Brewer Profile: Brett Bakko of Rush River Brewing

G: What’s the philosophy of your brewery?

BB: We strive to make smooth, well-balanced ales that are highly palatable yet have depth of flavor. All of our products are unfiltered and unpasteurized. We have a cask program in which we create unique offerings based on the classic ale styles we offer. We are a hands-on brewery with everyone involved in all phases of the brewing, packaging, and marketing processes. Dan, Nick, and Robbie have built the brewery from the ground up with their own ingenuity and hard work, and have passed along that spirit to James, Tim, and me. We pretty much know intimately every nut and bolt in the whole place.

G: Any new recipes you are working on?

BB: Lately I’ve been experimenting with smoked malts, which has led to a smoked maple porter and a smoked imperial red. My mother-in-law has a lavender farm in northern Michigan so a lavender cream ale is also in the works.

Rush River Brewing Company // Photo by Kristine Erickson

Rush River Brewing Company // Photo by Kristine Erickson

G: What do you see as the “next big thing” in the craft beer world?

BB: Yeast is really the magic ingredient that makes everything happen in beer. There is seemingly an infinite amount of wild yeast strains that exist everywhere that could potentially be used to ferment beer. The trick is to figure out which ones work well in combination with other ingredients and how to isolate and propagate those strains. I imagine there are yeast wranglers out there now with secret basement laboratories that have all kinds of labeled petri dishes filled with who knows what.

G: What about beer means so much to us as a society?

BB: Historically, beer has had an important role in the evolution of societies worldwide. If you’re into beer and history, check out the documentary “How Beer Saved the World.” The modern craft beer culture also has the ability to bring out the best qualities of society. There seems to be a pervasive philosophy among breweries and their supporters of local business, hard work, high quality, camaraderie, sharing, partnerships, and community. It brings people together.

G: Wisconsin or Minnesota?

BB: Both.

G: Favorite beer and food pairing?

BB: Grilled venison with steamed veggies and an IPA, then stout and tiramisu for dessert.

G: What are you reading right now?

BB: Gaviotas. It’s about a self-sustainable society that formed in Colombia’s arid eastern highlands. Like the craft beer culture, it shows what is possible when like-minded people come together to make something positive happen.

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About Brian Kaufenberg

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

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