The Big Dog: Tony Magee

Lagunitas_tony

A Conversation with Tony Magee of Lagunitas Brewery
from issue #6 of Mash Tun Journal ( photos by Hank Pearl )

Ed Marszewski: Let’s start out with something like this: What’s a typical day like for you, Tony?

Tony Magee: A typical day, well…  A typical day in 2014 is a very different day than a typical day in 2013, ’12, ’11, or ’10. I mean my job has never stopped changing and morphing radically, you know. The one thing that has always been essential is conversations like this, and it used to be that I would have conversations with one customer sort of like this, one day at a time, one customer at a time, one bar at a time, but now I do an interview and you know, it goes out on the internet and becomes a bit of a larger conversation. I talked to people through the labeling, through the branding. I write the stories through the bottle label and I design the labels from scratch on my little powerbook, just like that. And that’s where all the labels come from. So 90% of my job has always been just trying to communicate the thing we do, and the other 10% is the kind of thing that can take up 90% of my time, you know?

E: Yeah. I sure do.

T: And that was just trying to hold the ship together, trying to hold it together financially, or from a raw material standpoint, or a supply standpoint, the relationships with distributors standpoint, it just never ends. Trying to hold the ship together, even today it’s still the same. Now I am involved in this whole kind of crazy thing where another large brewer has decided to do a label that’s almost identical to ours. So this is a moment of trying to hold it all together, you know, and to keep the thing intact and safe. But in the past, I was trying to keep it safe from a predatory line of credit that we’ve been attached to. Or I was trying to keep it safe from the glass supplier to whom I owed a lot of money, and needed to keep him comfortable so we didn’t impair all my employees or impair the company.

E: So in many ways a typical day today is very much like the beginning of when you started the brewery: it’s your job to steward the company. You have to deal with the various day-to-day activities of running a business.

T: That’s right. Another way to look at the same thing is that it’s more abstract than the day-to-day of running a business. I often think to myself, there’s a ghost in the machine. Kyle Young wrote about the person inside of the body. You cut off your leg and it’s not going to change who you are. It might change what your body will do, but you are obviously by definition separate from that. So I’m the ghost in the machine at Lagunitas. I have always been that, and hope to always be that. As far as I know with the future of the business, I’m in the “die in payroll” plan, so to that extent I’ve got to remain that ghost within the business.

E: As you know we just started up our project, called Marz Community Brewing, and it really is like you are saying. I check our figures every week. I wonder to myself “are we going to bring in enough money to cover our costs for all the shit we’re buying next week? And it’s a constant circulation of funds. I call it the continuous cash flow system. It’s like there is really no money, it just flows.

T: It just turns around and around.

E: It just turns around and it doesn’t exist anywhere really.

T: And the truth is that at about 35,000 barrels that all changes.

E: You have to get to 35,000 barrels for it to change?!

T: Or you, see you are in a really nice spot right now where you are able to sell the beer for $8 or $9 for a bottle, so they’re very special and people regard them as rare. But if the quantity of beer you make were to grow, then they are not quite as rare anymore and by definition a little bit of that special-ness is sort of ground off of it, and so the pricing has to change. So then you have to grow. There are these little step function things. Sometimes you’re walking up the stairs and each step is the same size as the one before but then you get to one step that’s a big step. And so if you step beyond, in my experience, beyond 5,000 barrels, things change until you get to about 35,000.

E: I was thinking that change came at 2,000 barrels.

T: Keep thinking that. It’s something that will keep you going. For years and years and years I told my wife, three-to-five years honey, three-to-five years, trust me, trust me.

E: Yeah absolutely. Well you know that’s funny. That’s really funny.

T: But don’t kid yourself, if you do well, if you do this right, 35,000 is not that far away.

E: You’ve gotta be kidding me.

T: It’s a lot of decisions between here and there but consumer acceptance will carry you there. And then you’ll have to ask yourself, do I want to make more beer to say thank you to the people who’ve said they love us? Or do I want to say no, we are going to stay rare and hard to find. And if you want to stay rare and hard to find that’s a decision you can make but then your customers are going to say, “Oh well but, won’t you make more? We’d like to drink more.” So it’s just a question you have to answer. There’s no demand, there’s no imperative, there’s no ambition in it. For us, we came up at a time when a ten dollar 22 oz. bottle would have sat on the shelf. Ken Allen, the cool guy who founded Anderson Valley Brewing, told me he wanted to be the first ten dollar 22 oz. bottle of beer. You couldn’t do it. Five dollars was as much as he dared charge for beer then. In that time, there were imperatives that drove you to scale. Then once you start into the scale game, then it’s like being chased down the street by wild dogs. You just run as fast as you can to stay ahead of that bill that’s coming in next week for the beer you made this week.

E: That’s the thing. I realize that no matter what kind of forecasting I could do, no matter what kind of planning I made, it doesn’t really matter. Murphy’s law gets in the way. And the business plan is a living business plan that keeps evolving, right?

T: That’s right.

E: Now, as the owner of your company you could say, well that’s just fucking life guys— this is the way it’s going to be. Like you’ve mentioned in the past, you don’t have to deal with outside investors helping to determine what your business will be like in a sense.

T: Well I never answered to outside investors, but I answered to the economics of the business. And so now with craft beer being so much more ubiquitous than it was in the 90’s, the ecological niche like this opened up. Well you can have a business built around very special, very unique, one off, hard to find, impossible, beers made with unobtainium that cost ten dollars a bottle, and you know there will be enough curious consumers that it is a business. That didn’t exist back when we were young.

E: No, well you guys pioneered and created this kind of awareness of craft beer. Without you guys doing what you did we wouldn’t even be here.

T: Us and a lot of others.

E: You mention people of that generation, brewers from the 80’s and 90’s.

T: Yeah we sold beer belly to belly, one pint at a time for years, and years, and years.

Lagunitas_taproom

E: Well you guys brought the industry to the point where I look at a brewery as cultural development and economic development for a neighborhood. It’s more than just beer. It helps rejuvenate a neighborhood. It provides jobs, provides manufacturing gigs in a country that’s been depopulated of manufacturing jobs.

