? I joined after going to Title Town after they opened in 1996. I was always curious about brewing. When I had my first micro brew, it was the Honey ale, I thought it was the best beer I ever tasted. I drove right across the bridge and went to Life Tools and bought my first brewing equipment and kit beer and that was the start of my brewing.
  2. What do you brew (beer, wine, cider, etc.) and how is it packaged and served? I brew all grain beer and make wine from kits. I asked about any brew clubs in the area at Life Tools. The next thing I knew I was a member of the Green Bay Rackers. It ended up being a great fit for my new hobby.
  3. How long have you been brewing and describe your brewing system?  I started brewing in 1996 from kit beers and within a year I started all grain brewing. I used picnic coolers for a mash tun and a 10 gallon stainless kettle for a boil kettle. I always used glass carboys. I bought a 10 gallon S.S. conical fermenter  but only used it several times. I just found glass easier to use. Now I have a rims with 3- 15 gallon spike kettles. 220 volt for mash water and natural gas for the boil. I use an oxygenator for my wort. I have an inkbird 16s controller for the pump and heater.
  1. Where do you brew? It’s set up in my basement.
  2. How often do you brew; is there a certain schedule you have or is it by season? I used to brew eight to ten 10 gallon batches a year. Now with some health issues I’m just getting back into brewing, we’ll see how it goes. I just brew when the weather cools down, usually starting in September or October until spring.
  3. What aspects of your hobby would you like to improve upon? All of it. Just make better beer.
  4. What advice would you pass on to others considering this hobby: When you start make sure you’re in a club where you can watch other people brew and learn from it. Ask a lot of questions.

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

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Meet a Racker: Patrick McFadden

1: Introducing:  Patrick McFadden 

  1. When did you join the Rackers and what got you started? I first brewed when I moved from Boston to Atlanta in 1990. Atlanta had no brewpubs at the time and I was spoiled by the great beer in Boston. (There were only a hundred brewpubs in the USA back then). Asked a friend if I could help him brew. Pro-tip: This means you will be chief bottle washer. Moved to Green Bay about 2002 and joined the Rackers about 2005, been a member off and on since then as I have moved about fairly often. Joining home brew clubs were always a go-to when moving to a new town.
  2. What do you brew (beer, wine, cider, etc.) and how is it packaged and served? Beer – Ales actually, that do not require refrigeration (lagered) during aging. I did one Port Wine kit that was exceptional, but sadly it is no longer available. I bottle, easier to travel with, gift, etc. Larger, 22 ounce bottles can halve your bottling time, and you can always find a friend to share it.
  3. How long have you been brewing and describe your brewing system?  I brew in a kettle on the stove and ferment in plastic buckets. Maybe $100 invested back when. Plus the price of the kit. Have done mostly kits all my life except one all-grain brew. Several beer connoisseurs have told me they cannot tell the difference between kit and all-grain. Several others maintain the opposite opinion. I know some of my brews have fooled some of the best. It’s a great way to start cheaply and easily to see how you like the hobby.  
  4. Where do you brew? In the kitchen. On the stove. Ferment and store in a closet.
  5. How often do you brew; is there a certain schedule you have or is it by season? Pending travels/moving it differs, but plan to get back into brewing soon. Have over 30 kits experience, which I guess over 30 years isn’t that many. Three times over the years I’ve excelled and brewed six kits back to back during the four Fall months to prepare holiday gift 6 packs of 6 different beers. Shopping for 24, done and done. The ‘down’ times during brewing ties in well with bottling the last batch made. Takes about the same amount of time to bottle and brew as it does to just do one or the other. An afternoon well spent.
  6. What aspects of your hobby would you like to improve upon? You would think hanging out with brewers that one would graduate to all-grain, kegging, home taps, and a keezer (a keg refrigerator). Keeping it simple has its merits too. Nearly every time I have moved I’ve started to give away my equipment. But I brewed one more batch and remembered I like my beer better. Thinking I’ll approach a 3 gallon batch and use an All-In-One brew kettle to make it just that much easier for my next batch.    
  7. What advice would you pass on to others considering this hobby: Hobby? Or lifestyle? Start small, don’t be intimidated by the equipment or process. You are just cooking up a recipe. Lean on other brewers for tips. Everyone is happy to help. And be sure to help them drink their beer too.
  8. What have I forgotten to ask, is there something else you’d like to share? “Relax, don’t worry, have a homebrew.” – Charlie Papazian (The Complete Joy of Home Brewing (1984). 900,000 copies sold, so you are not alone. Just jump in at a club brew, or ask if you can wash some bottles for a brewer friend.
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Meet a Racker – Steve Roth

1: Introducing: Steve Roth

  1. When did you join the Rackers and what got you started?

I joined the Rackers when I moved to the Green Bay area almost 10 years ago. There was a lull in there when I wasn’t as active with brewing at first, but I joined because I was part of the Sheboygan Suddzers prior to coming here. I wanted to meet like-minded people. 

