Mitch Ackerman grew up in Wooster, Ohio where he graduated from Triway High School, the home of the Titans. He went on to study history at the University of Akron. His final paper in a history teaching course was about the history of breweries in Ohio. While in college, he took up home brewing and eventually determined that brewing was his calling.
When Thirsty Dog Brewing Company moved in close by, Ackerman started “pestering” them regularly until, after about five months, they let him in to clean kegs and other menial tasks. He applied himself fully at Thirsty Dog, eventually becoming their head brewer. Like many journeyman brewers, he “knew it was time to leave.” His desire to get out west was fulfilled when he got on at Mudshark Brewery in Lake Havasu City, Arizona. After a couple of years there the luster of the west was dimmed by the fact that he found himself in the middle of nowhere. He turned his focus back to the Midwest and found an opportunity with Four Day Ray, an impressive new brewery and restaurant being built in Fishers, Indiana. Thus he found himself in the very opposite of the middle of nowhere as the first and only head brewer at Four Day Ray. He was there when they opened to the public in October 2016.
When asked about his all-time favorite brew that he ever cooked up, Ackerman recalls a peated Scotch ale and also a quad (quadrupel), both from his time in Arizona. He used dates in the quad instead of the standard candied sugar, which added a bit of a twist that he really enjoyed. He is particularly fond of the Brick Arch Porter he brews at Four Day Ray. His current best-selling brew is a neck and neck horse race between the Track Jumper IPA and the Laplander Blonde that was his first brew at Four Day Ray. The recipes for these two beers are the work of the owner, Brian Graham, while the recipes for the rest of the lineup are either Ackerman’s or a collaboration with the owner. Without hesitation, he is quick to declare that drinking the beer is his favorite part of the brewing process. A Vienna style brew is in the Four Day Ray pipeline. It will be called Mexiana which is a melding of Mexico and Indiana. He also does a rotating IPA series called the HOBO (head of brewing operations) Series that lets him mix up the ingredients a bit to achieve subtle distinctions in the brew. Look for his peated Scotch ale as well as his quad to find their way to Four Day Ray taps sometime soon.
Given the burgeoning development of the craft beer industry, Ackerman suggests that to become a brewer today, a novice should look to at least some formal training. This could include things like becoming a certified beer judge or a Cicerone (a commercial beer server certification) program. It could also mean taking courses on brewing science. His own path of moving from home brewing to the grunt work at a brewery and ultimately working one’s way up to becoming a head brewer is still a valid path to take. He observes that there is still a good deal of room for growth in the craft beer industry. He believes that, as that growth occurs, the beer will only get better as brewers continue to learn and grow.
In his spare time, Ackerman enjoys smoking brisket while hanging out and having a beer. He likens it to brewing in that it is a slow and steady process requiring attention to detail and hopefully resulting in a good product. Based on the excellent brews he is cooking up at Four Day Ray, it is a safe bet that his brisket is more than just a good product.