T: You know, there are social anthropologists that believe that fermented beverages, wine when you lived near fruit, or beer if you lived near grain, were the central organizing force behind the division of labor, which was the organizing principle for society. I mean you can imagine there was a tribe, a bunch of humans kind of hanging out, struggling to stay alive and suddenly somebody is able to kind of make this fermented beverage happen. And the biggest guys in the tribe who were able to catch bears more readily looked at the guy who made the beer and went, “Okay you make more of that shit, I’ll be back, I’ll share some bear when I get back home.” And then there was division of labor. Somebody needed to collect the grains, someone else needed to tend to the fermentation, to keep the rats away, and then next thing you know you end up with a society and so when you talk about it being a community development, I mean…

E: Communities form from making beer!

T: It’s never been any other way. The recognition that that’s true is a powerful thing. I don’t think we’re really in the beer business, even Lagunitas at our large size. We’re not in the beer business, we’re in the tribe-building business.

E: Yeah, you’re absolutely right. It’s about culture, it’s about bringing people together. And you know what? That is exactly the experience we’ve had at this bar, Maria’s Packaged Goods & Community Bar, that my family runs.

T: I’ll bet.

Lagunitas_hey

E: I’ve been involved in the arts for 25 years, doing art shows, exhibitions, festivals, putting out publications, whatever. My mother has owned this place forever and it always served a community function for the neighborhood. Back then it was full of working-class guys, retirees, ex-gang bangers, and it became a place where they could hang out and feel safe. Maria always made them feel safe and comfortable. But there are a hundred bars like that in the neighborhood, your typical old school shot and beer joint. And then the economy changed in 2007, 2008 and the dynamics changed here drastically. Back in the day my mother used to sell more Miller products than the Jewel Foods located down the block. The economy started going south, and the business model changed for her. So My brother and I stepped in and made a bar we thought we would like to drink in that was missing in our neighborhood.

T: You know back in 1979, I went to IIT here over on 35th and State, and we would come over to Bridgeport to get a beer because you wouldn’t drink over there. The neighborhoods with the projects were just too dangerous. We’d come over here and it was never like this. A few years ago a friend of mine and I came in and we played music with our backs right up against this post and it was a Bridgeport I’d never seen before.

E: And that culture existed here, we had no idea, even while doing our art programming just down the block. But the place became a hub for neighbors to organize events, projects, and engage in neighborhood activism. It’s a tavern that truly serves as a place for community involvement, and that blows my mind.

T: And you know, that’s the founding principle behind Starbucks.

E: Oh yeah? That freaks the shit out of me. It’s kind of incredible actually that a chain has that mission. So this experience led to us saying to ourselves, if serving good beer has this kind of impact then let’s get more involved. And of course a lot of people started getting involved. And so we started a brewery. While we started this project we noticed even more breweries opened up, and then people starting saying that maybe there are too many breweries popping up in Chicago. Now I always kind of poo poo those comments. It’s a different time and a completely different generation of people who care about quality liquid, about spirits or beer, or wine or soft drinks, coffee! Right? So what’s beautiful to me is that you have a lot more local producers coming out with stuff. Maybe that stuff isn’t as great as it could be, but you also have this kind of phenomena where people really do want to support those third places, local places like their local brewery, the brewpub, etc., right?

T: That’s right, yeah. We are a company and have an advisory board. So they just give us ideas and we share it and we share our ideas with them, they give us our feedback. One of the guys on our board is the Chief Marketing Officer at Facebook.  His name is Gary Greggs— he’s a cool cat. And he is just a regular guy.

E: Come on. Just a regular guy?

T: He is really smart and he has found the highest perch in the world. I was talking with him at our last conversation about the notion of beer as the original social media, and in a heartbeat he got it. In a heartbeat he knew exactly what I was talking about. This might have become a tavern now. But you might have called it a pub, because it was a public house. It was where you went to get the news, learn about births, deaths, whole stories. Yeah, it was social media. Beer is still that same social media. There is also the quote from Robert Winberg, who called beer a good lubricant for social intercourse.

Lagunitas_bottling

E: Well speaking about social media… at some point I saw you mention that you might start an incubator or accelerator for the development of breweries. It seems like it was similar to something done in the tech industry, where there is a mechanism in place to help fund and guide new businesses and entrepreneurs. Obviously there is crowdsourcing for breweries today and you see the them doing all kinds of experiments to raise money. There is also the development of places like Brew Hub where they are building huge contract brewing facilities. Three years ago when I was trying to realize our plan, I noticed many budding brewpreneurs were struggling with financing and finding places to contract beer. So I wanted to create this co-op brewing center where you had several different systems in place for various uses and stages of growth for smaller breweries. It would be linked to various brewing schools and ancillary industries. It could even become a training center. But in general it seemed like a way to help incubate homebrewers or help people incubate their liquid dreams.

T: I like the idea of incubating a homebrewer. You have them in a little pod, you feed them malt, put a little yeast on them from time to time.

E: Ha. But it seems like Chicago would be the ideal place to start this concept. You could work with Siebel, you could work with culinary institutes, and other aspects of the industry around here. We also have a lot of talented brewers that would probably be great instructors. I wondered what your thoughts were on this concept because I think it’s the most beautiful thing ever to help people start and grow small businesses.

T: Yeah I did want to do that. The reason for it is as altruistic as it is selfish. That’s when self-interest combines with opportunity and all of the sudden, great things happen for people on both sides of that. And so I recognize that the future of brewing is going to have a giant local component to it. I want to be local, I don’t want to just act local. And I thought one of the ways we could do that was to make relationships with nano-brewers in different parts of the country. In the kind of Ayn Rand sort of way, it’s like: okay, if I love something you also love, maybe you will also love me back. It would enhance our relationship with neighborhoods and communities. I think it is still a good idea, but the truth is, it’s a very complicated thing to do it right and to do it in a way that’s actually useful and productive. Then all of the sudden we just started growing so hard and so fast. You have to pick your battles carefully as you won’t win them all. So one thing I did want to do was to continue to shepherd the Lagunitas thing for us, so I moved away from that concept. It doesn’t mean we won’t go back and do that down the road. But it’s complicated to do because if you give someone money you’d have a little bit of ownership. And I don’t want to control you, but do you feel comfortable with this? Your customers might think that you sold out. It just gets very complicated for people to do something like that.

