How did you start brewing?
Rockne Van Meter: “I started brewing in my kitchen in the late ‘90s. I went to the Michigan Brewers Guild Summer Beer Festival in 2002, which was a bit after I started brewing at home, and the Monday after that festival I decided to quit my job and see if I could get a job brewing professionally. That morning, after turning in my keys to my employer, I went to a few surrounding breweries to see if they needed any help. Upon my last stop, I was lucky enough to talk with the Head Brewer at Big Buck, Eric Briggeman. We spoke and he showed me around the brewery. A week later I called to check and he asked if I wanted the job. I said yes of course. He is now the Michigan Brewers Guild president and Kim Schneider, whom I met and worked with at Big Buck, preceded me here at Bastone.”
What were you doing prior to brewing?
RVM: “I was doing building maintenance at an apartment complex. Pretty much fixing anything and everything that could wrong in a home. Plumbing, appliances, electrical, HVACR. Very exciting.”
What is your favorite style to brew?
RVM: “I think my favorite styles to brew depend on the day and week I have scheduled. Sometimes brewing a seasonal is great because it’s not something I brew all of the time. And sometimes if I just want to get out and be outside and enjoy the day or weekend, a fast brew day is best. It really depends on mood.”
How do you decide what to make next?
RVM: “The season is a factor in what beers to make, kind of. I think that I personally like to drink lighter beers in the warmer months and a little heavier beers in the winter, so that’s what I try to make. I will however, make a high ABV beer in the summer and a sessionable beer in the winter. It’s also determined by what styles of beer I’m drinking or wanting to explore more of at that time.”
Do you have a ‘philosophy’ when brewing?
RVM: “I guess my philosophy would be to brew true to style, clean and as flavorful as possible. Don’t over-complicate, but don’t be lazy. Quality not quantity.”
When did you fall in love with beer?
RVM: “I’m not sure I’ve ever ‘fallen in love’ with beer, but a year or two before I started brewing professionally is when I became aware of craft beer and the many facets of its creation. The art, science and culinary aspect of brewing beer led me to wanting to become more involved in beer. There’s more to beer than just beer, you know?”
What is your favorite style to drink?
RVM: “I’m quite partial to Belgian and German beers. And I’m not a huge fan of very higher ABV beers like 10% or higher. So anything low ABV and Belgian or German in style would be nice. A saison or Berliner Weisse would fit that bill.”
What’s your favorite beer of all time?
RVM: “I don’t have a favorite beer of all time. My tastes and desires for beer have changed completely and continue to change. In my earlier years I wanted high ABV beers, and now it’s much more of a sessionable beer I’m looking for. I appreciate any beer that’s clean, flavorful and within the style that it’s meant to be brewed in. I’ve had too many great beers to say one was better than the other. I don’t know how you’d compare a great stout to a great lambic, or a great pilsner. They’re completely different entities.”
Outside of your own, what’s your favorite Michigan brewery/beer?
RVM: “First off, my own beer is not my favorite beer. I am a fan of a lot Michigan breweries including Founders, Griffin Claw, Jolly Pumpkin, Dragonmead and Kuhnhenn. I’m very much looking forward to the opening of Old Nation Brewing Company.”
Where do you see craft beer going in the future?
RVM: “I have no idea. Everywhere.”
Do you have a ‘brewing hero’ or someone you admire in brewing?
RVM: “There are people that, I think, represent the brewing industry with class and dignity. Some of the people that I hold in high regard for this reason, and others, are: Garret Oliver, Sam Calagione, Alec Mull, Scott Graham, Ron Jefferies, Joe Short, Bill Wamby, Travis Fritts, Garrett Marrero, Charles Bamforth, John Mallett and Fred Bueltmann. Amongst others.”