Jared Veldheer isn’t the type to do anything halfway. The 6-foot-8, 321-pound offensive tackle out of tiny Hillsdale College earned a starting gig during his rookie year with the Oakland Raiders in 2010, signed with the Arizona Cardinals in 2014, and was named the team’s MVP that season by the Pro Football Writers of America. So it’s no surprise he approaches his offseason hobby—homebrewing—with the same vigor he displays when fending off defensive ends.
When did you first start homebrewing?
I’ve always kind of been into craft beer and I became interested during my second year with the Oakland Raiders. I’m from Michigan originally, so I go back there in the offseason, and in the winter, there’s not much to do besides train. I saw these homebrew kits for sale online and I thought I’d get one and try my hand at it. Ever since then, I’ve been hooked. I’ve been doing it about four or five years, and my passion for it just keeps growing.
How did growing up in Grand Rapids, Michigan, named Beer City U.S.A. in 2012 and 2013, influence you?
Being able to go to Founders and have that craft beer firsthand and have some of the stuff you can only get at the brewpub, it definitely intrigued me, and also going to some of the bottle shops to pick and choose what local beers to try. There’s just always kind of a buzz in the air about craft beer there.
How often do you homebrew?
During the season, I’m only able to do it a few times. It’s tough with how busy we are. Once the offseason hits, I do it at least once a week, and get a nice little stockpile of beer by the time the regular season rolls around.
Do you try to refine a particular style or do you prefer to brew something new each time?
I like to experiment a lot with different types of hops. I stick with a lot of hoppy pales and IPAs and SMaSH [single-malt and single-hop] beers. I’m a big fan of SMaSH beers; just to see what a certain malt or a certain hop showcases, that’s fun for me. I’m kind of getting into the same premise as the SMaSH beers, but changing up the yeast to see what it would do with the same hops and malt. I was a biology guy in college and I’m used to being in the lab doing that kind of stuff. To me, that’s kind of where that passion is: in the process and creation of it.
Obviously your teammates know that you enjoy homebrewing. Do they ask you a lot to bring them some of your beer?
Yeah. I just bring in whatever I’ve got handy, usually the freshest batch, for them to try.
You brewed a beer [Tropical Storm extra pale ale] with Arizona Wilderness Brewing Co. How did that happen?
I met them through one of my teammates with the Cardinals, [offensive tackle] Earl Watford. After forming somewhat of a relationship with them over the last several months, I asked them if they’d be interested in doing the Pro-Am [homebrew] competition at the Great American Beer Festival. They said, ‘Of course!’ and wanted to know if there was a certain recipe that I wanted to do. I had a pretty good extra pale ale/IPA recipe that I’ve done a few times and it’s one of my favorites. But we withdrew after we were accepted into the competition because we weren’t aware we needed to place in a local homebrew contest with that beer before entering. We did not read the fine print. So that’s one of the things I want to do in the upcoming offseason: get the beer into some contests and try to win some awards.
Didn’t you also have a hand in Arizona Wilderness’ O-Line Triple IPA, which benefitted the Pat Tillman Foundation?
Before going to them and seeing if they wanted to do the Great American Beer Festival Pro-Am, [Watford and I] had the idea of doing a fundraising beer, and we wanted to do something big since we’re big O-linemen. We came up the idea of [a 10%-ABV] triple IPA. I wish it hadn’t gone so fast because it was a great beer.
Any plans to move your brewing to a professional level after your NFL career? Will we see Veldheer Brewing Co. sometime in the future?
It’s a little ways away still, but it’s definitely a thought in my head. But right now, I just really enjoy going into my little man-cave to brew up what I want and share it with friends.