E: Getting any investors seems to be a really hard thing to do. It’s hard for people to get small business loans, it’s hard for people to get financing.

T: So remember I told you my kettle was the same size as yours when I first started out. I didn’t know snot about what I was doing and the last thing I wanted to do was start giving away my future at an early date. A lot of small breweries are kind of that way as well. So the conversations were kind of difficult because there wasn’t enough understanding yet on the nano brewers side.

E: I imagine they don’t have enough experience to understand what to do when it comes to creative financing.

T: Yeah, like some jack-ass in San Francisco, a member of the brewing guild there, tweeted something about Lagunitas becoming like a wolf. It’s like, aw fuck that, come on. It’s just so far from truth. If you succeed, does that mean that somehow your soul went away?

E: It’s the same argument with bands, when the indie band gets big the original fans think they sold out.

T: I think Smashing Pumpkins still sound like a million bucks. I mean yeah, things change, that’s part of growing up. But a human being is never the same. Are you no longer soulful because you’re not 17 anymore, because you are 23 and now you’re jaded? It was just this guy in San francisco saying that but I can see how small brewers could feel that way.

E: But some of that could come from envy and jealousy. It’s like Morrissey’s song, “We Hate It When Our Friends Become Successful,” do you know Morrissey?

T: I do know Morrissey. I know Morrissey’s drummer actually. But the thing, is there is something to that, you know? I don’t want to say it had anything to do with jealousy, because that’s taking too much credit for myself or holding people in too low esteem. But the truth of the matter is, when the understandings aren’t in parity with each other, then there is misunderstanding— that’s the problem. We were never jealous of big brewers, and I’m not jealous of big brewers now. I’ve gotta say in some ways I’m jealous of small brewers. That’s part true. I’ve never thought about that one. But it’s not about jealousy. It’s about wanting to live up to what it is you’ve said you want to be.

E: Absolutely.

T: And when people trust you, you want to live up to that.

E: So would Lagunitas ever offer small business loans to any brewers in the future?

T: You know, even today every bit of cash that the business generates, and it generates a lot, ends up being spent back up into carrying inventory and receivables. You have your bill of sale as a cap ex, building future capacity. It’s astounding.

E: So you can’t do that? You don’t have time for that.

T: Well we don’t have the money for it. This was the idea with the small guys, because to a small guy $10,000 makes a big difference. But down the road I don’t see why we wouldn’t want to do that. But for today, we are still sort of hand to mouth, it’s a big hand to a big mouth, it’s still hand to mouth, you know.

E: Yeah it’s the continuous cash flow thing. There is not enough to siphon off to do stuff like that.

T: Yeah no, but maybe, down the road all things are possible.

E: Yeah I’d like to see your idea for an incubator happen. I think it would be beautiful.You should at least be on the board of something that’s doing something similar.

T: Well if somebody else put it together I would be happy to step in. I’m kind of a bad leader for anything. I am on my own sort of leash. I carry my leash like this and lead myself forward, but you know.

E: So let’s talk about the fact that there was some concern by other breweries when you moved to Chicago. I was a champion of you guys coming here, expanding, and doing whatever you can do to spread good liquid to people, and I think a lot of people feel that way.

T: You know, right from the bottom we don’t try to have 5 tap handles. I want to have one. A bar has 5 or 10 or 20. There’s a lot of room. And if I was in every bar in Chicago I’m still not dominating the scene. There’s so much opportunity.

E: People tend to forget that the amount of craft beer in comparison to large macro beer is pretty insignificant in the country/in our culture.

T: What is it, just under 9% of all the beer, 9 out of 100.

E: It’s really not a big deal.

T: I just watched a barrel of Bourbon County Stout come in on a hand truck full of Bud Light.

E: That’s right, at one of the biggest craft beer bars in Chicago. Isn’t that pretty funny?

T: It’s just nature, it’s just nature.

Lagunitas_stainless

E: So that’s my immediate reaction to people who complain about larger craft breweries coming into our market. One of the things other people talk about is because big guys like Lagunitas can scale up so much, it affects everyone’s pricing. The theory is that the so-called premium pricing of craft liquid is going down because the market expanded. How do you address that?

T: Well let me say this. I’ve never sold Lagunitas beer for more money than we sell it for right now. So when Lagunitas was at 2,500 barrels and we were kind of just into bottling, a 22 oz bottle was $2.49, a 6 pack at retail was $5.99.

E: Shut the F up. That was the max price?

T: That’s where the day was. The idea that somehow because of our scale we are able to undermine things, it’s just not even close to true. I’ve never sold our beer for more than we do now. Now it is true that in the current environment I like to be at the lower end of the high end— not to generate volume, but because, first off it’s more than I’ve ever sold beer for anyway. And secondly I think there’s something friendly about that. And if being friendly makes friends, does that mean that I’m making it harder for other people to sell at their prices?

E: No, not at all.

T: When you look at the craft beer industry right now, as far as I can tell, every little brewer is pretty much operating at capacity. Everybody’s expanding that can. So does that mean that the demand for craft beer is exactly matched by the supply? I mean that’s a one bazillion chance that those two numbers exactly match. The truth is that the demand for craft beer wildly exceeds the supply and this is why there are Blue Moons and Shock Tops and Redd’s Apple Ales and all the rest of those in the world. So for any craft brewer to be thinking that somehow bigger craft breweries are crowding them, it’s myopic. They should, as we always have, look up and say 9 out 100 of beers sold in the US are craft beers. What we need to do is convert more consumers. We need to make more friends and open more doors and go after every god damn Shock Top handle you see, and go after every Blue Moon or Redd’s Apple Ale, or any of those imitation crafts that you see. When we came up we never ever, ever, on principle competed with another craft. I remember one time we got a Anchor Steam handle and I myself told the guy to knock it the fuck off, because there was a Bud Light handle and a Budweiser handle and a Michelob handle and a Heineken handle right next to it. Undifferentiated commodity liquid. I said get one of those and this is what we still do now.

