Microbrewer DCs

By Katie Brown 

 

While there have always been those staple (and sometimes bland) domestic beers available at the local gas station or grocery store, people have started pushing the limits when it comes to finding a new taste for their brew—which has led many to explore the world of homebrewing and craft beers. Whether it began as a way to save money during economic downturns or due to an interest in brewing competitions, men and women throughout the country have joined in on the craft-beer-brewing bandwagon. 

With national and local brewing organizations available, brewing enthusiasts everywhere can come together to compare their newest creations and try some unique craft beers. And for the serious brewmasters, there is even a National Homebrewers Conference each year to showcase new skills and techniques, and promote camaraderie among beer-lovers.

So if everyone else seems to be giving this homebrewing phenomenon a try, why not chiropractors? While many enjoy sipping on the occasional craft beer at a local pub or restaurant, some chiropractors are brewing beer in their own homes—and others have even ventured into creating businesses centered around these craft beers. Take a look at these chiropractors-turned-brewmasters to learn what is so enjoyable about homebrewing, and why craft beers have even led some to new business ventures.

Ken Allen, D.C.

After being introduced to the concept of the brewpub (a restaurant or pub which creates and brews its own beers on site), Ken Allen’s life took a turn. A graduate of Logan Chiropractic College with a postgraduate degree in chiropractic orthopedics from L.A. College, Allen was running a successful practice in Boonville, Calif. Having served as president, and in many other notable positions, of the California Chiropractic Association (CCA) as well as interim president of Northern California Chiropractic College, Allen was a well-known member of the chiropractic community—that was of course until he discovered brewpubs.

“In 1985, I became interested in the brewpub concept—which wasn’t legal until 1983,” he recalls. “When I started to investigate brewing in America, there were around 60 [brewpubs] in the entire country. There were no recipes for [craft] beers, except from a few homebrewers.” 

With the idea that a brewpub was the perfect venture and some education on how to brew beer from a local homebrewing shop, Allen set out to test some of the beers in an unusual place—the back of his chiropractic office, which served as a pilot brewery for what would become the Anderson Valley Brewing Company. “It took more than two years to build the brewpub from the ground up,” he says. “Many of our initial recipes were barely drinkable, but we learned from them.”

During the two years Allen spent cultivating the Anderson Valley Brewing Company, he perfected some of the beer recipes, which led the brewpub to produce around 600 barrels in its first year. “When we opened in 1987, we had developed our favorite beers, which were all ales,” he says. “There was an amber, a pale ale, a wheat beer, a porter and a stout. We were very fortunate to have perfected the beers, and we immediately began to win national and international awards in competitions.”

Today, the Anderson Valley Brewing Company produces approximately 26,000 barrels of beer and hosts the annual Boonville Beer Festival to benefit local charities. Allen, who sold the company last year, is still very much a part of the brewpub’s success as its founder. And even though he is no longer a practicing chiropractor, Allen jokes that he didn’t have much choice after being introduced to beer brewing. “We have this saying in brewing,” he says. “Give a man a beer and waste an afternoon; teach a man to brew and waste an entire life.”

Vincent Rokke, D.C.

Vincent Rokke, a chiropractor with a general family practice clinic in Fargo, N.D., has made quite a name for himself in the homebrewing world. After trying a few of the homebrewed beers his brother-in-law, Todd Folkestad, would bring to his family’s Christmas gatherings, Rokke decided to begin experimenting on his own. And after some encouragement from a patient, Rokke purchased his first homebrewing kit. In August of 1999, he brewed his first beer, an Irish Red Ale.

Throughout the years, Rokke has spent plenty of time tweaking his beer creations in search of the perfect microbrewed beer. While his favorite varieties to make are American Pale Ales, Rokke has also been creating all-grain beers, with a total of 75 brewed. “I really enjoy the process side of brewing,” he says. “I enjoy making it and tinkering with it. Brewing beer doesn’t have to be rocket science.”

