Secrets of the Brew Shed

Dave Mueller’s handsome shed in his Port Washington yard has a higher purpose than storing lawn, garden and snow equipment
By 
MITCH MAERSCH
Ozaukee Press staff

Dave Mueller has an efficient shed in the backyard of his Port Washington home.

Garden, lawn and snow equipment are stored in one half. In the other are brewing equipment, a TV and a stereo.

“It’s a hybrid type of situation,” Mueller said.

This he-shed, however, was driven by Mueller’s she — his wife Mary Lou.

She determined they had to get rid of the old 8x8 foot “eyesore” that came with the house, her husband said.

It housed as much garden and yard equipment as it could. “You could barely get the doors closed,” Dave said.

The couple set out to find a bigger and better shed.

They chose one from a book at a big-box store.   The materials soon arrived on a truck.

Mueller had a mason pour a concrete slab and enlisted the help of family members — children and in-laws learned how to nail down roof shingles — and a couple of friends who were carpenters.

“It was a labor of love,” Mueller said.

The old shed came down on the Fourth of July three years ago. The new, 12x12 structure was ready to go that September.

“It gives us the function I wanted,” he said.

He credits Mary Lou for the quaint-looking shed.

“She has to look at it so it has to look nice,” he said.

Mueller included an 8-foot awning that allows for cover while enjoying a cold beverage during light rainstorms.

Mueller supplies those drinks as well. He has been home brewing for about 20 years.

Mueller brewed his first batch of beer with his roommate at the University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh. With technology not quite as advanced, those first couple of batches weren’t so delicious, he said.

When he returned to the hobby, a friend down the street who’s a former chemist took him under his wing.

“He taught me a lot of the cool stuff of beer,” he said.

Mueller, who works in sales for Usinger’s Famous Sausage, admitted he didn’t understand much of the chemistry lingo, but his friend put it in layman’s terms that the steps he was taking would make better beer.

They started with extract brewing and ground grain by hand, but that took half an hour.

Mueller eventually got his own grain mill and buys 50 to 55-pound sacks of grain, depending on if they’re the American or European kinds.

About the same time he built his new shed, Mueller started a hops garden. He grows centennial, cascade and mount hood varieties and has more than he will ever use.

In creating beers, Mueller said the timing of when the hops are added is the key. He dries out his own hops, leaving the desired oil to make beer.

“There’s a whole science on hops,” he said.

He uses the BeerSmith home brewing software program that shows the times and stages for brewing different types of beer and serves as a storing system for recipes.

Mueller brewed as often as 15 times per year. Growing up with brands such as Pabst Blue Ribbon and Red White and Blue, he said his favorite types of beer to brew are lagers which he makes in early spring or late fall. In summer, he tends to make more ales.

He doesn’t like hoppy, hazy or bitter beers that some of the younger generation craves today.

Mueller said anyone could make beer by ordering a kit, but “the fun part is developing your own recipe.”

It’s just like cooking food, he said, although tasting creations with beer takes a month instead of less than a day.

Mueller’s creations don’t stay in his backyard, however. Ice fishing, deer camp,  and tailgating are some of the excursions on which he takes along a 2.5-gallon keg, which equates to about a 30-pack of beer.

“‘I’ll bring the beer, guys,’” he tells his friends. “It’s easy to get rid of.”

Brewing a batch of beer costs Mueller about $25. Buying his own grain in bulk helps keep costs down, and he can harvest and replant the yeast.

As a home brewer, he prides himself on being frugal. Part of the process, he said, is figuring out what he already has at home he can use to brew beer.

Unlike mass brewers that have to replicate the same exact flavors time and again, none of his recipes, Mueller said, come out exactly the same.

What’s important, he said, is the beer still tastes good.

Mueller belongs to a couple of home brewing clubs, including the Beer Barons, where he gets recipes and calculations on making five-gallon batches.

He said he is eager to share his knowledge and pass along the hobby to the next generation of brewers.

“People taught me, and I will gladly help others out,” he said.

Regardless, Mueller has a spot to enjoy his brewing and the fruits of his labor, all in his backyard.

“It’s a very nice escape. When I retire, it will give me some things to do,” he said.

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Wisconsin’s largest paid circulation community weekly newspaper. Serving Port Washington, Saukville, Grafton, Fredonia, Belgium, as well as Ozaukee County government. Locally owned and printed in Port Washington, Wisconsin.

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