Firehouse Head Brewer Mike Beebe has an impressive resume starting his journey in beer in 2011. He is a native of New York but has been all over the country honing his craft. We sit down with Mike and find out what he loves about beer, how he got to South Dakota and where he gets his inspiration.
- What got you into the craft beer industry?
I started homebrewing in Milwaukee in 2010, and about a year after that got my first industry job as a bartender/tour guide at the Sprecher Brewery. After lots more homebrewing and exploring some different types of work I got my first full-time beer production job in 2017.
- Where has your career taken you?
I’ve lived/worked in New York City, Milwaukee, Bradenton/Sarasota (Florida), and now Rapid City!
- What brought you to South Dakota?
Firehouse made a really exciting pitch to me that this could be a place where we could accomplish a lot in terms of scaling up the production facility, raising the quality of everything we do and making some excellent, creative beers. I could see the potential (and all the work that it would take) but I believed enough to move from the Gulf Coast of Florida to the Black Hills.
- What process do you go through to create a new beer?
It starts with an idea – a style or flavor/texture/aroma that I’m chasing. Sometimes that can be inspired by another beer that I’ll try somewhere and am intrigued by, but want to put a different spin on. Sometimes an idea will come from a single ingredient, or a culinary dish. Then I’ll write a recipe that’s designed to hit that target, brew it, and sometimes make adjustments in-tank to get it as close to where I imagine it needs to be. Defining and hitting the target takes a good deal of experience and sensory memory, although sometimes something really good will emerge in a way that I can’t anticipate. A lot of the process that I’m describing really applies to the next phase of beers that I have in development for release through fall, winter and spring – beers that incorporate techniques such as aging and souring in barrels, blending cultures, refermenting on whole fruit, or brewing with other types of spices or culinary ingredients. For instance, my recipe for this year’s “Krampus” Winter Ale includes baking spices like nutmeg and cinnamon along with dried juniper berries and spruce tips, plus there will be a special wood-infused version too.
- Do you have a favorite style of beer?
Clean: Dry Irish Stout. Sour: Flanders Red.
- Do you brew beer at home?
Not in a long time, I more than get to scratch that itch at work. Over time you’ll see me release a lot of specialty beers that reflect the same ideas and sensibility that I would bring to homebrewing, only done at a professional level of quality and consistency.
- Are there new innovations in the beer industry that you would like to bring to the Firehouse?
I’m always interested in bringing in new techniques, ingredients and materials to my brewery, and we’ve already started to apply some new advanced products in the brewery for a variety of tasks – anything that will make the beer better quality, more consistent and improve its shelf life. There’s something cool I’m working on soon for our fruited sours that I’m sure will be a big hit.
- If you were not a brewmaster, what other career path would you be on?
I’m an escaped academic, but I’ve already had my fill of teaching, so not that. I’d probably be a barbeque pitmaster. Or a baker. Both of those jobs, like brewing, demand an obsessive focus on sensory, process and quality and you have to get up really, really early in the morning to get things started.
- What do you do when you are not brewing or drinking beer?
I love to cook at home for my family, hike and camp, watch sports and travel to new places.
- What can Firehouse guests look forward to in the future?
I’ve given you a little hint of things to come already, but there are a few other things on the immediate horizon. First of all, we’re currently launching a full lineup of 16-ounce cans into distribution that should really grow our footprint, so look out for those wherever craft beer is sold in the Black Hills region. All our main core styles will be available, plus seasonals and specialties in time. We have an awesome collaboration with Dakota Point that will be tapped for the first time at the Mountain West Beer Fest next month. A brand new Mango Hazy IPA to raise funds for the National Pediatric Cancer Foundation will be available very soon as part of the Rising Hope project. And beyond that, just look out for a bunch of great new beers in the barrel-aged, sour, farmhouse and hot chili categories between now and spring. Expect Firehouse to go toe-to-toe with anyone in terms of quality, execution and creativity!