Doing my job

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May 17, 2004 // UPDATED 1:39 pm - April 25, 2007
By: Sarah McKenzie
Sarah McKenzie

Todd Haug, Head brewer, Rock Bottom Brewery, 825 Hennepin Ave. S.

When asked about his work, Todd Haug speaks like a chemistry professor. Although he admits he prefers wines these days, Haug is absorbed in the technical details that make a good beer. He is a mastermind of the science behind the brewing process.

On his own, he runs Rock Bottom's brewery. A former rock-band guitar player, Haug produces three, 12-barrel batches of beer a week. It takes him about eight hours to create fermentable extract, he said. In an average year, Rock Bottom produces about 45,000 gallons of beer, or about 1,500 barrels.

Haug, who lives in southwest Minneapolis, has brewed professionally for 13 years, starting at St. Paul's Summit Brewing Co. He said he got into brewing because he enjoys the creative process of creating new flavors and styles of beer.

So what are your favorite beers?

I like pale ales and IPAs ... Belgian ales. I like hoppy beers, beers with a lot of flavor. Usually, those styles originate from Europe somewhere, whether it's Belgium or Germany.

What does it take to do your job well?

Obviously, you got to clean. It's experience. The equipment is so unique to brewing and/or dairy stuff. You could say, 'Oh yeah, well my house is clean.' It's not the same. You're cleaning for different things. You're not cleaning for looks; you're cleaning for things that can ruin beer -- organisms that can survive and make it through the process and eventually make the beer taste wrong.

What goes into beer?

Malted barley is where the color and all the sugar comes from -- fermentable and non-fermentable sugars. A lot of flavor comes from the malted barley. ... We use Minneapolis city water, we don't filter it or anything. Minneapolis city water is a really good base for a brewing water. We do heat it to about just below boiling and hold it there. It helps vaporize the chlorine. The other ingredient would be hops (points out some dried hops hanging outside the fermenting area). This is a hop garland that's dried. In a fresh environment, these wouldn't be these tightly packed. They would be this really beautiful green color. They look like little, soft pinecones. ... Hops are going to add bitterness, flavor and aroma. ... The fourth ingredient would be yeast.

Is it a pretty easy process? Do you ever have beer that goes bad?

There are a lot of things that can go wrong -- mechanically, human error, different styles of beer can be more troublesome in trying to make. You can oxidize beer to the point that it's not worth saving. You can also have yeast issues. The extract is very susceptible to wild yeast and bacterial contamination just from the environment out here. If sanitation, cleanliness isn't up to par, those things are going to grow, and the yeast is going to be kind of sluggish. ... We've dumped maybe four batches of beer in eight years, which isn't bad.

What's the favorite part of your job?

Probably trying new ingredients, trying new beer styles, just formulating the recipes. ... The stout I'm putting out today, I brewed with a friend of mine. He's an old German guy who's been winning home-brewing awards. I decided to make a style of beer like he's been making. There's a lot of chemistry, but it's kind of a feel thing, too. You can do everything on paper and it can still taste like crap.

On the flip side, what's the hardest part?

I guess the physicality of small breweries. Everything is moved by hand; there's no automation, except for liquid pumps that pump fluids, whether it's water or the fermentable extract. All the malt is moved by me. Once we're done with it, it gets shoveled out. A farmer picks it up on the loading dock and feeds it to his cattle or pigs. All that stuff is moved by me. It's a lot of work.

Do you know someone Downtown with an interesting job, or who does his or her job in an interesting way? We'd like to talk to them! Let us know via e-mail at

srich@skywaynews.net, by fax at 825-0929 or by mail at 1115 Hennepin Ave. S., 55403.