E: And that’s actually kind of like the way most brewers…

T: Well a lot of craft brewers these days are starting to see other craft brewers as their competitors.

E: You really think so?

T: Oh fuck yeah. These guys up at Ten Barrel Brewing. I mean everyone gets upset with me for talking about that, because they’re such nice guys. Now I can tell you first hand, they are fucking rich nice guys.

E: Ten Barrel is based in little ole Bend, Oregon. Deschutes started there over 25 years ago and since then twenty other breweries opened up. They became a big deal brewery locally and then regionally.

T: They were doing quite well. But what did they do? They came into a market where there were a lot of beers being sold of the types that they would sell. They were good, they were smart, they probably made good beer, they were effective marketers, and they cleaved off a little chunk of that market for themselves. But I doubt they did it by going after Bud Light handles. And they cleaved off a little part of whatever growth there was in America that was caused by the breweries that preceded them, and they cleaved that off and they sold it for a big premium to Anheuser Busch. I mean if there isn’t such a thing as a traitor, I don’t know what there is.

E: Yeah. They suck.

T: I mean this, traitor. “It is just business,” people tell me, “Tony put on your big boy pants.”

E: But it’s not just business.

T: And you know Goose Island here in Chicago. I think John Hall was 70 years old when he sold with them.

E: Yeah, he wanted to retire.

T: And I know first hand that he was at 80,000 barrels or so, he probably hadn’t stashed away a lot of money.

E: Because of the continuous cash flow issue with running a brewery.

T: It’s hard at those sizes. He is probably making a good living, but was he putting enough away for his retirement money? No, his retirement money in his 50’s and 60’s went into the brewery. So for him to do it is a different modus operandi all together.

E: I thought Ten Barrel was originally set up as a business play to be sold to A-B. I read that one of the founders was from a hedge fund background and saw this as a pay out.

Lagunitas_tanks

T: Probably, this will be the undoing of this little bubble. There’s a lot of rich kids with wealthy families coming into the business. They say the easiest way to make a million dollars is invest 20 million at 5%, you know? And so you know, some of that is going to have a corrupting and dilutive effect on the good work of all the guys who created our history, all the other great California Breweries, Oregon breweries, and all the guys who started up around here since back then.

E: Well that’s the thing: it’s so hard to differentiate this bifurcation in the craft brewing arena. The public has a hard time differentiating Shock Top vs. Allagash, right?

T: And now they’re going to have a hard time differentiating a Ten Barrel from Deschutes. And they are going to think it’s all the same. And some of the stuff that’s happening is a Trojan horse. Big brewers are trying to find a way in and they couldn’t. They tried for a decade to undermine craft.

E: Through the distributor relationships.

T: Exactly, retail relationships. And they were unable to do that, because this is a consumer driven revolution. This is a bottom-up thing, they are not able to control, so now they’re going to try and do it with the trojan horses.

E: Do you think there are going to be more deals like this coming down the pipe?

T: I think so. The people that came into the craft business just to sell their brewery in four or five years. I mean there’s a lot of guys doing that. I could tell from talking to you, you’re interested in the community-building part of it. If someone came along and offered you a million dollars for your brewery right now, you would have to think about it, right? Because it’s a million dollars and what other good things might one do with that? But you might also find yourself really torn, because of all of these filaments you’ve connected your community with. You will have to ask yourself, “Am I going to just turn this over or am I actually making a place for myself in my neighborhood?”

E: I would rather just give it to the employees. Well, I live here. I am going to be here for a long time and I can’t completely undermine my existence.

T: So you’re on the “die in payroll” plan too? Cheers to that.

E: This might be a good time to ask you a question about advice for small breweries, people who are starting up. Sometimes you don’t want to give advice to assholes that are in this for the wrong reason, right? But I’m just a newb. I think I know what’s going on. I’m very observant. But lately I see breweries coming out with sometimes subpar liquid, the shittiest fucking branding, the crappiest marketing I’ve ever seen in my life, and because I’m an artist or designer I’m in tune to that stuff and I just get bummed out. So my natural inclination is that well, not everyone is supposed to have a successful business. Some will just fail. It’s a miracle the failure rate is a lot lower in the brewing industry, than say, the restaurant industry. But I have no clue why this is the case.

T: Well because just like in 2006, anyone that bought a home was going to make money. It didn’t matter how many you bought. I heard a good expression: when the tide goes out it’s easy to tell who’s skinny dipping. Some day it will come clear. Right now everyone looks smart because there is so much enthusiasm in what we do and there’s a lot of enthusiasm, both on the brewers’ side as well as on the consumers’ side. None of it is evil, but things will happen. You said you asked advice for guys. I’d say come into this business for the right reasons because it’s a very expensive business to get into. There’s an old saying, if something seems like a good idea, it might well be too late. If you are coming into it just for that reason now, maybe you are going to be one of the lucky ones, but I bet you the bell curve does what it does and you won’t be one of the lucky ones. You may find yourself becoming a brewer which is not a bad thing, but come into it for the right reasons.

E: We asked a bunch of local brewers from the guild to give us their two cents on this advice question and someone brought up Sam Calgione’s quote that there is going to be a bloodbath coming in the brewing industry.

T: Yeah, Sam would like to see a bloodbath.

E: So what do you think he meant by that? People interpret it differently.

T: I think he misspoke. I think he meant a lot of breweries are going to fail because there are too many coming in. He wasn’t around, but we were around through the 90’s. I remember walking my dog one time around 1999 and just in my head I counted 25 breweries that had closed in the last 5 years. And you know, what I was thinking about was the tragedy. Because who knows, closing the brewery might have cost them their marriage. It might have cost them their house. It might have cost them a lot of friendships. Who knows? There is nothing good about it. That may come again. And I think saying it’s a bloodbath is overstating it a little bit but I think he wanted to say something dramatic.

