Beer Alien, being fascinated with all things beer, has begun interviewing professional brewers in order to better understand the humans that make the beer we love so much. Through these interactions we hope to better understand and appreciate the beer you humans create on this planet.
We had the distinct pleasure of talking with Aaron Morse of Dark Horse Brewing
Beer Alien: How long have you been a professional brewer?
I started brewing professionally in 1996, so 19 years
Beer Alien: What is your favorite part of the job? least favorite part of the job?
I have to many favorite parts of the job, but here’s a few. I love making and creating things with my hands and mind. It is very gratifying to write recipes for beers and end up with a great end product. Then to get to see people enjoy that product is another great part of craft brewing. Now a days I don’t brew much beer because we have moved to multiple shifts and brewers, but another great part of the job is passing on my knowledge to other brewers, plus learning from them too. Anyone who thinks they know everything and can’t learn from others is a very closed minded person. There are a ton of other things I love about the job, but those are a few.
Beer Alien: How has your opinion of brewing beer changed from when you were a home brewer to now being a professional brewer?
I’m not sure if my opinion has changed really since being a homebrewer, but I really think professional brewing is easier. In professional brewing you have all the equipment, pumps, and things that makes it easier. I have definitely learned a ton more about beer, beer style, beer chemistry and much more, but I believe my opinion of beer hasn’t really changed. I still have an incredible passion for beer and the craft of making it. I don’t drink quite as much of it in my older age than I did when I was in my 20’s. The old body and mind can’t spring back as fast as it use to ha ha.
Beer Alien: When did you realize you wanted to be a professional brewer and how long after realizing did it take you to become a professional brewer?
When I started home brewing in college it was more so just as a hobby and a way to make beer cheaper for me and my college buddies, but as soon as the opportunity to become a Brewer professionally came up I knew it was going to be my job. I had such a passion for beer and making it, once that opportunity showed up I jumped in with both feet and learned as much as I could and tried every beer I could get my hands on. I got lucky as in the time it took me to become a professional brewer. I was opening my own brewery so all I had to do was go through my apprenticeship and learn as much as possible and my chance to be a professional brewer was there. I for sure paid my dues with my apprenticeship and in the school of hard knocks but I didn’t have to start in the packaging department or cleaning floors in a brewery and work my way up. I had to do all those things because it was my own brewery and I was the only there at first but I got to package beer, clean floors and brew beer all in the same day or week. Hopefully that make sense.
Beer Alien: Share your most interesting brewing disaster.
One of my most interesting beer disasters happened while kegging. I was going to keg off some 1/2 bbls for a contract account and we had only been open a year or 2 so it was a huge thing for us at that point to be doing a beer for a restaurant that was going to put their name on it. I had hooked up the kegging arm which at that point was what we call the “octopus”, which is a stainless tube about 24 inches long that has 6 ball valves on it with tubing coming off each ball valve that go to a Sankey coupler. I had a section of brew hose hooked to the bright tank and the kegging octopus on the end of the brew hose. After getting everything hooked up and checking the beer I had decided that it needed to sit another day or two to allow a little more yeast to drop out and brighten up. So I go to break everything down to clean it and take the tri-clamp off the kegging octopus from the brew hose and quickly figure out I forgot to shut the valve off on the bottom of the bright tank. So I now have a 1 1/2 brew hose spraying beer out as fast as it can leave the hose. So I figure hell I’ll put my hand over the end of the hose and try to stop it but really all it did was make it spray out of the hose at all different directions because the bright tank has 20 lbs of pressure on it and there’s no way I could have stopped the pressure coming out of that hose. So after screaming for Trent to shut the valve on the tank, we lost about 2 bbls of beer (62 gallons) and I managed to soak myself and everything around me. The other disaster with this situation was that the account wanted a certain amount of beer delivered on the first order and we were already very very very close if we kegged every drop, so after this issue it put us short on volume and we had to tell the account we were short on the first order.
Beer Alien: On your days away from the brewery, what activities do you indulge in?
I am a worker at heart so on days away from the brewery I am usually working on our farm. We have 150 acres that we have a Sugaring operation (maple syrup), fruit trees orchard(apples, pears and apricots), Bee raising and honey production and this year we are starting to put in 15 acres of hops for use at the brewery. Other than that I enjoy hanging with my son (10) I try to do anything and everything with him which now that he’s 10 and getting older by the minute it’s not as cool to hangout with his dad. I also enjoy traveling with my wife and kid, whether that be vacation, see a concert or a beer eve We don’t do enough of it but are starting to do more and more now. I am a fairly avid Hunter and fisherman, which work the last 10 years has cut down on how much hunting and fishing I do but when I can I like to Bow hunt for big game, duck and goose hunt, and upland bird hunt. In the summer I have a boat and slip on Lake Michigan in South Haven that we fish for Salmon, Lake Trout and Perch. In the Winter, I like to get out ice fishing, which in my older age being in a warm shanty is the way to do it. Ha Ha
Beer Alien: How long did you home brew before you became a professional brewer?
I started home brewing in 1994 and 1996 professionally, so about 2 years
Beer Alien: Do you still home brew?
I do not homebrew anymore. With all the things we have going on I wouldn’t have time anyway.
Beer Alien: What was the first beer you brewed? What do you remember about the experience? (Come on, we all know the first time is an experience)
The first beer I brewed (homebrewing) was a beer I called Monkey Brewing which was a Lager. It was just a light Lagerfeld that did not turn out very good, but it had alcohol and I was in college so there were plenty of people that drank it. Professionally the first beer I brewed was Reserve Special Black Ale which is one of our Flagship beers to this day. It is a big malty, assertively hopped Black ale that really doesn’t fall into any style guidelines but is real tasty.
Beer Alien: If you could give one piece of advice to new home brewers, what would it be?
Brew brew brew, the best way to get better is to brew as much as possible and learn your ingredients. Learn grains, what they taste like, what they do to beer. It is much easier to write a recipe and make a beer taste like you want it to if you know grains and the flavor profile they will give when used. The better you know your ingredients the easier they are to use and use correctly and the better your beer will taste. There are a ton more pieces of advise I’d give a homebrewer but knowing your ingredients and brewing as much and as many batches as possible is a great place to start and the rest will fall in line.
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