  1. What do you brew (beer, wine, cider, etc.) and how is it packaged and served?

Beer is my thing. Wine? No. I tried my hand at one of those sweet kits. It was fine, but just not my thing. There are plenty of great wine makers in this group. I’ll drink theirs! 😊 Cider? Yep, I bought 20 gallons this year from local orchards. I still have a keg on tap, and I’ve got more cider in the freezer waiting until I decide I want another batch. That’ll likely be Springtime because there’s that lull before Fall hits and I can get the stuff again. Mead? Not yet, but I’m tempted……..

  1. How long have you been brewing and describe your brewing system?  

I’ve been at this for more than a decade now. My passion has drastically escalated in the last 4 years. My system is an AIO (All-In-One). I have the Brewzilla Gen4 65L. (17.2gal). I am fully grain-to-glass. Stir plate method yeast starters (if liquid) 🡪 milling my grain 🡪 water chemistry 🡪 mash with precise PID controls 🡪 boil with a steam condenser 🡪 chilling with a Jaded Scylla immersion 🡪 ferment in a jacketed unitank 🡪 temp control with glycol 🡪 cold crash/carbonate in the tank 🡪 O2 free transfer to keg and serve on my kegerator. 

  1. Where do you brew?

My basement. See above mentioned steam condenser. Helps with moisture, but not for smell. 

  1. How often do you brew; is there a certain schedule you have or is it by season?

I generally brew every two weeks, depends on when the mood strikes. These last two weeks I brewed each weekend. 6gal of a SMaSH (Single Malt and Single Hop) German lager. (Munich light/Saaz/German Bock) and just a few days ago I brewed up 12gal of an Amber. There is no rhyme or reason, really. The only seasonality rule I try to follow is when I want my true German Oktoberfest brew. I’ll lager it for 4-6 months and have it ready by Fall. 

  1. What aspects of your hobby would you like to improve upon?

I’m constantly learning and evolving. I absolutely love the science and precision of this hobby. My latest new technique that I’m trying to figure out? Pressure fermenting. My first go with it is on the SMaSH I’m doing right now. 

  1. What advice would you pass on to others considering this hobby:

INVEST ON THE COLD-SIDE! You will be paid the most dividends from this hobby if you take care of what you do with your wort once that boil is over. Also, here are the couple things that I know took me from good beer, to award winning: 

– Water chemistry. I use distilled water and build up a water profile for every beer I make. 

– Fermentation temperature control. I know it’s intimidating but I want to make sure people understand that even if you have your fermenter in a room that has an ambient temperature that is in range of the yeast specs, that does not mean it’ll hold. Fermentation is exothermic, meaning it generates heat. Inside that vessel it is increasing anywhere from 5-10 degrees. If that yeast had a range of up to 72 degrees for example, you are likely now outside of the spec and could cause off flavors. 

– Oxygen free. Oxidation is real and will destroy a beer in no time. Don’t believe me? I have a side-by-side picture of a NEIPA that I took 3rd place with at a big competition. I had one bottle left in the fridge I decided to open a month or so after the comp. Beautiful when sent to the comp. Brown, cardboard tasting muck water in that last bottle. Clearly, I didn’t bottle that one well enough. 

Now, do you need all these things like I do to make good beer? Nope. But understanding how these things work will help you understand and make decisions to make the best beer you can make. This is a time-consuming hobby. Life is too short for bad beer! 😉 

Finally, if you’re new, get a mentor! It’s intimating to jump into this. But it doesn’t have to be. 

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

Brewing beer is just like any hobby out there, meaning you get back what you put into it. Though, it’s the best one, obviously. I’m not biased or anything. I’d like to share that I love helping people and “talking shop.” I’m always available to answer any questions about what I’ve learned or my process if it helps others. We’re all at different stages with this hobby but we can all make awesome beer.  

Cheers Friends. 

-Steve

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