E: Yeah. Well we have a 6 barrel system by Psychobrew. We can’t make enough beer. Can’t believe people actually want our beer so much. It makes me happy, validates what we are doing in a way. But sometimes I wish we had a 30 barrel system and could go bonkers. I know there no rational reason to do this yet. We should just grow as big as our demand is in whatever time it takes.

 

T:  You know when you have to grow. If you can you will, but you shouldn’t do it for the sake of growing, because you’ll make bad decisions with regard to how to finance it, how to get to those next levels. You will accept money from places that might imperil the whole thing. I did all those things. I made all those mistakes, but…

E: What bad decision are you talking about?

T: Well here is the worst case that’s public record. Magic Hat Brewing hired a fellow who was the CEO of Pyramid Brewing, he comes over and he wants to buy Pyramid to roll it into Magic Hat, it’s going to be a big cross-coast play. He is going to have a profound West Coast presence, a profound East Coast presence. It was a no brainer, right? He borrowed 40 million from the hedge fund to secure Magic Hat and buy Pyramid Brewing. So he bought Pyramid Brewing. Held it together. A little bit later 2008 comes along and the hedge fund starts going bankrupt. They start calling in all their notes. They wanted their 40 million back. They can’t pay them. So the hedge fund takes both breweries. They take their collateral back and they sell both of those breweries for the price of just one of them.

E: Whoa.

T: So now Allan Newman, the guy who founded Magic Hat, is off trying to create something exciting once again through using Boston Beer’s money. There are places that you can go to get money that can get dangerous. And in our time of growing up I borrowed a lot of 18% and 21% leases.

E: Holy shit!

T: And it almost cost me everything and I really shouldn’t have done it. And I probably shouldn’t have survived it. Now I got lucky and I was ready and prepared all the time to be as lucky as I could be, but it was only luck that got me through that, and in retrospect it was probably better than the odds that we were going to be toast. There are mistakes you can make and I survived my mistakes but there is no guarantee in that and things get much more dangerous when you do that. And all of the sudden this thing you love doing becomes like a tyranny.

E: And it fucks you up when you take that money… But does anyone lend much money to small businesses anymore? Does anyone lend brewers money?

T: Back then no bank would lend me money.

E: They wouldn’t give any breweries money?

T: No, they wouldn’t give me money. This was during the dot com bubble and no bank would touch us because it seemed like money was always better spent on some other type of industry. So it’s how I ended up going to these real alley leases.

E: It’s like the pawn shop lease, or payday lease.

T: Like 21%. I mean if you think about it, it’s like I’m going to to buy a piece of equipment and I’m going to pay a 21% interest on it? Is that business generating a 21% outgross margin to finance that with? Probably not, not at that point.

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E: That’s intense man. I think that’s why this crowdsourcing model is a great option for start up funds. I also like the Community Supported Beer element that people are doing. But then again these types of funds are really a small dent in the overall financial needs brewers have. I do have to say I was a little freaked out when Stone crowdsourced a couple million bucks to get their new brewery made in Europe. I thought that was bullshit. Is this lame? Or is it a testament to the popularity, the loyalty, and the enthusiasm customers have for Stone? I’m not sure which way you want to look at it. Or both.

T: Well the latter is true, but I think they mostly did it as a marketing thing, to create the donors that would do anything to get one of those beers. So they really just know that they are growing their customer base by asking their customers for money. I mean that’s one way to do it, but the real bullshit about Stone is the Richmond, Virginia brewery that the city is financing for them.

E: Oh yeah, now that is complete bullshit. I agree with you on that.

T: The city did it at the municipal bond rate which is very low. Nobody gets to borrow at those rates except for the city and the municipality that has the full faith and credit of the taxpayer base to support it. So in that respect, if I was one of those other breweries in that town I would be very upset that somehow this other brewery got their financing at rates that I’ll never, ever see.

E: Yeah, if that’s the case then every brewery should have got that financing from the state.

T: I thought about calling them up and saying, alright, we’re ready, I’ll build one, you do that again. Just to see if they would.

E: Oh no.

T: But they don’t want to, I’m sure, so…

E: I like your stance on it. I like the fact you didn’t take any government funding here – whether that was TIFF money, SBIFF money or whatever offered you.

T: And the state continued to try and offer us money and I kept saying thank you, we’re good. It’s good to have friends but…

E: I think it’s best not to work with the government in that sense because later there might be strings attached. The fact is they have their foot on your neck already. You don’t need to have a fist in your face as well later on.

T: But that’s a practical consideration. It is a better use of capital to lease rather than to own. But I have long, long term leases, so it’s like owning. But the guy who was my landlord who passed away last Fall was famous for an expression that goes, “Everybody has to chew their own food.”

E: That’s great, I love that.

T: And some people will and some people prefer not to because they don’t have to.

E: I think we could probably float the entire issue of Mash Tun with this conversation, which should probably be a reprint of your book.

T: For the sake of the publisher I should do this. If you want to start a brewery, and basically all the things we’ve been talking about, every decision, all of those early phase things, I kind of walk through them in great detail because it’s a fascinating story. Not that we’re fascinating, but is describes what it takes to maneuver a business through the world.

E: Oh absolutely, and that’s why I think you are a great spokesman for the industry. It’s good that we have your voice in our corner and you continue to play a leadership role for us.

T: Oh, well that’s great, thanks.

E: I think it’s really important that what you do, and what you think can have an impact. I appreciate your stories about how things can be done wrong and how to avoid getting fucked over.

T: You will get fucked over. It’s how to survive it, that’s the key thing.

E: Yeah. Well, cheers to your success, thanks for inspiring us.

T: And cheers to yours! I appreciate that.

 

 

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Punk Rock and Beer

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By Ian Wise – from issue #6 of Mash Tun Journal

I woke up earlier today after a stressful night in the beer industry and read that Tommy Ramone had died. I had the idea for this article a while back, but now it feels a little more urgent. This article is about two very specific things: beer and punk rock. Outside of my family (or perhaps in spite of my family), those are pretty much the only two things that actually matter, in that I still learn so much from both of them, despite the fact that they are basic and erroneous. I know that beer is water, barley, hops, and yeast, but looking at those four ingredients is a confusing rush. Like the first time I heard an SS Decontrol record and thought, “Holy shit, that’s just four people?”

