Jeff has been our brewer since the very beginning. He started his professional brewing career at HopCat and came over to Pike 51 when he found out we had plans to open a brewery in addition to our winery. Jeff and his family live in Hudsonville, so they have been loyal patrons since we started up Hudsonville Winery in 2009. He impressed us so much with his brewing skills and knowledge that we decided to keep him. Learn more about Jeff and his brewing process.
When did you start homebrewing?
I really got into it 10 years ago. My college roommates and I did some dinking around with it, but the beer was not very good. Five years after that, one of those roommates moved in with me and my wife and we started homebrewing seriously. The first year of homebrewing, we were bordering on the limit of how much you can homebrew in a year.
You came to Pike 51 from HopCat. Did you brew anywhere else besides those two?
I started at HopCat. When I was homebrewing, I was doing carpentry out in Zeeland. That was when the housing market was cruising. But then the housing market crashed and I got laid off. At the same time, HopCat was just getting their brewery going. I was friends with the owners and they had tasted my homebrew and asked if I wanted to work for them. This was never a life goal – it just kind of fell in my lap.
Do you miss carpentry at all?
We do enough projects around here to keep my carpentry skills sharp. And even though I’m making beer now, I’m still creating something. I think that’s really all I need to do – at the end of the day, walk away with something that I built or created, whether it’s a beer or cabinet.
How did you find out about Pike 51?
I live right down the road. When they opened the winery, it was a big deal – it’s Hudsonville, there is nothing. You could barely buy a beer at the grocery store. My wife and I would come to the winery to hang out, and when Steve and Ron were thinking about putting the brewery in, they brought me in as a consultant at first, and then they asked me to brew for them.
How do you balance the science and art of making good beer?
I try to keep science as far out of things as possible. I do the necessary science-y things and prefer to let the magic do its thing. My process worked itself out a long time ago, so if you keep your process the same and change the variables, you get diverse beer.
How do you choose what kind of beer to brew next?
When we’re looking at new beers, we look at what holes are missing in the current draft list. Sometimes that’s how the best beers turn out, by looking at what ingredients you have and filling in what’s missing.
What’s your favorite kind of beer?
I don’t have a specific favorite kind of beer, but I typically drink hoppy beers. I’m an IPA guy. In house, I drink The Kush IPA and lately I’ve been into Sofa King.
What kind of music do you listen to while you’re brewing?
It depends on the day and the beer that I’m brewing. In a single day, my music choices can go from bluegrass to metal. Today it’s Beastie Boys and Snoop Dogg. On bottling days, I usually play electronica. It’s all over the place.
What do you like to do outside of brewing?
I have two little kids, a nine-month-old girl named Maggie and an almost five-year-old boy named Gus. They take up a lot of time, so when I’m not here, I’m with them.