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Meet the Brewers: Dennis Massingill

This is the second post in a multi-part series we are calling “Meet the Brewers”. We feel that our brewers bring something unique to every beer we produce, and we are happy to share with you how they became brewers and how they perceive the art of brewing, in their own words.

Brewer’s Bio by Dennis Massingill

I live in Otsego with my wife Sandra.  We have four adult children and no pets – which gives me time to brew!   I am a retired high school administrator with interests in sports, music (especially blues), trivia, golf, teasing grandchildren, and tasting craft beers I haven’t had before.

How I Learned to Brew Beer

My first experience with brewing beer goes back to the mid-90s when I was working for Otsego  Schools.  A teacher on my staff told me he was going to brew and invited me to join him.  At the time I was still pretty much a mainstream lager drinker like everyone else. Like many out there, the kitchen stove provided the necessary heat and the fermentation room was a small enclosure in the corner of the

Dennis and Amy brewing on the Boatyard pilot system

Dennis and Amy brewing on the Boatyard pilot system

basement. I mostly watched as he explained to me the fundamentals of making beer. He told me I should come back for bottling … and eventually for tasting. I did. The beer was very drinkable and it didn’t seem that complicated. I decided I should brew my own. 

I picked up a copy of Charlie Papazian’s book “The Joy of Home Brewing” – a must read for the novice brewer.  After investing about eighty bucks in pots, plastic pales, a hydrometer, a thermometer, etc. I was ready to go. My first beer was an American Brown recipe from Charlie’s book. During the fermentation phase I made sure I drank enough beer to have a couple of cases of bottles without screw tops (if I was going to have to buy bottles they might as well be full). The first effort was very satisfactory. Not only was it a decent beer, I had a great time sharing it with my lager-drinking friends! I am not suggesting that all of my early beers turned out great… It has taken its toll on our kitchen.

There is much to be said about the current craft beer craze in America and the endless experimentation with taste. I find myself, however, drawn to the European masters and their traditional styles of beers using the noble hops. There is a place for high gravity beers but I always appreciate a good session beer with a couple hundred years of experience behind it. 

How I became involved with Boatyard

Dennis (left) with Boatyard Brewing Company Co-Owners Brian Steele (middle) and Dan Gilligan (right) on a beer tour bus

Dennis (left) with Boatyard Brewing Company Co-Owners Brian Steele (middle) and Dan Gilligan (right) on a beer tour bus

After leaving my career in public education I found retirement to be very boring. My wife, Sandra, suggested I find something I would have fun with. Why not brew beer?!!  I had about fifteen years of home-brewing under my belt and shared this interest with my son-in law. We even enrolled in a three day workshop at the famed Seibel Institute in Chicago. The seminar was not as much about brewing as it was about the beer industry. It convinced me that I needed a lot more practical experience with a real brewery.

Micro-breweries were just starting to take off in Kalamazoo. I started going to them and introducing myself and offering my services – for free.  Just give me a chance to brew! This didn’t turn out to be as easy as it sounds. After several rejections I heard about a new brewery coming into an old oil depot on the north side of Kalamazoo. It wasn’t even open yet – perfect. I went down and introduced myself to one of the owners. I didn’t know which one at the time, but it turns out it was Dan, co-owner of Boatyard Brewing Company. He was friendly enough but made no promises. I gave him my business card and asked them to email me if there was a possibility of working with them (I also mentioned that I had heard about it from a golfing friend who I knew was a relative of one of them. I figured that couldn’t hurt.) A couple days later the email came and I’ve been at Boatyard ever since. That was in October of 2012.   

The experience has surpassed anything I could have imagined. I’ve learned so much in the process – particularly the influences of the yeasts on taste and rate of fermentation. I’ve learned some ways to troubleshoot a brew that is straying from the intended calculations.  Each day is a beer adventure! And, I’ve been able to work alongside two great guys – Brian and Dan (… I need to  include Amy). I’ve  been encouraged to bring in some of my own recipes to brew and I’ve met a lot of great people through Boatyard. I guess the  old adage is true:  “Find a job that you like and you will never work a day in your life.” Cheers!



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