There’s something fantastic in how four simple ingredients controlled by tiny variables can create an impossibly large world of flavor and weights. Sometimes something hits just right and all the spaces in between seem to disappear. The four ingredients in beer have taught me more about chemistry, history, and sociology than I ever learned in school. While punk is usually four upset kids yelling, the life lessons I’ve taken away from it have literally defined who I am and what I do with my life on a day-to-day basis. If I hadn’t found punk early in my life then I probably wouldn’t have the confidence and resilience it takes to cut it in the beer industry, and I sure as hell would have found a job more lucrative than backing the craft scene.

We currently have more breweries in the US since Prohibition, and now that regional styles are taking off we are starting to see smaller scenes pop up in other countries as well. This explosion mirrors the late ‘70s, early ‘80s trend of aggressive music that empowered people to do something simply because they could. American’s craft beer explosion has similarly inspired a wave of new breweries, to the point of terminal velocity. It seems we are seeing mediocre copycats cropping up. Many are just trying to get us too drunk at the beer fests to remember whether or not we liked their product. Are we really convincing ourselves that bigger is better, or that more of the same is really going to make us complete? Sure, we can all cop Black Flag riffs and spew out a million double IPAs, but does the world really need anything heavier than My War?

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There is much to learn from the overlooked pieces of our past. Digging out obscure Spanish records—Eskorio, early Deciblios, and the lone single by Vulpess—shows how those bands took cues from British and American styles, before weaving those influences with their own sensibilities. Vulpess, a band composed of four, young Spanish girls, made a notable contribution to the punk canon in 1983 with their ripping cover of the Stooges classic “I Wanna’ Be Your Dog.” Their version includes gender-specific lyrics, and whose updated title roughly translates to “I Like Being a Whore.” It’s not a record people would line up to buy, but it’s on par with the hyped records released by renowned labels of the era. Nowadays, we’ll drive 100 miles—or scour Craigslist—for a bottle of beer whose inclusion into our Ratebeer profile will look good to our friends. Meanwhile, challenging brews sit on the shelves of liquor stores, eager for us to see the intrigue of Maibock, Rauchbier, and Brabent Ale, styles that do not get their just dues, compared to barrel-aged stouts and double IPAs.

The brewing industry in the US is catering to a larger, more educated crowd than ever, yet the market’s most popular beer styles show an industry in its infancy. India pale ales make up over 60% of the American craft market, with the term “hop head” being co-opted by even the most bland businessmen affecting a chic persona in their Social Distortion t-shirt. “Yes, I went to college,” they think. “Now I have a lot of money to spend on stuff you can’t afford.” Although the yuppie beer market is expanding, the Danes are an example of counter-culture brewing, churning out awkward brews akin to the glory days of Danish punk like the Lost Kids or the Sods. With breweries Mikkeller and Evil Twin, the Bjergso brothers are showing that they can open up the palates of even those most conservative, aged faux-hipsters. If Evil Twin’s cheeky beers—Low Life Pilsener and Soft DK Imperial Stout, for example—have a rightful place in the market, there’s no reason more esoteric brews can’t make their way into our mouths, right?

You may have opened one of the last three issues of this DIY-style zine and read my articles about international cheese pairings with beer. Maybe you actually went to a local market and tracked down something I wrote about. Maybe you had a party with your friends where you paired beer with cheese—I hope my writing had an influence on that. Instead of writing about cheese and beer, this time I’m going to pair beer with records. Whether you find this music at the record store, on eBay, or through BitTorrent, get your shopping list ready. Afterward, invite your friends over for a drinking party that will be a little less sophisticated but a lot more fun.

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Los Angeles was arguably the punk rock hub of the world in the late ‘70s and early ‘80s, home to many of the revered bands whose influence is apparent in the music played on modern college radio. While Black Flag and the majority of the early Dangerhouse Records set are (rightly) celebrated in the mainstream rock press, there are dozens of other early gems that never got the recognition they deserve. The Chiefs, an early proto-hardcore band, released a fantastic 7” in 1980 called Blues. It invited the listener into the Los Angeles scene with open arms. Those arms were sweaty and probably smelled like beer and stale cigarettes, but the mid-tempo romp was as important to the punk crowd as Black Flag’s Jealous Again EP. For a beer in a similar vein, travel thirty minutes south to San Diego’s Stone Brewing and try their Chipotle Porter. Compared to the rest of Stone’s aggressive portfolio, Chipotle Porter is understated yet robust. For a more aggressive affair, pair Arrogant Bastard with Fear’s The Record LP—tell me it’s doesn’t go great with screaming “I Don’t Care About You” from your porch at 2 a.m. For another LA/San Diego crossover, drop the needle on “Mindless Contentment” from the Plugz 7”, Move, and crack a Green Flash West Coast IPA. Both are simple, the song in its repetitive melody and the beer in its almost excessive use of hops. For their respective times, both are representative of Southern California—and neither could be more refreshing.

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Next, let’s visit a place not many people look to for great beer or punk, the American South. Alabama’s beer scene is exploding right now, mostly due to recently relaxed laws regarding ABV and bottle size. For years, the big guns of the beer market have successfully stifled legislation put forth in the interest of craft beer. Meanwhile, people were driving to neighboring states to get good beer. A tenacious beer advocate could also find the occasional miniature speakeasy in the way of bootlegged taps in bars, bars that risked losing their licenses to pour a hearty stout or double IPA. Thinking about how bad it was reminds me of early Alabama bands like Huntsville’s Knockabouts, whose shows sometimes turned into riots, as rednecks tried to fight them and the cops always sided with the more conservative locals. Beginning in 1983, they recorded a litany of songs about their surroundings, including a sloppy cover a classic Southern rock tune—their rendition was called “Shit Home Alabama.” They never released a record in their ‘80s heyday (much like their younger Huntsville counterparts Dead Pigeon or Birmingham’s fabled GNP), but the prolific San Francisco label Prank Records released a 7” of selected demo tracks in 1994. The record is snotty and sarcastic, but equally dangerous when viewed in the context of its time and place, much like brewing beer during Prohibition.