Today, Rokke is a proud member of the Prairie Homebrewing Companions, a group of more than 50 beer-lovers in the Fargo area who specialize in extract brews, all-grain brews and even some professional brewing. He also enjoys attending the National Homebrewers Conferences, with his third appearance coming up this year in Minneapolis. As a recent recipient of the American Homebrewers Association’s (AHA) Brewer of the Week award, Rokke has proven his skills as a homebrewer through his obvious dedication to and passion for his work.

In March of 2010, Rokke placed second in the AHA Club Only Competition with his first all-grain beer, a Wit. And once he had his first taste of Amarillo hops at a brewing conference in Chicago, Rokke set out in search of the perfect recipe for the American Pale Ale. After five tries and some recipe tweaking, his fifth beer creation placed first at the Homebrewers Conference in 2005.

While getting feedback from the judges at competitions is important to his quest for the perfect homebrewed beer, Rokke says sharing his creations is one of the best parts of homebrewing. “I enjoy sharing my beers with colleagues and friends,” he says. “I definitely make more beer than I could ever need.”

Andrew A. Klein, D.C.

After graduating in 2005 from Northwestern Health Sciences University, Andrew Klein opened his own practice, Dodge Center Chiropractic, in Dodge City, Minn. With a post-doctorate degree in neurology and a Diplomate status from the American Chiropractic Neurology Board, Klein works on a wide variety of issues from injury recovery and prevention to neurological-related problems.

In his free time, Klein has plenty of hobbies to keep him occupied—spending time with his wife and son, taking photographs, hiking and, of course, brewing beer. While his wife initially encouraged him to try homebrewing, Klein says she never expected his curiosity would evolve into such a pricey hobby. “I mentioned in passing to my wife that homebrewing might be something fun to do,” he recalls. “She got me a kit to get started, thinking this might save us some money. But what she didn’t know is that hobbies never save money.”

Klein is part of a local brewing club called the Rochester Area Zymurgy Enthusiasts, or RAZE as the group’s members prefer to use. While he enjoys making darker beers, such as stouts, porters or Scotch ales, Klein’s favorite part of homebrewing is the camaraderie he’s found with RAZE and sharing his love for beer with others. “We enjoy sharing what we’re doing and making,” he says. “I’ve won a few competitions, but it’s good to get together with people who are into brewing as well as share with people who have never stepped outside of a Bud Light.”

Mike Arra, D.C., & Ruth Berman, D.C. 

After meeting at Life University, where they were studying for their Doctor of Chiropractic degrees, Mike Arra and Ruth Berman started a practice together. For more than two decades, the couple has been married and running their practice—Arra Berman Chiropractic and Wellness, in Boynton Beach, Fla. 

But last year, Arra and Berman decided to start a new adventure together, by creating their second business. While discussing the idea of a company that offered beer tours during a trip through France in 2009, they decided they wanted to pursue something a little different. By combining Arra’s love for microbrews and Berman’s passion for traveling the world, Bon Beer Voyage was created to offer “beercations,” or trips centered around finding the best craft beers. “We came home and immediately starting putting things together,” Berman says. “We wanted to go on the beer tour of our dreams. We couldn’t find it, so we decided to make it.”

While Bon Beer Voyage is now a major part of these chiropractors’ lives, craft beer isn’t getting in the way of their successful practice. Arra, who has a collection of more than 1,000 different craft beer bottles, still works at the practice full-time, while Berman splits her time between running the beer-themed vacation company and adjusting part-time at their practice. Currently, Bon Beer Voyage is working on its upcoming calendar, which includes trips to Washington, D.C., cruises and a sold-out tour from Amsterdam to Bruges in partnership with BeerAdvocate.

Berman, who went back to school to become a tour director, says that the great thing about craft beers is not only their taste, but the people behind them. Even during a time when funds can be tight, the craft beer industry is growing despite the steeper priced beers. “It is a very interesting crowd,” she says. “ Craft beer brewers are nice people who are willing to share. Everyone wants the craft beer industry to grow and succeed. There is absolutely a camaraderie among brewers.”