Kellen Benes

Kellen Benes holds a glass of beer while standing next to the brewing equipment he uses in his David City garage.

What’s a physical therapist to do with his biology degree and chemistry minor in his spare time?

In the case of Kellen Benes, brew his own beer.

After making wine for 10 years, Benes switched to craft beer.

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“I had a lot of friends that were into it and they were trying to push me into it for seven years,” said Benes. “They talked me into switching over to beer and that’s almost all I do now.”

Benes, who lives in David City, has been brewing beer for about three years, so he’s relatively new to the hobby compared to other home brewers in the area.

When Jeremy Kirby was the brewmaster at Gottberg Brew Pub from 2009 to 2012, he led a small home brew group that met once a month in Columbus. That's how Benes' friends got into the craft.

Gabe Stalder of Genoa found the group by accident.

“I’d been (brewing beer) for two, three years before I knew anything about that (group),” said Stalder. “I probably just stopped to eat at Gottberg’s and showed up the next month and away we went.”

Obviously, enjoying beer is a big part of the appeal of home brewing.

Benes said he has a pretty broad palate, so he enjoys the variety of flavors and styles of beer he can make.

“Craft beers pair really well with food,” he said. “It’s like pairing wine with food.”

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Stalder compares it to barbecue.

“They’re really similar in that you’re dealing with a set of ingredients, but it's how you manipulate it,” he said. “Attention to detail goes a long way.”

Stalder even took the test to become a licensed judge, which involved studying all the different styles of beer and elements of tasting, such as mouthfeel, aroma and flavor.

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“That test, it’s reasonably difficult to pass,” said Stalder. “(Judging beers) is going to be pretty subjective, but it does bring some objectivity to it.”

He said that's also enhanced his own brewing.

“You know a heck of a lot more about what you’re looking for,” he said. “You’re past the point of, ‘This beer tastes good. This beer tastes bad.’”

In addition to judging at the Nebraska State Fair’s beer competition this year, he also placed first for a Russian imperial stout.

This was the first year Benes submitted some beers to the state fair. Although his entries didn’t fare so well, that’s not slowing him down.

He has also submitted beers to other competitions across the state, including the Nebraska Shoot-out, which the David City home brew club will host in 2019.

In the meantime, he’s enjoying a pumpkin porter he brewed for fall.

“That might be one of the better beers I’ve ever made,” he said.

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