The perfect pairing is unfortunately now impossible. The nights I spent sucking down beer from Huntsville’s Olde Towne brewery can’t be recreated. As Huntsville’s first microbrewery since Prohibition, the company struggled to sell simple but well-crafted brews to a market dominated by Budweiser for several years. They lost their business to a fire in 2007 and somehow found the resolve to rebuild, only to close in 2010 due to lack of local interest. The next year some of the first relaxed beer laws in the state were passed and the craft beer movement began to gain traction in Alabama. Now Alabama is home to several great breweries, mostly based around the Birmingham area. Good People and Avondale Brewing are honing their skills and selling to an eager market.

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Florida in the 1980s rivaled New York or Boston in terms of violence. Cuban skinheads in Miami were fighting gang bangers and jocks were literally out to kill punks in Fort Lauderdale. Turns out, the bands from the day matched that intensity. An obvious choice for a beer pairing is Belching Penguin’s Draft Beer, Not Me, a totally over-the-top and high speed LP from 1986. Not only was Belching Penguin ahead of their time, they had a sense of humor about their music. I can imagine a retired Florida punk spinning Draft Beer, Not Me with a good tripel in hand. Tripel goes down smooth but gets you drunk fast, like a lot of Florida hardcore. For this pairing, I suggest La Fin Du Monde from Canada’s Unibroue. If you want to do some killer geographic pairing with Unibroue, look for the Fringe Records catalog, specializing in late ‘80s Canadian crossover (I highly recommend the debut LPs by Death Sentence and Sudden Impact). If you want to keep your Florida pairings Southern, check out another high-gravity, but easy to drink beer like Good People’s Snake Handler IPA. In Alabama, the old way to buy most high-alcohol craft beer was via draft at liquor stores. You could buy gallon milk jugs of Snake Handler for $14, and then you’d see ragged punks at parties blasting Operation Ivy and drinking gallons of beer straight out of the carton, standing in the backyard of whoever would host them. It’s a truly Southern experience. Nashville’s Yazoo Brewing’s Sue, a smoked ale suited for Southern nights when you’re stuffing your face full of Full Moon BBQ while an Anti-Heros record plays in the background

One of the most underrated areas for both beer and punk music is the Midwest. Considering the target readership of this magazine (that probably stopped reading after the second paragraph), the Midwest seems like a good place to finish. Chicago has the fastest growing beer market in the United States (I was told recently that 122 new brands were launched in Illinois in the past year), so we really do have a lot to choose from. If traffic is light, Revolution, Two Brothers, Solemn Oath, and Three Floyds are all located within an hour of each other. Similarly, some of the progressive records from the golden era of punk (and beyond) were made in the region. Some of them sold out quicker than Bourbon County Proprietor’s, such as the Youth Attack catalog—whew!

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In 1983, Ruthless Records released one of the better-known Chicago classics: The Effigies’ We’re Da Machine, peppered with nods to the British Oi movement. Still, it felt like a fuckin’ Chicago record, with all the balls and smarmy charm of a bunch of guys too smart to write resort terrace anthems or pub rock clichés. Warrenville’s Two Brothers Brewing Company, one of the oldest independently-owned craft breweries in Illinois, follows a similar aesthetic of making old world styles and developing them for a rougher American palate. Cane and Ebel, a red rye with Thai palm sugar, has a smooth sweetness delivered by a body as thick and viscous as an Effigies single. Black pepper and pineapple roll out of the nose like the guitar licks on “Quota” or “Techno’s Gone.”

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But what about the less refined aspects of the Midwestern punk canon? If you are used to The Effigies as the center of the region, you can split most of the Midwest’s bands onto either side of their sound. On one side, you have the raw, sped up bootboy rock in Detroit bands like Negative Approach and Bored Youth. They incorporated soccer chants and glam riffs with their sound, writing, in my opinion, the most aggressive and angst-ridden songs in the history of American music. In 1981, Negative Approach’s first record, a self-titled 7” slotted as one of the first releases on Touch and Go (who would become one of the most prolific indie labels in history), still sounds like a fucked up, tortured mess. Their younger counterparts, Bored Youth, followed a similar idea, but they only released one demo tape during their time together. The demo was bootlegged by German label Lost and Found in 1993 and officially released by Alona’s Dream Records in 2013. A good pairing for both is a  new brewery in the Western Suburbs of Chicago called Flesk Brewing. Maybe it’s because they are one of the little guys—brewing on a 3 ½ barrel system—but as the Chicago landscape is populated by dozens of new nanobreweries, they are the one’s playing loud enough to be heard over the static of the others. Their beers aren’t the easiest to find, much like an original pressing of the Negative Approach 7”. But when you do come across a Flesk beer, buy and savor it. Bored Youth only recorded 8 songs and you don’t want to be left with half a bottle when the needle hits the center label.

After years of digging through record boxes I’ve learned that it’s easy to own a lot of records. I mean, really easy. But it’s hard to own a lot of good ones. I’ve also learned that there is too much good beer in this world to waste my liver drinking mediocre beer. There’s something to be learned from the records sitting on a shelf waiting to blow your mind. I spent 15 years looking for a copy of We Can’t Help it If We’re From Florida, but finding it wasn’t the result of standing in line or following trends—it was split-second serendipity. I felt the same when I walked into a bar in Tuscon without an idea of what I wanted and spotted a bottle of Ska’s Steel Toe Stout. I got to taste a beer that I had always missed in the Chicago and Alabama markets, and to me it was more rewarding than getting to rank a 2011 Dark Lord for the approval of Internet hordes.

We are all individuals—our preferences should reflect our own experiences. Whether it’s a good beer or a good punk record, two things less tangible than their ingredients define both, and that is a time and a place. The terroir of each is not only what lends them their subtleties, it’s what give them their meaning. Nights spent sharing good beer with friends while listening to the music of your youth will have more impact on you than mere tasting notes you memorize and file away. Chasing the white whale is a hunt that ends several hours after it begins, when you land on the shore, lonely and sober, with the Untappd badge to prove your journey. But if you see the world as a jungle with millions of goals waiting to be discovered, your life is a journey that retains your interest until you succumb to your own obsessions. I can’t imagine living another way.

