Jeff and Susan Rankert
Home Town (City, State):
What got you brewing?
Several guys at work were trying it, and I thought I would too. That was October, 1992. I am still at it, and they no longer brew. Susan got started about 5 or 6 years ago, as she became interested in the process.
When did you know this was no ordinary hobby, it was an obsession?
After about 4 years it was still going strong and the equipment list kept growing.
What is your "white whale" beer (the beer you'd hunt to the ends of the earth for, and possibly die trying to obtain)?
We don't really have one of those. We lived in Germany for a year and a half for a work assignment, and have tried many of the European classics in their home countries, or at the brewery. We have also traveled the USA, and beer is usually part of the itinerary.
What is your favorite local craft brewery?
We get to Ann Arbor a lot, and it is a draw between Grizzly Peaks and Arbor Brewing and their Corner Brewery facility. We know people involved with both operations.
Do you have a homebrewing disaster you'd like to share?
No disasters, really. Minor burns and cuts, and we intend to keep it that way. We like to start brewing in the morning, and no beer is consumed until the clean up is compete. That makes for a safer brew day, and the beer tends to come out better!
What is your favorite style(s) to brew?
Last year it was lagers and we made a long string of different ones. This year it might turn out to be a series of pilsners. A lot of work and waiting, but the payoff of drinking a good pils in the summer makes it worth it.
What style(s) will you never brew?
Never say never. I made a historic British IPA last fall and aged it for 10 months. Some say that is not the way you make an IPA, they must be fresh. Dry hopped it in the keg, and I thought it was fantastic.
What was the first beer you ever brewed? How did it turn out?
The first was a stout from a kit, and it turned out better than expected. The second was not so good. The stout turning out well may have kept me going.
Have you ever had a homebrew mistake that turned out great?
We made 10 gallons of saison and split it out of the conical into 2 carboys. One became infected (double the cleaning and sanitizing efforts now) and I was not happy seeing a pelicle on the beer in that one. It turned out to be a Brett strain that really was good in the Saison, like some Fantome batches.
What is your favorite recipe based off of a commercial style?
Vinnie Cilurzo's recipe for homebrewed Pliny the Elder. You got to love seeing all of those hops in the kettle.
Are you a BJCP Judge? If so, what is your rank and how long have you been judging?
I am not BJCP, but we are taking study courses lead by Fred Bonjour starting next month.
Do you have a favorite homebrew trick or gadget that you've found to make your beer better/brewing easier, etc?
I took an early retirement 2 years ago, and a friend at work did a collection, and got enough to buy a Blichmann Fermenator. I never would have bought this, but with temperature control it helped make a big improvement in the quality. Another gadget is a 9 position lab grade stir plate that a friend gave me when he moved out of state. That one is a beast; it must weigh 35 to 40 lbs.
Describe your brew system.
It is a 3 half barrel picobrewing system, 3 burners, March pump, immersion chiller. The list goes on. Just bought a chest freezer for more temperature control, so we can do more lagers.
How frequently do you brew (times per month or year)?
16 to 20 times per year.
What is your favorite malt? Why?
Durst pils for German pils, Crisp Maris Otter for British beers, and Briess 2 row for American beers. These are the local sourced ones (except the Crisp is hard to find here now, which is a bummer).
What is your favorite hop? Why?
No one favorite. Amarillo is good. EKG is essential for the British beers. Last year we were really going through the Noble hops, and Tettnanger gets used a lot.
Do you have a favorite or house yeast? What qualities do you like about that yeast?
No real favorite, but the Chico yeast (Wyeast 1056/WLP-001/US05) gets used more than any other. Clean flavor, and it lets the malt and hops shine.
Do you belong to a homebrew club?Have a good homebrew club story you'd like to share?
We belong to the Ann Arbor Brewers Guild. Many fun projects have been done with the club. Susan coordinated the Club Cider Pressing on October 2.
Is there any advice you would like to give to new homebrewers?
Find a good club in your area and ask questions of the experienced brewers. See if you can watch one of the experienced brewers make a batch. If there are BJCP judges in the club, ask them to critique your beer. Listen to the advice, think it over and don't take it personally. You will end up making adjustments to recipes and process that result in better beer.
What is a beer style that is underappreciated and/or could take off given the opportunity and exposure?
Jeff says smoked beers. Susan says milds or other session beers.