Bloats Gone Pro

Membership in a homebrew club fosters sharing, whether it be sharing of brewing techniques or sharing of our homebrewed concoctions.  Tied that in with the critical feedback gained through competitions, many members see the quality of their homebrewing get to the point where they consider the jump to brewing as a career.  Membership in the Bloatarian Brewing League has been the starting point for several professional brewers, current and past.  Perhaps you will add your name to this list someday:

 

blankslatecropScott Lafollette – Blank Slate

Scott started homebrewing in 1998 while still in engineering college.  A co-worker at his co-op job named Steve Borup was a member of the Bloatarians and convinced him to come to a meeting.  At that time the meetings were in the old Brew Works Brewery which later became Jillians in Covington.  Just as the meeting started the brewer came out, put a keg in the middle of the room and said “have at it boys”.  Between that and all the shiny stainless steel everywhere…well let’s just say he was hooked.  Before Scott even graduated from college, he had grand plans for how he was going to start brewing in his basement and sell it to the bar up the street.  That is until he learned about a couple of little organizations called the TTB and Liquor Control.  Scott soon discovered that a bit more time and training was needed.

Well that time turned into nearly 12 years before Scott finally made the leap and started Blank Slate in 2012.  In the meantime, he spent a lot of time learning the business, but more importantly, learning how to brew.  That’s where the Bloatarians come in.  Scott spent a lot of time learning to brew numerous traditional styles and using the knowledge and experience of the club to help him figure out what he was doing right and wrong.  Entering competitions, learning to be a BJCP judge and Cicerone, and the work put to receive a Certificate in Brewing Technology from Siebel Brewing Institute were indispensable experiences that have aided him in becoming a better brewer.  Also, having a bunch of willing guinea pigs to try out weird beer ideas was always very useful!  It’s one thing to give some homebrew to some friends and have them say “hey man, this is great, you should open a brewery.”  It’s another thing to have educated palates and nationally recognized beer judges tell you your beer “doesn’t suck”.

Starting with that good fundamental understanding of traditional styles has allowed Scott to explore the effects different malts, hops, and yeast can have on the flavor profile of a finished product.  He uses this knowledge every day to create the unique flavor profiles that make up the Blank Slate portfolio of beers.  Honing these skills over several years wouldn’t have been possible without the help of a supportive group of homebrewers like the Bloatarians.

TimRTim Rastetter – Thirsty Dog, previously Hofbrauhaus, BrewWorks, Liberty Brewing, and Great Lakes

Tim grew up in a family of German heritage and always had beer around growing up.  Once he turned 18, he had trouble joining his peers in their passion for Budweiser and thought there must be more, but wasn’t really sure what “more” was.  In 1985, he shared in the making of a homebrew with a friend and from that day, he was hooked.  Back then, with no internet, brewing knowledge was hard to come by.  But around 1987, he heard of a homebrew club in Dayton – DRAFT – and despite living 165 miles away in northern Ohio, he went to a meeting, found a bunch of likeminded friends, and joined a community where knowledge and experience were shared for the good of the club.  It was here that Tim met some of the original Bloatarians.  He joined and became good friends with Ray Spangler and Dave Gausepohl in addition to many others.

To say that homebrew clubs had a major impact on him would be an understatement.  Not only did Tim continue to keep up with DRAFT, he helped start the SNOB homebrew group in Cleveland and the SAAZ group in Akron, plus joined two other now defunct homebrew clubs.  Despite all those club affiliations, Tim thought the Bloatarians were light years ahead of the other groups with their Belgian influence, a National Homebrewer of the Year, a microbiologist who had a yeast inventory to die for, a yearly extravaganza unlike any other, and a philosophy about homebrewing that just grew creativity unlike any of the other clubs.  The Bloatarian Brewing League was, by far, his major influence in the decision to explore the world of professional brewing, and his attendance at the 1989 Homebrew Extravaganza at Oldenberg brewery was the tipping point in making him feel like he could indeed go pro.

Tim’s professional career started in 1992 as assistant brewer at Great Lakes Brewing Company, and within 3 months he was head brewer.  In 1994, he opened Liberty Brewing Company in Akron, and in 1996, those early relationships with Ray, Dave, and other Bloatarians led to him to make the move down to the Cincinnati area to become the brewmaster at BrewWorks at the Party Source.  However, the late 90s were not kind to the fledgling craft brewing industry and many went under – BrewWorks was among the casualties.

With a temporary dry spell in his professional brewing career, Tim once Brewmaster with Monsteragain started to homebrew.  His home built system (seen here) had morphed into a huge device that could brew three different beers at the same time, and continue to constantly brew a new batch of anywhere from 10 to 40 gallons at a time every 90 minutes.  He and the Bloatarians once proved the system’s enormous capacity with a massive 8 batch brew day.

