Brewer of the Week: Bob Manke
Name: Bob Manke
Hometown: Kansasville, Wisconsin
Brewing Since: 1999
When did you start brewing/What got you brewing?
I started brewing in 1999, after years of sampling many kegs my friend Tom was making and bringing to parties. Each keg he brought was fantastic, so I finally decided to have Tom help me buy the basic equipment to get started. We made a trip to The Frugal Homebrewer, and afterwards I brewed one extract batch of Honey Weisse that turned out great!
Sadly, I had to put the equipment away for awhile to complete a major remodel of my old house. In 2009, I was visiting Belgium on business and attended a team-building tour of Brasserie Dubuisson on the French border. After going on a great tour of this very old brewery, I came back and started brewing again, moving pretty quickly to partial mash and then all-grain.
When did you know this was no ordinary hobby, it was an obsession?
In three-and-a-half years of brewing, I brewed batch #74 last weekend.
When did you join the AHA?
I joined the AHA when I restarted brewing again in 2010.
What is your "white whale" beer (the beer you'd hunt to the ends of the earth for, and possibly die trying to obtain)?
I have many beers I love. None that are to die for, but some of my favorites are Ale Asylum Hopilicious, Kona Fire Rock Pale, Sweetwater IPA, Lagunitas Lil Sumpin Sumpin and Stone Black IPA.
What are your favorite craft breweries?
Lakefront Brewery, Ale Asylum, Stone, New Glarus, Lagunitas, Sweetwater, Milwaukee Brewing Company, Central Waters, Bells and Founders.
Do you have a homebrewing disaster you'd like to share?
I do mashes in a 10-gallon Rubbermaid cooler on a countertop, and usually tip one edge of the cooler and rest it on a 2x4 to get more out of the tun when I drain it. I was draining the first runnings into a 5-gallon stainless steel stock pot and had left the basement to get something upstairs, when I heard a loud crash. My mash tun had slid off the countertop and landed perfectly tipped at an angle on top of the 5-gallon stock pot.
The mash tun was still three-fourths full of first runnings. It had sloshed some nice sticky mash all over the front of my brew stove in the basement, running down in-between the two panes of glass on the oven window. Luckily, no wort spilled and the mash tun was balanced against the side of the oven door. I spent several minutes taking apart the oven door and hosing off parts outside so it would not dry into a sticky mess. Lesson learned...never leave your draining mash tun alone.
Do you have a special homebrew related project that you'd like to share?
My basement BrewHaus has been a pet project. My goal was to be able to do all my brewing indoors year-round. I think I've now invested about $2,700 in the last few years.
What is your favorite style(s) to brew?
I prefer German lagers: dunkels, bocks, Oktoberfests; American pale ales; hoppy pale wheat's and black IPAs.
What style(s) will you never brew?
What was the first beer you ever brewed? How did it turn out?
My first was an extract batch of Honey Weisse, and it turned out very good. It was a little big, and I didn't use the right hops, but it was good anyway. I started kegging right off the bat, so learned a lot.
What is your favorite recipe based off of a commercial style?
Three Floyd's Gumball Head, Lakefront Brewery's Riverwest Stein and Kona Fire Rock Pale Ale.
Are you a BJCP Judge? If so, what is your rank and how long have you been judging?
I have been studying and taking part in BJCP classes run by the Beer Barons of Milwaukee. Also, I've been taking part as a steward in many competitions, and have judged one as a fill-in. But, feel I need a little more experience before I start judging, just to be fair to the entries.
Do you have a favorite homebrew trick or gadget that you've found to make your beer better/brewing easier, etc.?
I use BeerSmith, a Brewer's Friend water chemistry calculator, infrared thermometers, decoction mashing and first wort hopping.
Describe your brew system.
I have a 15-gallon Polarware Brew Kettle, 10-gallon Rubbermaid cooler mash tun with a bullet screen, and a few 2.5/5/6-gallon stainless steel pots for heating mash water. Also, I have a few glass carboys, an upright freezer/fermenter that holds four glass carboys, and an eight-keg kegerator with a dual regulated CO2 tank. Finally, another upright freezer I use for lagering kegs and keeping bottles cold. It's all controlled by Johnson Controls digital temp controllers.
How frequently do you brew (times per month or year)?
On average, I brew twice a month (year-round), and on occasion of need for family gatherings or competitions.
What is your favorite malt? Why?
I like Weyermann, Best Munich and Pilsner malts because they are very important to the taste of traditional dark German lagers. Also, Rahr Pale Ale Malt has been my go-to malt for my pale ales and wheats. I often use Weyermann Carafa Special III for getting dark, rich color without the roasted flavors.
What is your favorite hop? Why?
I fell in love with traditional noble hops such as Hersbrucker and Tettnang initially, but as my brewing practices become seasonal, I have moved to more hoppy pale ales and pale wheats, so Amarillo comes to mind too. Also, I use Simcoe, Centennial, Cascade and NZ Nelson Sauvin.
What is your dream beer and food pairing?
Beer and cheese are a special combination, as they go so well together when paired carefully. We are lucky there is an explosion of craft cheeses now being produced (somewhat like the craft beer movement) in Wisconsin. For those who've have tried it, beer goes better with cheese than wine. Beer and chocolate comes in a close second.
Do you have a favorite or house yeast? What qualities do you like about that yeast?
Wyeast Bavarians, Bohemian Lager and American Ale 1056 are what I use in most of my beers. I've spent a lot of time testing and comparing parallel batches with the only difference being yeast, and found some very valuable lessons and have decided which I personally like.
Do you belong to a homebrew club? Do you have a good homebrew club story you'd like to share?
The Beer Barons of Milwaukee is my club. It's a large group of about 200 or so homebrewers and beer enthusiasts, and I have connected with some great friends and fantastic brewers. We have had some very memorable meetings and get-togethers. The Beer and Cheese Pairing night and Beer and Chocolate night have been personal highlights for me. And we can't forget the fun we had all day spent at Milwaukee's Germanfest a few years back slamming a few Sprecher Doppelbocks together after winning Best of Show with my Munich Dunkel (judged by Gordon Strong) and getting my book signed by him.
Is there any advice you would like to give to new homebrewers?
Always look to learn about your beers by sharing with friends who also brew or are BJCP judges. Experiment with different malts/yeasts and different brands of malts and learn how to use BeerSmith. Volunteer your time at competitions for stewarding. Read and contribute to the forums and websites. I think I have saved countless years of trial and error by learning from the homebrew community who share their stories, recipes and techniques. Keep good, meticulous records for all your batches from start to finish. Brew the same recipe over and over until you are happy with the results.