Michael McGookey is the brewer at Bait House Brewery in Sandusky. The five-barrel brewery, which carries the tagline "Nothin' Fishy About It" opened last year. It's within walking distance of Lake Erie.
Question: Why did you become a brewer?
Answer: Why not!? Kidding aside, it kind of all started with a “leap of faith” for me. The brewery has been a labor of love for my father [Dan] and I over the years. It was originally his idea to start this project. I lived in Columbus and worked for Ohio State prior to moving back to Sandusky last May.
With brewing, I get to combine two of my passions, cooking and science. My degree is in biochemistry so it was almost like it was meant to be. I’ve been steadily learning new things every day so the job never gets boring. Also, the basic premise of brewing hasn’t changed in thousands of years which means there is plenty of reading material for me to catch up on!!
Q: What's the story behind the name Bait House?
A: The brewery was the brainchild of my father, Dan. The project started about seven years ago when he first purchased an old bait and tackle shop named “Herb’s Bait Shop.” Herb’s was “THE” bait store to go to in downtown Sandusky for 70-plus years. My grandfather, father, myself, and countless others grew up going there.
The brewery pays homage to Herb’s, and the local boating and fishing communities here in Sandusky. What’s better than enjoying an ice cold beer in one hand, and hooking a walleye in the other!? We used salvaged barn wood and brick to complete the look we were going for.
We like to say the building's theme is “The shack by the sea. If you lean on the building, it will fall in the water.” We just had our one-year anniversary Aug. 3.
Q: What are your favorite and least favorite craft beer trends now?
A: I’ve always leaned more towards dark beers so I’m into barrel-aged stouts and smoky porters at the moment. With fall and cooler weather coming up, the beers we’ll be trying out in the taproom are right in my wheel house.
As far as my least favorite, I don’t know if this is necessarily a “beer” trend, but I’m starting to see craft breweries start getting into hard seltzers.
Q: What's your best-selling beer and why do you think it's so popular?
A: This is a tough one, but it has to be a close race between our flagship beer, Sandusky Bicentenni-ALE and our Sandusky Bay IPA. The Sandusky Bicentenni-ALE is a light and refreshing golden ale that was named to commemorate Sandusky’s actual bicentennial last year. It has always been one of our top sellers. A close second is the Sandusky Bay IPA. It isn’t severely hop heavy, but you know it’s there. We aren’t getting too “risky” with our recipes yet, but we will be soon. We take a lot of pride in our beer and our hometown community so we are trying to slowly introduce Sandusky to our craft beers.
Q: Which beer — any beer in the world — do you wish that you created/brewed and why?
A: I believe my favorite one right now is Oubliette by Seventh Son Brewing Co. in Columbus. The French name describes a deep, dark dungeon which I think sums up the imperial stout perfectly. It’s a 12-percenter that doesn’t taste like a 12-percenter. That makes it all the more dangerous just like the name infers.
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