Find out a little bit more about the men behind the craft beers Long Island has been going crazy over!
Rick Sobotka knows a thing or two about putting you in a relaxed state. First, he's a board-certified Anesthesiologist. Second, he's a fourth-generation brewer and first-class beer connoisseur who's spent his life perfecting the recipes that come to you today as Great South Bay brews.
Born and raised in the small upstate New York town of Apalachin – best known by some as the site of a historic 1957 Mafia summit – Rick's earliest brewing memory is helping his dad crush malt with a rolling pin at age 12.
Speaking of dad, John Sobotka is something of a brewing legend in upstate New York. When Rick was a kid, his dad brewed beer on a regular basis. His craft-brewed porter won a devoted local audience as well as regional beer club awards. In fact, Rick's dad learned it all from his dad, who learned it from his dad – Rick's great-grandfather, Stanislaus Sobotka, who distilled his own whiskey back in Poland.
Continuing the family tradition, Rick started brewing at age 15 and crafting beer has been a front-burner hobby ever since. In college at SUNY Binghamton, he soon gained popularity by dishing out his renowned homebrew from a five-gallon bucket.
After college, Rick traveled the U.S., touring breweries along the way. This adventure grew his appreciation for craft beer and ultimately inspired him to consider brewing professionally. Settling for a while in San Diego, he worked as a brewmaster apprentice at the San Diego Brewery, dragging around sacks of malt and learning how great beer is made. Later, in Colorado, he served up pints from the beer tanks at Breckenridge Brewery.
When he landed back east to pursue medicine as a career, Rick still had beer on the brain. "Anesthesia is a career I really enjoy," Rick says. "But I always knew one day I would start my own brewery."
That real brewery is now Great South Bay Brewery. Rick's personal recipes for Bay brews reflect everything he's ever learned, and every beer he's ever tasted, over a lifetime of brewing. "I create beers that I enjoy drinking, and I'm quite particular when it comes to that," Rick says. "If you want quality and creativity in your beer, I know you'll choose a few of mine."
If you've spent any time with the Great South Bay Crew, you've definitely met our Senior Vice President & Chief Operations Officer, Phil Ebel. Another native of Long Island's South Shore, Phil grew up not too far from the east end of Fire Island. He attended Oneonta State College in Upstate New York and began his love affair with beer. Phil learned from his Father (also Phil) the difference between good beer, and the not so good stuff having never seen anything but dark, imported beers in the house. After graduating with a degree in Music Business he gave up his dreams of being a touring musician and began his career in music and entertainment merchandising. Working with bands from the local level to the international multi-platinum level he is no stranger to hard work or difficult situations.
Out of curiosity of the craft, Phil began homebrewing, figuring that his skills in the kitchen would lend itself to making beer. After brewing his first batch of an India Pale Ale, his love for craft beer took hold of all facets of his life. In a quest to learn more, brew more, and try all sorts of different styles he later trained to become an apprentice BJCP (beer judge certification program) beer judge.
Phil came to GSB as the third member of the team after meeting Rick through a local beer appreciation/homebrew club called the Long Island Beer and Malt Enthusiasts in which they were both active members. They hit it off immediately and after a few discussions about Phil looking to make a career change (and after a few pints), Rick welcomed him into the GSB family with open arms in August of 2010. Originally hired as the salesmen on the road, Rick saw the passion, drive, and dedication Phil had for the company as well as many skills he possessed which were huge asset to the company. Soon after, he was given the position of Director of Sales and Operations handling nearly every facet of the brewery's business. He is also great with people and can talk to anyone about anything and really enjoys making people feel welcome. On top of all of that, Phil also began helping to reform the corporate identity of the company taking over the majority of the graphic design for GSB. You've seen some of his work on the Robert Moses Pale Ale, Marauder, Bayliner Weisse, Hoppocratic Oath and Conscious Sedaison labels. Next time you see him around the brewery or at an event, head on over and say hi, he'd love to have a beer with you.
***Phil is also the recipient of the 2011 Golden Tap Award for Long Island Brewery Sales Rep of the Year***
Remember when MacGyver turned some PVC pipe, a few cigar tubes, some fireworks and a doorbell button into a homemade rocket launcher? Well, actually, MacGyver didn't do it – Greg Maisch did, as an 11 year old! (Although showing up to his 6th grade class with it was a bad idea.)
Greg's knack for mechanical inventiveness started early. "I was always building things," he remembers. This naturally led to an academic interest in engineering. Later on, his drive to make things spilled over to a second passion – homebrewing. "At first, I was attracted to the DIY aspect, but what I didn't realize was that brewing is a blend of art and science," Greg said. "As I learned more about it, the chance to apply both creativity and method really pulled me in."
Not surprisingly, he found a way to combine his two passions by constructing equipment to facilitate better brewing. Among Greg's inventive gadgets are his Yeast Devil, an electronic yeast propagation system, and the "Maischfuser," a step infusion gizmo that drizzles water at the perfect temperature to break down the starches within the grain into fermentable sugars.
Greg eventually turned his passion into employment. After describing his brewing skills in an interview, he was hired on the spot by Blue Point Brewing Company in Patchogue, New York. He immersed himself in every step of the process as a brewer and self-described "filter jockey," operating a 5-meter diatomaceous earth beer filter.
It was around this time that Dr. Rick heard one of the nurses at the hospital talking about her ambitious son who had taken over the house with his homemade brewing equipment. That sounded like the right kind of character Rick was looking for in a head brewer for his new company. After they met, Rick knew his team was complete. "Greg's knowledge of brewing is immense," Rick says. "And because he's a genuine Bay native, born and raised right here on the Great South Bay, Greg is a natural choice to ensure every batch of our craft brew is infused with the spirit of the Bay."
One more thing: in German, the Maisch family name translates to "mash" – which is the term for the fermentable starchy mixture essential to producing beer. Just a coincidence? If you think so, you haven't been paying attention.
Along with an epic beard, Kevin brings to the GSB team a tenacious appetite for his craft. Legend says that he was raised by wolves in London, escaped to Ireland where he scavenged the land for potent potables, then pirated his way across the Atlantic and was lured into a great bay by a seductive buried treasure. Well, regardless of how he came to find GSB, or how it found him, Kevin has awoken a sleeping passion for brewing which has consumed his being ever since. All joking aside though, It has been a long and winding road which has landed him here with us at Great South Bay Brewery. Although many other professions have piqued his interests over the years, all signs on that road have led to craft beer. He has learned immensely from his coworker and mentor Greg Maisch, and looks forward to a long and prosperous life with GSB. "Working alongside Greg, is like being a fly on the wall of Einstein, I learn something new everyday and it is always just a little crazy". Kevin enjoys tasting beers from around the country and around the globe, as well as judging in beer competitions to sharpen his senses. He would also love to become a certified beer Cicerone one day. Outside of the beer world, he loves hiking, camping, fishing, carving walking sticks and just about anything outdoors. He is also, alongside his wife, a world- class washers champion, so please challenge him to a game the next time you see him! Lastly he would like to thank his beautiful wife Jessica, as he would never have been able to do this without her immense support and unconditional love.