In 2003, Tim restarted his professional career at Hofbrauhaus in Newport.  Although he was brewing commercially again, he still homebrewed since it offered an outlet for creativity compared to the limited portfolio of beers at Hofbrauhaus.  In 2007, Tim was approached by Thirsty Dog Brewing Company to start a microbrewery for them to end their contract brewing.  He revamped those contract brewed recipes and over time, he has added to their lineup utilizing his previous commercial recipes along with homebrew recipes never commercialized plus many new recipes, reaching a portfolio of 50 beers.  With that outlet for creativity, Tim considered it like being in “Homebrew Heaven”, just on a commercial scale.  He has since designed tanks, brewhouses, CIP systems, installed a million dollar bottling line, and soon, a remake of the brewhouse that he designed for BrewWorks at the Party Source back in the 90s.  Since he is back in Akron, he has also reconnected to the SAAZ homebrew group that he had started all those years ago.

Tim followed a path of discovery that started with homebrewing to find flavors that he didn’t even know existed to an extensive pro career with multiple stops on the way.  Through it all, he still feels the influence of his homebrew roots and the Bloatarian Brewing League.

RoeperJason Roeper – Rivertown

Rivertown’s founder and fearless leader has always had a passion for fermentation. Growing up, he found himself amazed by his uncle, Andy Grigg (also a Bloatarian), who would spend his weekends brewing and then bringing his handcrafted libations to family gatherings. The day Jason turned 21, he went to his Uncle’s house and brewed his first batch of beer. Jason swears it was terrible, but continued to persevere, experiment and hone his craft.

In search of honest feedback, Jason decided to become an official member of the Bloatarians in 2001 and began sending his beers to a variety of National and Local Homebrew competitions (Beer & Sweat being his favorite!). To his surprise, he became highly awarded and credits the Bloatarians with helping him to build a strong foundation and understanding of the brewing process, style guidelines and importance of community. Despite all his medals, he continued to spend time dialing in even the smallest of details and while doing this, he uncovered a passion for yeasts and bacteria of the wild variety.

In 2007, Jason decided to submit a beer to the Sam Adams Longshot Competition and became a finalist with his unblended Lambic, called “Straight Up”. Shortly after that experience, Jason put his vision onto paper and began pounding the pavement. He never accepted no for an answer, despite how many times he initially heard it. Finally, Jason’s dream to share his passion with a larger audience was finally realized. In 2009, Rivertown Brewing Company was born and to this day, the Team at Rivertown continues to embrace that determined spirit in everything they do.

Luke Shropshire – Streetside, previously Mt. Carmel

Getting into home brewing was more of an accident than anything. Luke wanted to pass his cicerone exam to help with his food and beverage career. He quickly realized actually brewing a beer would help him retain more info than reading. He got into homebrewing in the month of August 2014, and has never looked back.

Luke became obsessed with brewing, but with no brewing experience or knowledge, he found belonging to a homebrew club like the Bloatarians could be a crucial step in his success for better tasting sudz. When joining the club, he was able to ask questions without being judged for his lack of knowledge, and could taste other homebrews beer to learn from. Being in a homebrew club and having access to years of knowledge, is what helped him stay positive about a bad brew. Luke knew he would receive help from other experienced home brewers who knew exactly how to fix any issue.

Taking the step to going pro was more of a blessing than anything. At the time, Luke had only 11 months of homebrewing experience and decided to apply at Mt. Carmel Brewing Company on a whim. After being hired, he was told that due to his passion about beer and knowledge is what got his foot in the door. Luke strongly believes this would not have happened without being associated with a well organized homebrew club filled with award winning people.

Michael Albarella – Nine Giant

Mike Carver – previously Christian Moerlein

Josh Elliott – Urban Artifact, previously Listermann/Triple Digit

Jay Erisman – New Riff Distillery

Matt Folan – previously Mad Monk

Patrick Gilroy – Listermann/Triple Digit

Jennifer Hermann – previously Rockmill and Market Garden

Mike Hufnagel – previously Holy Grail

Tom Hull – Christian Moerlein, previously Rivertown

Dan Listermann – Listermann/Triple Digit

Chris Mitchell – Woodburn Brewery, previously Listermann/Triple Digit

Kevin Moreland – Taft’s Ale House, previously Listermann/Triple Digit and Christian Moerlein

Randy Mosher – 5 Rabbit

Randy Schiltz – Wooden Cask Brewing, previously Rivertown

Ray Spangler – previously BrewWorks

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