Red, white, and brew: Badgers PA announcer grows hops, bottles beer for friends in his spare time

Mike Mahnke

Mike Mahnke

MADISON — The public address announcer you hear at Wisconsin Badgers games at Camp Randall Stadium is also quite the home brewer.

A combination of many things make up a Badgers basketball game at the Kohl Center. Mike Mahnke is a key ingredient.

“If I can be a little bit of a fan, a little bit of a cheerleader, and a little bit of an information guy, that’s kind of the perfect mix,” said Mahnke.

Mahnke is the public address announcer for UW basketball and football. His voice accompanies every successful Badgers moment at home games, even if he tries to call as little attention to himself as possible.

“I work extra hard to at least get the guys’ names right,” said Mahnke.

Mike Mahnke

PHOTO: Mike Mahnke

Away from the mic, Mahnke started making beer as a hobby about five years ago. By now, he’s pretty proud of his maple oatmeal stout and K├Âlsch offerings — bottling for friends under the name PA Guy Brewing Company.

Mike Mahnke

PHOTO: Mike Mahnke

Mike Mahnke

Mahnke even grows his own hops.

“If I’m brewing in December, and March, and May, I am using hops that I grew last year, and usually combine them with someone else’s hops as well,” said Mahnke. “As far as the time, you have Brew Day, which takes an afternoon. Then, you have primary fermentation and racking to secondary fermentation, and then you have bottling, and that all takes six to eight weeks for most batches.”

Mike Mahnke

PHOTO: Mike Mahnke

A typical batch is five gallons, which equates to two cases. An associate helps create and print labels. The end result is kind of like the process — fun.

Mahnke said he’s not actually a really big drinker, but…

“I’m not actually going to launch it on an unsuspecting public without sampling it myself,” said Mahnke.

Mike Mahnke

PHOTO: Mike Mahnke

There aren’t a lot of parallels between public address announcing and brewing beer, except for the fact that you really wan to be right.

“Now that you mention that, I really don’t want to make a mistake,” said Mahnke. “I realize here with this gig, I know that there’s a lot of people expecting an A performance from the team on the court, an A performance from the officials, and I would think that they want an A performance from the PA guy, too. As far as my beer goes, it’s the same thing.”

Mahnke often jumps in at the spur of the moment when he feels like brewing, and made his most recent batch in June.

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