Ben Dobler / Brewer
WHAT BROUGHT YOU TO BREWING: In 1993, Ben Dobler was a starry-eyed 19-year-old with dreams of joining the Forest Service or following the Grateful Dead. Luckily he got a call from his uncle, a head brewer at Bridgeport Brewing at the time, saying they had a position opening on the bottling line. Three years later, he moved on to join Widmer Brothers. “My first day on the job was scrubbing scum off the tops of kegs for 8 hours,” says Ben. After 10 years at the main brewery, and honing his technical skills with Siebel Institute program, Ben joined Ike Manchester at the pilot brewery where they craft Widmer Brothers most experimental small batch beers.
LAY SOME BREWING ZEN ON US: “Right now craft brewing is being taken to the extreme,” say Ben. “Everything being made is big and bad and eclectic and fun. It’s really great to experiment with all these new ingredients and techniques, but at the same time I have a drive for brewing balanced beers.” At the end of the day, what does it all come down to for Ben? “Trying to have fun is the big thing. Making ales and lager is fun. And I’m blessed to be able to do so.”
IN YOUR FRIDGE RIGHT NOW: A peak inside Ben’s fridge reveals a bevy of local Northwest fruit juice that he likes to taste for inspiration. You’ll also find a fair amount of Belgians and specialty crafts tucked in the back. “I have a draft system downstairs, so I can drink straight from that,” says Ben. “It’s usually whatever we are making at the pilot brewery, but right now I have Citra Blonde on. I could drink that all day long.”
BEST BREWING STORY: “There are so many, but probably when we first started making Snow Plow Milk Stout. First of all, Snow Plow had about 5,000 lbs. of silo malts and 7,500 lbs. of manual additions; so brewing staff was pretty buff during Snow Plow season. I came in one weekend to check gravities. We have a main and a secondary valve that connect to the zwickels on our tanks. They have a stop in them to prevent liquid from getting past. On the tank I was checking, the stop had broken. So when I unscrewed main valve of zwickel, I had a 50 ft. tank with 700 barrels of static head pressure bursting out through a ½’’ line onto the floor. It blew the stopper clear across the floor and I couldn’t see it. Meanwhile, I’m getting showered with dark, sticky, fermenting stout. I just put my hand over the outlet. Like the kid with his finger in a dike, I’m stuck, standing there with my hand in the fermenter. No one was around and I didn’t have a cell phone. So, I took my hand off, ran to nearest office and all-paged for someone to come to cellar immediately. Then I ran back in put hand over the outlet again, taking another bath of stout. Finally 5 minutes later, a warehouse supervisor came in and nearly died laughing. He found the valve 50 ft. away under another tank and cleaned it. Then I took my finger out and managed to plug it back up, sending a 10 ft. radius spray of fermenting stout and yeast everywhere. But we got it fixed and there was no infection. We hardly lost any beer at all. It’s ironic because the first recipe I ever developed was a stout. So, I must have been trying to make peace with stouts after that.”