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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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.

 

 

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