2008 High Plains Brewer of the Year Award

Thirteen years after Mark Tanner began making his own beer recipes he has become a local expert on the subject of home brewing so much so that he has been awarded the 2008 High Plains Brewer of the Year.

While stationed in Germany Lt Col Mark Tanner acquired the taste for the Country’s beer and missed it so much on his return to America he decided to ‘have a go’ at making it himself.

Readymade homebrew kits did not give him the taste he was looking for and after buying himself a new aluminium stockpot he began looking for recipes that were similar to his beloved beer he used to drink in Germany.

It took Mark 10 years to perfect his skills by reading books about brewing and picking up ideas from shops and their keepers where he bought his brewing equipment and now has his own brew of 20 difference types of beer.

Diaries of dozens of the brew recipes he has done over the years have been carefully written in neat handwriting with details of each step of his brewing process.

Today, all of his brewed beer is poured and stored in dark coloured bottled that keep out light as well as provide conditioning for the beer. 

Mark stipulates that ‘poor sanitation, or even exposure to wild yeast in the air, can ruin beer’ and ensures the bottle cleaning equipment is cleaned well before brewing.

Competition and Nationally Certified Judge

It was while he was in his local home brew supply store in Shawnee, Kan that Mark found out about the contest and was also convinced by shop employees he could become a nationally certified judge.

Putting his two master’s degrees to good use he studied and eventually took the extensive test required to become a certified home brew judge.

In 2008 he began entering competitions and his brewing and judging took him all over California, Florida, New York and the Midwest.

Mark was rewarded with is hard efforts and many years of studying when he was given the title last week for the best amateur beer brewer from South Dakota to Oklahoma.

The competition had been based on a numbered scoring system and Mark’s high score of 65 outdid any of his competitors by far.

"Every great brewery has a specific battle rhythm," he said. "I've had the same ever since I started brewing in 1995."

Army Career and Family Life

A successful Army career has not been affected by Mark’s home brewing hobby.  He has served time in Kuwaiti Army after the first Gulf War and survived the Pentagon attack on September 11th.  His desk was only 50 feet away from the centre of the blast.

When meeting his wife on a blind date he took along a six-pack of his home brewed lemon ale which impressed her.  "She quickly realized I had skills," Tanner said.

They now have two children but Mark does not allow his home brewing to interfere with his family or work.  He says, it’s important for him to be a good husband, father and Soldier before being a good home brewer.  For the most part, I pretty much only drink on weekends," he said. "I find when I drink when I brew, I tend to be messier."