Jared Veldheer, Arizona Cardinals’ offensive tackle, discusses his homebrewing roots and the AHA’s National Homebrew Competition.
Most of us might agree with Andy Williams that the holidays are the “Most Wonderful Time of the Year,” but not NFL players. Not by a long shot. With the Super Bowl being an exception, there is nothing better after a tough-fought season than the off-season.
While this is the time for players to recuperate from the previous season and gear up for the next, it’s also an opportunity for some much needed family time and to pursue the things players like to do outside of football. For some, it’s golf, a vacation or even yard work. For Jared Veldheer, offensive tackle for the Arizona Cardinals, it’s homebrewing.
In 2016, Veldheer entered the National Homebrew Competition and won first place in the American Pale Ale category in the First Round in San Diego. I got the chance to talk with Jared about his homebrewing roots, his award-winning homebrew recipe and why he couldn’t go snowboarding.
John Moorhead: How did your homebrew journey kick off?
Jared Veldheer: I was in Oakland playing for the Raiders about five or six years ago. The offensive linemen do a gift exchange during the holiday season. I brought a homebrew kit as my gift exchange. It was basic—brew bucket, extract ingredients, etc.—and in the back of my head, I knew I wanted it if nobody took it home. So I guess I got my wish.
I took it back to Grand Rapids, Michigan and began brewing in the off-season. My first beer was an Irish red ale, something I’m not a huge fan of, but it was easy as a first homebrew batch. It turned out…OK. Well, better than expected, at least. I was just really pumped that I made beer that was drinkable on my first try.
JM: At what point were you getting into craft beer?
JV: My first beer was a Corona way back when, and my palate has since matured. It started developing while at Hillsdale College in Michigan, where I stayed away from the likes of Bud Light and Miller Lite. I always liked trying new things, so I started drinking Bell’s Oberon Ale in Kalamazoo, Michigan.
After I was drafted by the Raiders and lived in the Bay Area, things really took off. I started drinking Rogue’s Dead Guy Ale and Stone’s Arrogant Bastard, which led to me making beer during the off-season since I couldn’t go snowboarding or do a whole lot of physical things outside—coach’s orders. So I just decided to make beer instead.
JM: Do you have favorite beers/styles?
JV: I don’t have a one favorite beer. I do love Bell’s Two Hearted Ale, but I’m a seasonal beer guy. I like pumpkin beers, too. I don’t like to commit to just one style.
JM: What got you interested in trying to make your own beer at home?
JV: I was a biology major in college, which helped build my passion and interest in the brewing process. It’s a detailed, scientific process that also involves some creativity. There are lots of things that could go wrong during the brew day, so controlling those variables is important.
JM: Does anyone else on your team homebrew?
JV: No, not yet at least. I get some teammates to come over on brew day and I’ve brought my homebrew in for some of the guys. I served it in the locker room, busted out some of those little Gatorade cups, and everyone seemed to enjoy it. I just wanted to show them what it was all about and share what I do in my free time. There’s one guy on the team who is really into beer and I think will start getting involved with it soon. Time will tell.
JM: When do you do most of your brewing?
JV: I mostly homebrew in the off-season, and during training camp my wife and daughter were gone visiting her family, so I got to squeeze in a lot of brewing during that time. It’s a hobby for now, but I’ve also trademarked the name “68 Brewing Company” for any potential future use.
JM: Had you entered the National Homebrew Competition before?
JV: Nope, last year was my first year in the competition. I entered because when we tried to enter the GABF Pro-Am the year before, I didn’t have an award-winning recipe. Ironically, after I won first place in the American Pale Ale category, we forgot to enter it this year! I plan on entering this year so we’ll see what happens.
JM: Have you thought about becoming a certified beer judge?
JV: I’m interested. I like picking things apart after trying them, so it’s something I’ll look into and more than likely pursue.
JM: How long have you been an AHA member?
JV: I’ve been an AHA member for four or five years!
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John Moorhead is Director of the National Homebrew Competition, coordinates the Great American Beer Festival® Pro-Am Competition and the Capitol Hill Staff Homebrew Competition, and writes for HomebrewersAssociation.org.