In Milwaukee Record’s “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—sponsored by BeerPass MKE, the only app that partners with Milwaukee bars, restaurants, and breweries to give you a free beer every single day you go out—continues with Sam Engel, a brewer at Black Husky Brewing in Riverwest.

Milwaukee Record: What’s your brewing history and how long have you been with Black Husky?

Sam Engel: I actually have never brewed beer before brewing at Black Husky. I was going to grad school at UWM, and I had been looking for a part-time job over the summer. I happened to stop in at Black Husky and they had a help wanted sign for a beertender position. I applied for that and was fortunate to get that position.

Then in October of 2021, they ended up posting an assistant brewer position. I then applied for that because I always had an interest in craft beer. I had never tried home brewing or worked at any other breweries, but I applied for it and they thought enough of me based on my work behind the bar. Also, I was in the process of completing my master’s in biological sciences—with an emphasis in microbiology—at UWM, so they thought it would be a good fit. I’ve been here ever since. I was writing my thesis during the day and then brewing at night until I graduated.

I don’t want to say I stumbled into the position because I feel it fits and it was a good choice for all of us, but at the same time, I was never planning to get into craft beer when I got into Milwaukee. It just sort of happened and I feel happy about it. I feel very fortunate to be here.

MR: In your relatively brief brewing tenure, what are some beers you’ve been part of that you’re especially proud of?

SE: There was the One In Four beer that was a fundraiser for domestic violence victims that was a collaboration across the industry. The recipe was shared, but each brewery made their tweaks to make the beer more “them.” Also, we have a triple IPA coming out called Cat Mom 2 that’s one of the other beers I developed from scratch all the way to completion and I’m a big fan of how it turned out. It’s a pairing with Happy Endings Cat Shelter and this is the second iteration of Cat Mom.

MR: Other than Black Husky, what are some of your favorite Wisconsin breweries?

SE: I’m just a fan of craft beer in general. One of the breweries that helped get me really interest in craft beer in the first place when I was living up in Green Bay was Badger State Brewing. They had a couple of beers I really enjoyed. The coming down here, it’s hard to say anything bad about Lakefront. They’re just an absolute titan in Milwaukee. We hang out with some of the Lakefront guys and bounce ideas off each other. They helped Tim and Toni get acclimated to the Milwaukee area when they first came down.

MR: Do you have a go-to beer style that you find yourself ordering or buying more than others?

SE: I’d say I’m an IPA-first kind of guy. If I’m just having a beer with dinner, I tend towards something hoppy like an IPA, but if it’s something where I’m at a craft brewery and I want to have a beer or two, I’ll go for pilsners. It’s a tried and true style and there’s a reason why pilsners have been one of the best-selling beers for such a long time.

MR: What are some of your favorite non-beer beverages—cocktails, coffee, soda…whatever?

SE: I’d have to say coffee is a top choice there. Other than that, water. I’m not much of a soda drinker.

MR: Are there any domestics or macros that you favor?

SE: Our cheap macro beer of choice here is Hamm’s. Oddly enough, it was my beer of choice back when I first started drinking, too. There’s nothing like a nice Hamm’s.

MR: Any hobbies other than brewing?

SE: I would say my main hobby would be motorcycle riding. I had always been interested in them, but I first bought a bike my second year of my grad program. I got a Honda at first and now I’m riding a Kawasaki W650. I absolutely love the bike.

I also like backpacking. I through hiked the Superior Hiking Trail—about 260 miles—after undergrad. I have gone on backpacking trips to the Great Smokey Mountains as well as in Flagstaff, Arizona. Its nice to disconnect with the grind sometimes and spend some time out in nature to reconnect.

MR: Do you have any favorite TV shows, movies, or video games?

SE: It’s going to sound basic, but my favorite video game is Skyrim. I read a lot as a kid and a lot of the stuff I was interested in was fantasy—dragons, Medieval sword fights and stuff like that. It was like I had found a game that was like the books I read growing up. As far as shows, right now we’re going through Brooklyn Nine-Nine and that has been a blast to watch. And for movies, I’d say Pacific Rim. It’s a guilty pleasure, to be honest, but I love it.

MR: What are some of your favorite Riverwest haunts?

SE: I love Nessun Dorma. They just make fantastic stuff. I’ve never had a bad meal there. I also love Art Bar and Foundation. Foundation is always a great idea for two drinks, but never go for the third!

MR: Any other Milwaukee places you like?

SE: I really like Mothership. I’m a big fan of the vibe there. It’s not a townie bar, but has that kind of character. I like a bar with character.

MR: Are there any breweries in the city you’re tight with or any specific brewers in town who you’re influenced by? Anyone outside of Black Husky who’s helped you along the way?

SE: First of all, I love the Riverwest Brewery Syndicate in general. They’re a great support network. I think that’s a really fun and cool thing you don’t see in a lot of other industries. There are not many neighborhoods where you can have five very different, very distinct breweries all making good beer and supporting each other. Riverwest people are supporting Riverwest breweries, which I think is just great.

Also Jacob Sutrick from Bavarian Bierhaus does a phenomenal job. Tyler Senz from Lakefront is also someone I bounce ideas off of when he comes in here.

MR: Now that you have a distributor and production is ramping up a bit, is there a place you’d love to see Black Husky available in the near future?

SE: It’s not quite Milwaukee-centric, but having a beer at Lambeau would really be something. We had beer at 1919 a while back, but I’m looking to spread the gospel of Sproose as far and wide as we can. It’s a beer like no other, but I’m also a bit biased. I love that beer and I think it’s a good indicator of what Black Husky represents.

MR: Speaking of Lambeau, who’s your all-time favorite Green Bay Packer?

SE: I’d say Jordy Nelson. My first favorites in terms of fandom were probably either Ahman Green or Ryan Grant. I always wanted to be a running back, but I wound up running cross country instead.

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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.