In Milwaukee Record‘s brand new “Meet A Brewer” series, we aim to introduce you to some of the professionals behind the scenes who are responsible for making some of your favorite local beers. The recurring series kicks off with Sam Danen, who is a brewer and the Production Manager at Third Space Brewing.

Milwaukee Record: What’s your personal brewing history? How did you get started and how long have you been doing it?

Sam Danen: I got started in 2015 when I began working at Company Brewing. They opened in May of 2015, and I started out as a server and bartender. Closer to the end of the year, I had made my way into the brewery as an assistant brewer when they needed a little help back there. I was doing a lot of keg washing, tank cleaning, floor scrubbing, and stuff like that. I worked there for five years, and by the time I left, I was head brewer. In August 2020, I came here and started out as an assistant brewer. It was definitely a big change for me going from a small 7-barrel system to a large 30-barrel production facility. Within six months or so at Third Space, I got promoted to brewer. Last April, I was promoted to lead brewer. And I am now Production Manager here.

MR: What are some of your favorite beers that you’ve ever made, and why?

SD: God, I’ve made a lot of different beers, but one of my favorites that I’ve ever made at Company Brewing is a kölsch called “Call Your Dad.” That was a recipe of mine that I made as kind of an ode to my dad because he really only drinks ice cold MGDs. I wanted to make a beer that was close to my heart and the styles of beer I like to drink, but also something my dad might sip on every once in a while. The Third Space Pils is another one of mine, and the Like A Girl recipe, which is something I’m very proud of.

MR: What is your favorite non-beer beverage, either something with alcohol or otherwise?

SD: That’s a tough one. I love red wine and bourbon. As far as non-alcohol goes, I would say my go-to beverage is a really well-crafted ginger ale. I love ginger ale.

MR: What’s the first beer you can remember having?

SD: PBR, I think.

MR: Not including Third Space or Company Brewing, what’s your favorite Wisconsin brewery?

SD: New Glarus, absolutely. Moon Man is my favorite beer that exists and New Glarus is the pinnacle of quality to me. I don’t think I’ve had a beer from New Glarus that I haven’t at least appreciated. They brew their beers to the utmost quality, which I absolutely respect and love about them.

MR: What’s your go-to macro or domestic beer?

SD: In college, I drank a lot of PBR and High Life. Those are still probably the main macro beers I gravitate towards.

MR: If you could only have one style of beer for the rest of your life, what would you pick and why?

SD: Lagers. Any type of lager.

MR: What’s a beer style you’re personally tired of?

SD: I tend to get annoyed with hazy IPAs, even though I can appreciate them. Like, I appreciate why the consumer likes them and I appreciate that people buy a lot of hazy IPAs, but the formula for hazy IPAs is pretty much the same. I’ve had plenty of hazy IPAs that I thought were insanely delicious, but just as a style in general—besides being able to experiment with a ton of different hops—it’s very similar. There’s not a whole lot of exploration involved.

MR: Are there any other brewers, locally or elsewhere, that you’d like to shout out?

SD: There are so many! Nate Bahr is one of my good friends. He’s at Central Waters and he’s amazing. Jordan Moreno is a good friend of mine and he has worked for pretty much every brewery in Milwaukee. He’s actually at CH Distillery in Chicago now. Erica DeAnda from Tumbled Rock Brewery in Baraboo. Jimmy Wheeler worked here and now he’s at Rhinegeist in Cincinnati. Jacob Sutrick at Bavarian Bierhaus. Obviously everybody who’s on my team right now. They’re all incredible people. And so many more I can’t think of right now because I’m on the spot.

MR: Are there any beers that you regret making because they were failed experiments or they just entirely missed the mark?

SD: When I was home brewing in college, I definitely made a lot of beer that sucked ass. The first home brew I ever made was a brown ale that was not good at all. It had no body. It was kind of like malty water and it was awful.

MR: What are some of your favorite bars or favorite places that serve beer?

SD: It’s so hard to pick. I love the Milwaukee bar scene so much. I tend to gravitate more toward the dive-y bars. Like, Gee Willickers and The Gig are really great places. I used to live in Riverwest and still live close by on the east side, so I tend to make my way to Riverwest. Nessun Dorma is a big one for me. It really depends on what kind of mood I’m in.

MR: Outside of brewing, do you have any special skills or hobbies?

SD: Well, I have an art history degree. I went to school for art history originally and I still absolutely love art. I love going to art museums and art galleries. Art is still a passion of mine, even though I don’t dabble in that world anymore. I also love going to restaurants, bars, and shows.

MR: Can you tell us more about the Pink Boots initiative and your “Like A Girl” beer?

SD: Like A Girl is a collaboration brew that Third Space does with Pink Boots Society, which I am a member of. I was actually previously the Wisconsin chapter leader before handing off the reins to somebody else recently. Pink Boots is an international organization made up of women and non-binary individuals who are in the fermented beverage industry—beer, cider, kombucha, distilling, are all encompassed in our members.

We have members from all over the state come and participate in a brew day with us. Most members aren’t actually production workers. A lot of them work in accounting or sales or various other aspects of the fermented beverage industry. So it’s a really cool day for them to be able to come and actually see these things on a production level and see the end product. It’s something I absolutely love. I love educating people on the brewing process and making them feel this is 100 percent something they’re able to do if they want to pursue it. It’s neat to see people start in one realm of the industry and maybe move into another by the end of their career, or maybe go into multiple facets.

We’re having our Like A Girl release party on March 8, which is International Women’s Day. It’s just going to be a really big party. We’re going to have women-owned vendors, Caley Conway is going to be playing music, we have some women-owned food trucks as well. It’s just going to be a celebration of women in the industry and women in the city coming together and showing that women love beer, too.

About The Author

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Co-Founder and Editor

Before co-founding Milwaukee Record, Tyler Maas wrote for virtually every Milwaukee publication (except Wassup! Magazine). He lives in Bay View and enjoys both stuff and things.