Remember when you were a kid and loved to play with Legos? The hours of letting your imagination run wild as you created all sorts of interesting things. The satisfaction of being able to create something that was uniquely yours was really fun!
As an adult, I find myself always looking for ways to be able to be creative. I would say after meeting Matt Misfeldt, I think he is very much the same. Matt and his wife Jennifer Obal-Misfeldt own Patriot Homebrew Supply in Elkhorn, Nebraska.
I recently met the couple at a few craft beer events around Omaha. I really enjoyed talking with Matt about craft beer and the history of the breweries around Omaha, so I asked him if he would be willing to share more about the homebrewing business.
I was filled with so many questions and was excited to sit down with Matt.
“So, Matt how did you become interested in homebrewing?”
Matt replied, “I had met Tyson Arp (current head brewer at Nebraska Brewing Company) prior to my military tour in Iraq. Tyson had been brewing for a while and got me interested in homebrewing. When I got back in 2007 is when I really started to get into it myself.”
Matt went on to say, “The interesting part is that back in the 2000’s, it was mostly home brewers like Tyson, John Farher from Scriptown Brewing, and Phil Doerr from Farnam House Brewing. Prior to Nebraska Brewing Company going into business in 2007, there weren’t too many craft beer breweries. I remember going to Upstream Brewing Company. The Huber Haus at Beer Corner USA provided a place to experience many different German styles of beer.”
Matt began to discuss how the home brewing clubs were a great place to meet other brewers. Groups like the South Omaha Brewers (SOB) club, the Local 402 Brewers, the German America Society - Brewers Klub, and others were buzzing with excitement. The clubs were a social gathering place where people could bond over talking about brewing beer and enjoying a pint! This was a great venue for getting ideas on new beers and asking questions when something might not go as expected with one you brewed.
Another big part of homebrewing in the 2000’s and early 2010’s were the festivals and competitions. Homebrewers could bring out their beers and let others get to experience them. This was a great way to get feedback!
Matt explained that he really was into creating malty beers.
So, I asked Matt, “What was your first competition beer?”
Matt replied, “It was a Southern English Brown.”
We chatted about characteristics of the malt that makes this beer so deep and flavorful without being too high on the ABV scale. I could see Matt’s eyes light up when he described the beer. I now understand just how exciting it is to create a great beer!
Matt competed in the American Homebrewers Association (AHA) in Minneapolis in 2012 where he received a second place ribbon for the Southern English Brown. Pretty cool accomplishment!
So, the question in my mind was how do go from homebrewer to homebrew supply owner?
I know my curiosity grows more and more when I really get into something that I am passionate about. Knowledge of an industry really makes a difference.
I asked Matt where he would get his ingredients from when he was homebrewing. Matt told me that Northern Brewer was one of the first places he got ingredients. They had a good variety but with it not being local, it was sometimes hard getting questions answered. One of the other places was Kirk’s Brew in Lincoln, Nebraska.
One of the issues was many of the homebrewing supply stories only sold ingredients like malt by the pound. For most homebrewers wanting to make lot’s of different kinds of beer, a pound minimum limit for ingredients makes it expensive and can leave you with extra ingredients you may or may not use.
While in San Diego at Ballast Point Brewing Co., Matt said him, and his wife visited the homebrew store. Ballast Point offered ingredients by the ounce. This was an eyeopener! So many thoughts rushed through Matt’s mind, but the most important one was, “We need this in Omaha.”
When Matt got back to Omaha, he started to plan the opening a homebrew supply store. One of the things that would make finding a location challenging was the fact you couldn’t open a homebrew supply store within a 10-mile radius of another store. Fermenter’s Supply is located around 84th and L Street which is a very central location in Omaha. So, the task at hand would be even more difficult.
After searching for a location for a good amount of time, Matt found the right place in Elkhorn. Elkhorn was a growing community at the time just west of Omaha. The best part was that the strip mall he found had a space that was perfect. There was already a kitchen that could be turned into the brewing area. There was also a nice area for teaching classes. This was very important for Matt because that was one of the main things, he wanted to be able to do.
So, in the fall of 2013, Patriot Homebrew Supply opened! Within 2 years, they would expand by adding another bay. Business was going well! The homebrew clubs enjoyed that fact that Patriot Homebrew Supply had fresh ingredients by the ounce, would help customize recipes, and was a social place to hang out with others interested in homebrewing.
The dynamics began to change around 2015 and 2016. There were more local craft beer breweries opening. An existing law in Nebraska began to be enforced where homebrewers could no longer have their beer at festivals. Add to the fact, that internet homebrew supply stores were popping up all over the place. A trifecta of bad news if you are a local homebrew supply store. Could the best days of Patriot Homebrew Supply be behind them?
Although changes were taking place, there were still many homebrewers that wanted and needed a local supply store. Ingredients that even the breweries would need a split-second notice, Matt was able to provide.
Matt said, “We are the 911 for emergency ingredients like yeast, mineral salts, etc.”
Several of the homebrewers were now starting their own breweries. For example, Jim Stutzman of Lazy Horse Brewing bought his first brewing system from Patriot Homebrew Supply. The growth of the craft beer breweries started a whole new social engagement where people had many options of trying different craft beers. For the homebrewers, this social engagement at Patriot started to fade. Patriot was still the go to place for getting everything they needed, but not as much of a place to hang out anymore.
For a business to evolve when things change, you have to be involved in the community. I remember reaching out to Patriot a couple of years ago to see if they would be willing to donate items for an auction to raise money for the food bank. Not only did they donate, but they provided a wealth of information to share with others about the classes and many other events they had going on.
When I am at events where Patriot is at, I have been able to meet several homebrewers that you can tell value Matt’s expertise and desire to help with their homebrewing. Relationships like this are key. People really appreciate great service and having someone that understands their needs!
Matt invests his time in the industry with taking courses such as the Cicerone Certified Beer Server and Brewers Association Beer 101 courses. Matt also goes the extra mile learning each beer style in detail and recently become a certified craft beer judge. What a resource to have when you have questions about brewing!
The history of craft beer is very intriguing to me. So when Matt told me about a recent beer he brewed, I was all ears! Matt began to explain how Porters originated in England. In the 1880s prior to Irish Dry Stouts coming out, there was a style known as the Single Stout Porter.
The Single Stout Porter is made up of three different kinds of British malts - a pale, amber, and black patent malt. Black malt is not your common roasted chocolate malt. You need to visit Matt because he explains it very well! What the black malt provides is a deep, dry roasted characteristic that is incredible on the palate.
The Single Stout Porter uses East Kent Goldings (EKG) hops and an Irish Ale Yeast. It is all of these ingredients and the close attention to detail in the brewing process that make this such a great beer!
You don’t have a to be a homebrewer to get to experience what it takes to make a craft beer. Patriot has classes to get you the introductory understanding you need to start brewing. You can then take that knowledge and brew right there! Patriot has a Brew on Premise offering for you to get to go through all of the steps from mash, boil, ferment, and packaging.
I know I am interested in the classes and seminars the Patriot provides. I really enjoy learning about the process and ingredients. I think anyone who enjoys craft beer can get a better appreciation knowing what goes into brewing the beers!
Whether you are a serious homebrewer or just someone who is interested in gaining knowledge of the brewing process, Patriot Homebrew Supply can help you with all of it! I know I am looking forward to spending more time there this year. Between the classes and seminars, I am hoping to continue learning more about all of the wonderful beer styles. You never know maybe I will even try brewing a beer someday.