Winner Profile: A short biography of the winning brewer, frequently including tips on homebrewing.

Dan Acheson
2022 Midwest Homebrewer of the Year
Midwest Homebrewer of the Year Winner Photo

Like many people who have gotten into brewing beer, my journey began as an extract brewer. Nearly 20 years ago as I was pursuing a PhD in Cognitive Psychology at the University of Wisconsin, Madison, a number of my friends were brewing and asked me to join them for their brew days. After learning a bit about the process (and drinking their tasty brews) I decided to jump in with a plastic bucket and 5 gallon kettle to brew styles of beers I couldn’t readily find at the time. My early beers were… less than consistent. Diacetly bombs? You bet. Oxidized? Oh yeah. I didn’t really know what those flavors were at the time (just that homebrew twang, right?), but some of the beer I brewed was decent, and I felt like it might be a fun hobby to keep up. 


Then I moved to the Netherlands, and the hobby took a bit of a pause. Why brew beer when I could buy Tripel Karmeliet, Duvel, or Rochefort 10 in the grocery store?!? During my time in Europe I got exposed to a wide range of European beer styles. I started developing my palette by doing sensory evaluations as I logged beer I was drinking in RateBeer. I also started to appreciate things in German and Czech lagers as well as Belgian and British ales that I had never noticed or been exposed to before. It was an eye-opening experience to the world of beer that led me to dive deeper into various brewing traditions and the history of brewing around the world, something that I continue to geek out about today. 


Upon returning to the US and moving to Chicago, I didn’t jump right back into brewing as other parts of life took over (kids anyone?). Eventually I picked up the hobby again and quickly went to all grain brewing. Around the same time, I decided to take the sensory evaluation of beer I’d been doing myself to the next level by becoming a BJCP judge in 2019. The combination of these things, and a certain global pandemic which shall not be named, really kicked my brewing into high gear. 


I didn’t get serious about competitive brewing until last year when I met with some early success in some of the local Chicago comps. After moving to the Chicago suburbs, I joined the Urban Knaves of Grain, and benefited immediately from the amazing community of brewers and judges in the club.  


Towards the end of 2021, I was introduced to the Masters Homebrewer Program via the Competitive Homebrewing Facebook Group. I quickly became immersed into the world of competitive homebrewing, and managed to rank up from Proficient to Grand Master I over the course of 2022. Through that group I decided to start competing across the country in the Circuit of America as well, where I managed to place 5th last year. I’ve learned a ton from my fellow homebrewers in that group as well as from my club, and have used those learning as I competed in the 2022 MWHBOY circuit. 


Winning MWHBOY this year is the culmination of these experiences, a continued passion to learn as much as I can about the brewing process, and a desire to continuously improve my own judging abilities which I apply to my own beer. I’d like to express my gratitude to the following folks who helped me along the way and continue to help me to become the best brewer I can: 

  • Jeff Landers for talking through tips and tricks to success in comps.
  • Dave Fetty, Joe Formanek, Jay Bakula, Steve McKenna, Mike Uchima, Kevin Wojdak, and many other folks in UKG who have provided me invaluable feedback as I bring my beer to club meetings.
  • The broader Chicago homebrewing community whose many competitions and social events provide a great community and place to learn and share knowledge… and beer. 
  • The Masters Homebrewer crew whose passion and experience with competitive homebrewing is unparalleled. 
  • And finally, my wife Katie Cronin and two wonderful daughters, Basil and Annie, who have supported me and put up with the smell of boiling wort that is often wafting through our house. 
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