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

Posted in interview | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Meet a Green Bay Racker- Josh Jahnke

This edition of “Meet a Green Bay Racker” features.. Josh Jahnke!

Meet a Green Bay Racker

1: Introducing: Josh Jahnke (Rackers president, 2024) 

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

I’d been curious about brewing through most of my early 20’s and really got the itch in 2014. I picked up a starter equipment kit, kettle, and Belgian golden strong extract kit at the beloved and recently closed House of Homebrew. I was fortunate that it turned out decent which encouraged me to keep brewing. Made the jump to all grain by batch four, within a year. I found my way to the Rackers in 2016 and I’ve been an active member since.

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

Primarily beer, specifically a lot of European-style lagers (+kveik pseudo-lagers) and saisons. Most of my beer gets kegged. I have a four-tap keezer in my basement that usually holds 4-5 kegs. I like 3gal kegs for splitting/blending batches and I really love pulling out my 6L mini keg from the cooler to pour beers at mountain bike trailhead parking lots after a ride. 

I’ve dabbled in wine, mead, and cider and had decent results but I just don’t drink enough of them to warrant the effort of them unless I have a surplus of cider or honey.

I started out bottling for my first couple years but these days I usually only bottle condition things I specifically want to bottle condition and cellar longer, like saisons and mixed culture sours. For those I like to prime for high carbonation, so I’m very particular about the bottles that I use. And sometimes I’ll fill a few bottles from whatever I have on tap to bring to parties. I just bought HoH’s beer can sealer and am pretty excited to put it to work.

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

I started in my kitchen with an extract kit in a 5gal pot. I got through three batches before I picked up a couple coolers and a false bottom to take my first crack at all grain, and I’ve been primarily brewing with those same mash vessels ever since. I still sometimes just grab some dry malt extract and some crystal malt for steeping if I want to pump out a quick easy hoppy brew (I’m still working through bags of 2018 Cascade hops in my freezer).

  1. Where do you brew?

Usually in the family’s shared barn/shed behind my house, or on my deck if the barn is too busy during harvest season. I’m looking into setting up a hood system in my basement and trying out the club’s recently acquired electric brew systems, so I can brew where all my beer toys live.

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

I think I’ve brewed three times in the past year, but they were all 10gal batches, each split between at least two yeasts. Sometimes I’ll dry hop one half of a batch or try different sugars for portions of a saison. I also tend to volunteer to brew beers to serve at beer fests, which is a great way to gain entry to them for cheap. It also encourages me to branch out into styles/additives that I don’t think I’d want a whole keg of for the household, but I often find myself enjoying them much more than expected.

I am a bit of a seasonal brewer. I try to have a pale lager, kölsch, or sometimes hefeweizen for the summer, darker maltier lagers in the fall and winter, and sometimes a dry Irish stout to lead into St. Paddy’s day. Dark heavy beers taste great year round but definitely taste better to me in winter. 

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

I could definitely do much better with my record keeping. My brewing logs are mostly on the Brewer’s Friend website, but some batches I just keep everything low-tech on a notebook page. I rarely repeat an exact recipe, so my memory is usually worth as much as my actual notes when it comes to planning future batches. This doesn’t always translate to educating others effectively, and education is definitely the biggest thing I’m trying to offer the club as president.

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

You’ll be surprised how many ways you might find yourself using your equipment for things besides brewing: I use my Blichmann burner far more often for hot water bath/pressure canning than for making beer; My 5gal starter kettle is my go-to pot for giant batches of chicken stock; I like to add fresh fruit juice or a few mL of fruit flavor extract to a keg of filtered water and hook up the CO2, a few days later, that’s a dirt cheap flavored sparkling water on tap. 

Brewing has also pushed me to invest in some really nice thermometers that I use for everything, all the time. 

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

My other hobbies include bicycling (and racing/endurance events) and modding iPods. I spend much more time and money on bikes than brewing, and will likely have to miss some club events on the calendar that conflict with some of my favorite races, such as the Bear 100 gravel race in Laona, which is on National Homebrew Day in May. But I’ll be celebrating by sharing my beers there.

Besides making beer, I also have a massive shared family garden and plenty of fruit trees, so every year we have a major harvest and a lot of canning, pickling, freezing, dehydrating, juicing/pressing, fermenting, and finding ways to put all to use as much as possible. I grew up with this and then I married into the same traditions. I think it inspired me to want to make my own beer, and sometimes the freezer is too full so I’ll pull out some fruit and make it into a tasty fermented beverage. I don’t drink a lot of fruit beer but the ones I’ve made have been well enough received to make me want to make more of them. I think that’s what I love most about brewing: all the opportunities to be resourceful and make more of the things we consume.

 

 

Posted in interview | Tagged , , , , , | 1 Comment

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

—–

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?

Posted in interview | Tagged , | 3 Comments

August Picnic

Check your emails for details on the August 5th Rackers picnic!

We also will be having the annual Lil’ Pisser contest for the best homebrewed beverage, so bring out your winner

If you didnt get an email, contact rackers.president@gmail.com

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment