Shannon Viereck

Growing up in the midwest I have had the privilege to know many people who were raised on a farm. My wife, my best friend, and most friends I knew growing up, and still know to this day, have all come from a farm. One of the qualities I have discovered that all these folks have in common is a strong work ethic within them. I find that quality to be very impressive. It seems to me a strong work ethic gives admirable traits such as a good character and a “can-do” attitude with a ferocious drive to accomplish whatever they set their minds to.

I recently had the opportunity to sit-down with a woman who also grew up on a farm, and what I learned through the course of our conversation is that she embodies the can-do spirit to a tee. She has a “do-it-yourself” attitude and a saying that could be considered a mantra: “If I can make it, why buy it?”

Shannon Viereck is a very busy person. She is a wife, a mother to three young children, and a full-time employee at Mount Marty College working as the Director of Annual Giving. With so many responsibilities in her life it would be hard to imagine having any time to devote to things outside of work and family but Shannon finds ways to accommodate the can-do spirit that exists within her.

The second of four children growing up on a small dairy farm near Lake Mills, Iowa, Shannon experienced from the start the rewards that can be gained from making things from scratch, such as applesauce and grape juice. She also learned how to preserve certain foods through the process of canning, because as many people who grew up on a farm can tell you, canning was something that was as much a necessity as it was a savings.

“I came from a long line of gardeners and canners. We would do corn, applesauce, grape juice, grape jelly, every kind of pickle. Gardening and canning was just something you did.”

Though Shannon lives in town these days, the farm kid inside is still there and still loves growing her own food.

“Living in town I have my own small garden and still like to use my hands and get down and dirty and have fun with the things I am doing.”

Raising a garden and canning the produce are just a couple of things Shannon does to be self-sufficient and keep the farm close to her in spirit. However, there is more that Shannon does to keep the creative part of her in motion. One of things she has decided to try is brewing beer, and yes dear Reader, I assure you, from my own personal experience, the brew Shannon shared with me was very good. I am no connoisseur when it comes to beer, I keep it simple, but from the sample I had which was named Block Party Ale, it was what some may describe as a symphony for the senses. The smell, taste, and look of Shannon’s creation is in my opinion what a good brew is all about.

Brewing beer is not a simple process; it takes time. The process on average takes about six weeks from start to finish. It is also very challenging. Time, ingredients, monitoring and documenting are all critical parts of the process. But it is these challenges that appeal to Shannon, and it is that “can-do” spirit that keeps her attracted and interested in this endeavor.

“I did little things here and there but I never really had my own thing. I told my husband I think it would be really fun to brew our own beer.” His response to this marvelous idea was simple and sweet. His words to his wife were, “That’s a hobby I can get behind.” And so it began.

Shannon still considers herself new to this hobby but she has aspirations. It is her hope to someday take the things she has learned of the craft and create new and exciting recipes that are uniquely hers. To get there will take time but I am sure it will be time well spent.

Shannon’s “brewery” is located in her basement. For her birthday her husband Tom gave her a starter kit to begin with and for Christmas built her a bench to brew upon. What started out as a two-bucket process has now become a three-bucket process and Shannon makes about 5 gallons of beer each time she brews a batch. That’s right, five gallons of glorious libation she shares with family and friends. It is a very good thing to be family or friends with Shannon Viereck!

The process of brewing is fairly complex. To achieve a good brew, time is of the essence, and patience is a virtue a good brewmaster must have.

“Right now my equipment consists of 3 five-gallon buckets, which whenever I am hauling those I think of my Dad because that is how he fed cattle,” Shannon says with a smile. “I started out with 2 five-gallon buckets but with the more sophisticated beers there is a second fermentation process, so I added a second bucket.”

Shannon explained that the first bucket is for boiling water and grains to be mixed together so that the grains will steep. This is an infusion of the grain in water between 160 degrees to 175 degrees. Timing and temperature are crucial for this part of the process.

“Everything is very much timed. You need to get to this temperature for this long, and then you take that out, and then you need to put these things in, bring it back to a boil, then you need to get to this temperature, then you need to add in these hops at this time, this time, and this time. It is a very exact science,” Shannon explains.

As I listen to her explain all that goes into brewing I must say it is a science, no doubt! There are so many variables one must be conscious of in order to make a good solid beer.

From the first bucket the liquid is siphoned into a second bucket leaving the grain “sludge” behind. This will continue fermenting with more ingredients added later.

Currently Shannon is brewing a Coffee Crème Ale in which she will add course ground coffee beans into the second fermentation bucket. From the second bucket the liquid will siphon into the third and final bucket. This is where it will age and be ready for bottling.

There are many things to remember and many steps in the process to keep track of. Shannon tells me that note taking is essential if you wish to be successful in brewing beer. Also there are online discussion boards, classes, as well as support from some home brewing companies that can help a novice brewer make a respectable beer.

When Shannon and her husband are out and about they like to try different beers to get a sense of what’s new and what is out there. Shannon has even crossed the ocean to the lands of Ireland and England and sampled some of the offerings both those countries had to offer.

“Going over there I went to the Guinness Brewery and had a Guinness there and it was so much better than it is here. A Guinness here is not the same!”

Shannon Viereck is a woman with many talents and a strong drive. I sense she is the type of person who is both kind and generous. When it comes to brewing beer there is a simple explanation for what she expects to accomplish with this endeavor.

“There are all these things I can do and have done, but I want to do something I can get really good at and just really enjoy doing. Brewing beer is a way of having people over and saying, ‘Hey’ I have three or four new beers I finished. Come on over and tell me what you think. That is the fun of this, I get to share it with other people.