Brewer Profile: Lars Mudrak- Bandwagon

The Brewery
Bandwagon Brewpub
114 N. Cayuga St.
Ithaca, NY 14850
(607)319-0699

When I stopped by Bandwagon last year, for various reasons, I didn’t have time to interview Lars. I promised I would this year.

Here I am! Where’s the damn BEER?

Kidding.

Lars reminds me of my wife’s nephew. Damn, I’m getting old. As you can sort of see I graced his young presence with Ken’s spastic camera. So here’s a better picture: he’s on the left, in the brewery… only this time you can see him better. My other picture didn’t even come out. Erk!

The story he told was fascinating and weird. I find that’s not that unusual at any brewpub where I’ve interviewed the brewer: how he arrived at his brew-destination. Each brewer is so individual, for sure, but they almost always seem to come from different angles. Lars told me he started brewing around 16. You know why. The same reason far too many of us found some way to get beer, or whatever, back then. He started out with mead: admitted what they made was pretty bad. Graduated to cider: ditto. And then found his true calling by using some his father’s old brewing equipment. I know what you’re about to read seems such a cliche’, but it’s true: they were brewing in a bathtub.

His mother would ask questions like “how did my favorite pot get into the tub, Lars?” He claims his parents never knew. He made up something. And would use bleach on the tub to both sanitize and keep it nice and white. But before you claim his first beer must have been bad too due to the bleach, that’s not necessarily true. I used to sanitize with bleach as well. You rinse. And rinse. Then rinse again. In fact we both agreed, even if it’s a sanitizer they claim you don’t have to rinse, you rinse. He showed me the sterilizer they use now: Steramine.

Here are three claims I found regarding this compound…

“It is a quaternary ammonium compound, which is a very strong sanitizer.”

“Surfacine is a new, persistent antimicrobial agent that may be used on animate or inanimate surfaces. It incorporates a water-insoluble antimicrobial-drug compound (silver iodide) in a surface-immobilized coating…”

Quat(Quaternary Ammonium) is a great all purpose sanitizer, the only problem is its terrible on beer glasses. Quat will leave a coating behind or a film that prevents the glass from having a proper lacing effect. Steramine is a quat based product.

SOURCE

Not sure about the first. The web seemed to have little info on Sterasmine, which according to one brewer was also called “Surfacine.” If the second quote is true the “insoluble” bothers me, but since iodine is a common sterilizer in homebrewing and, as long as you rinse, you’re probably still good to go.

I haven’t noticed any defect specifically sterilizer-problem related at Bandwagon, except occasional head problems in some of the beer I had last year. Could be the problem the poster mentioned. Could have been something else.

Like Lars I just recommend rinse and rinse again. It doesn’t hurt and do you really want something in your beer the packaging claims you’re not supposed to get on your hands, like Star San? I don’t.

Lars found out about the job at Bandwagon from the brewers at Ithaca Brewing. He started out as a dishwasher (been the, done that, got sore feet standing forever on slippery surfaces doing that) …and now does 99% of the brewing.

Some of my favorite past brewing included a chocolate raspberry stout, double IPA (before the hops shortage) a pumpkin ale with local pumpkins, a Belgian tripel called the ‘Ella Fitzgerald’ A local peach wheat ale, peanut butter chocolate stout, and a beer called the ‘Royal Hoppiness’ I used hops, mostly noble, everywhere but the boil. mash, sparge water, first wort, and dry hopping, and a watermelon wheat.
– Right now I am mostly trying to improve consistency for distribution purposes. I would like to try a sour mash beer, a local barley beer, a stein beer, and I would like to incorporate real bananas into a beer somehow.

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