Brewer Profile: Brett Bakko of Rush River Brewing

G: If you could only brew one Rush River beer for the rest of your life, which would it be?

BB: I prefer hoppy beers, so I would choose Minion, our new IPA.

G: What would you be doing if you weren’t brewing professionally?

BB: I would be teaching second grade at Adams Spanish Immersion here in St. Paul. That is what I was doing before I started with Rush River.

G: Who has been your biggest individual influence in brewing?

BB: That’s a tough one. My family has been so supportive of my brewing endeavors over the years. My wife has seen it all in the many kitchens we’ve had throughout our relationship. Dan and Nick have been the best guys to work for and have taught me a ton. I would have to say, however, the one person that influenced me the most was a friend in Taos that was brewing at Eske’s with whom I homebrewed often. He has since gone on to co-found Taos Mesa Brewing Company. That was a formative time for me in brewing and life in general. He filled in the gaps of what myself and our other friend were missing, taking our limited knowledge of extract brewing to a refined, all-grain level. That’s when I became really committed to making good beer.

Rush River Brewing Bottling Line // Photo by Kristine Erickson

Rush River Brewing Bottling Line // Photo by Kristine Erickson

BB: As I sit here typing on this cold, gray Saturday afternoon, I figured it was time to pour one. I cracked a bottle from the batch my NM buddy and I made back at the end of December. Do I like it? Yes. Would I tweak it? Maybe, maybe not. That’s what is so fun about creating something—bouncing ideas off colleagues, friends and family, creating a tangible product, then experiencing, analyzing and critiquing it with those people and whoever else wants in (or just yourself). It reminds me of the salon in the art world I guess. And certainly, for me, there is much more to understand about the science behind it all. It’s really fascinating to learn about what’s going on at a molecular level.


G: Where is your favorite place to put one back?

BB: Recently, a cafe opened in my neighborhood here in the Midway called Groundswell. They have been a great supporter of Rush River, as well as many other local breweries. They have kind eats and a mellow vibe. I love how a small, neighborhood cafe like Groundswell now serves more than coffee and that everything on tap is local.

G: What is the biggest misconception about your line of work?

BB: There seems to be a perception of the brewer being some kind of celebrity party guy or gal. Really, we’re sweating it out in the trenches focused on the quality and consistency of our product. Sure, a brewery is a fun place to work, but it’s not all fun and games all the time.

G: What is the most gratifying part of your job?

BB: Watching something that you made go through all the phases of its lifespan—from brewing, fermenting, and conditioning to packaging, to consumption—is exciting. The hardest part is waiting until you can taste the final product, which makes it that much more satisfying. Seeing people walk into an establishment and order a pint of Rush River is pretty cool.

Brett Bakko working in the brewhouse // Photo by Kristine Erickson

Brett Bakko working in the brewhouse // Photo by Kristine Erickson

G: Is there a beer that changed your perspective on what craft beer could and should be?

BB: The brewpub in Taos, Eske’s, made a green chile beer. It was seemingly harmless—a clean, bright, pale ale. Yet the nose on it was fresh-roasted green chile and it was really spicy on the palate. Although very drinkable upon first sips, it was a struggle to get through a whole pint. This was a beer that proved what craft beer could be but not necessarily should be. I began to realize though that the possibilities were endless. Craft beer can be anything made with inspiration and creativity. It should be that which makes people smile, or at least raise an eyebrow.

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About Brian Kaufenberg

Brian Kaufenberg is the editor-in-chief of The Growler Magazine.

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