RIP Joey, Johnny, Dee Dee, and Tommy.

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Ian Wise is Mash Tun Editor and has a punk rock and beer show on Lumpen Radio called Out of Vogue.

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A Conversation with Jerry Gnagy and Sam Cruz of Against The Grain Brewery.

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Upon entering Against The Grain‘s brewing facility in Louisville, Kentucky you will witness a jaw-dropping three-tier brewing system, something you might see in Bavaria. You walk into a room that has a ceiling 60 feet high. To the left is the bar and kitchen; to the right is seating. A giant glass wall behind the bar shows their system which features a brewhouse on the third floor, fermentation tanks on a second floor, and the serving tanks behind the bar on the first floor. It looks amazing, but this three-tier system is brutal. It can be a physically taxing brew day here for a brewer of any age. Despite its visual complexity this is a very basic DME brewhouse with your standard 15-barrel tanks. It works great. And what’s even better is that these guys make some of the best liquid in the world.

I’ve had the pleasure of meeting some of the ATG guys a few times during my stints at Maria’s and at their brewery. We were amazed by their 70K Imperial Stout, Kentucky Ryed Chiquen (packaged with chicken feathers), and Bo and Luke Imperial Stout. We would just order whatever they made regardless of tasting it in advance because we knew it was good shit. While we were in planning mode for our own brewery, Marz Community Brewing Co, we were able to con Head Brewer and Owner, Jerry Gnagy, and Head Lover, Sam Cruz, to let us brew with them. It was our first of what we hope will be many future collaborations.

Edmar: Can you tell me how you first came up with the idea of opening Against the Grain.

Jerry: The conception of opening a new brewery started when I was working at BBC–Bluegrass Brewing Co. The first thing that made me want to open a brewery was the salad bar. The ownership decided that in order to cultivate a younger clientele, they needed to put in a salad bar. It was not even a very good salad bar. It had its own homemade sneeze-guard made with two-by-fours, some plexiglass, and thread. It had a dowel rod holding it up and at anytime it could have slammed shut. And it probably killed one of the geriatric patrons. But even the mix of what was in the salad bar there was some two or three week-old spring mix, and then a gigantic thing of hotel pan garbanzo beans…

Sam: Yeah, chickpeas.

Jerry: And they had genetically engineered carrots that were probably three or four inches in diameter, and they would slice them so one slice of carrot could be your whole meal. But I digress. The thing is it was a terrible salad bar. It was a poor concept and I was embarrassed to even walk by it or be associated with it.

Sam: And the pizza warmer.

Jerry: Aww, fuck! I forgot about the pizza warmer, I took several pictures of the pizza warmer. The pizza is a different story. That’s for another day. But the salad bar was the first reason. The second reason: Pirate Hooker Statue. Not being a seafood restaurant or on water, the owners decided the natural choice to bring people into your bar is to put a gigantic pirate hooker statue outside.

Sam: A ceramic whore as a pirate.

Edmar: Now that usually works in a coastal town, like in the Redneck Riviera. The Florida panhandle or maybe parts of Georgia. 

Sam: I think it was procured in the Redneck Riviera.

Jerry: This is even worse–it was purchased for $600. When I looked online I discovered that I could have gotten the same pirate statue for $500 new. That’s what kind of person, what kind of ownership that we are dealing with here. So that was the last straw. I just could not be associated with a place with a salad bar and a pirate hooker statue. So obviously we were forced into doing Against the Grain.  That’s the the long and the short of it.

The on-the-record kind of answer is there was a dissatisfaction with every place that you would go to had a wheat ale, and then a pale ale, and then their stout, and then their amber ale, and then their brown ale. And you would go to a place and they’d go, “oh we have those,” and then the specialties. The specialties look good. That’s pretty cool because the creativity of the brewer lies in their specialties because it’s always rotating and the other normal things are kind of stamped out. But the reality was, “Ya’ gotta make another brown ale, gotta make and another brown ale.”

We would never taste the wheat beer that we made at BBC because we had made it 300 times. There was no excitement to it. So we were thinking, “what if everything was special?” That’s how the concept started. But to give it some parameter we decided to make beers along flavor characteristics. The session beer’s parameter only had to be under 5% ABV. It could emphasize anything, hop, malt, smoke, dark, and was a nice one that you could do anything within. Obviously other beers had their own characteristics so you would find a breadth of different things one would be able to drink. We knew what that beer was going to be like, but we didn’t exactly know what that beer was yet. So that is kind of how it started.

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Edmar: How did all you guys meet each other?

Sam: I was a home brewer and I would send my pregnant wife to Jerry to get grains.

Jerry: She wasn’t pregnant when she came the first time?

Sam: I would go badger him for ingredients and one day I happened to come in and say, “Hey, do you need any help?” And he happened to say, “I do need help.” And he gave me the shittiest job there. Which was a good job, actually. I enjoyed it. Cleaning kegs, sweeping the floor. It was really a good job because Jerry was never there. So I just kind of worked my way up from that to assistant under him, directly under him.

Edmar: I’ll bet it felt great to have Jerry’s body on top of you. He is very athletic, you can’t see this on the recording but not only is he athletic, he practices gymkata.

Sam: He was doing marathons then, too, so he was very fit.

Jerry: It certainly worked better than vice versa.

Edmar: Well, you would have been crushed by the wheels of industry.

Sam: Yeah, exactly.

Jerry: I didn’t say that.

Edmar: So you started working with Jerry over at the BBC and this is one of your cholos, one of your co-workers. Were there other people there who were also working at this particular BBC with you?  

Jerry: Yes there was a man named Shitty Fartson, who is our other partner here.

Sam: Or if you prefer the Asian way of saying it, Shitao Fartyama. Or if maybe he is hailing from, let’s say Israel, it’s Shitsgavich Fartsgavich. Whichever way you want to angle him, his mother calls him Adam Watson.

Edmar: Was Adam also a brewer?

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Sam: Yeah, he started when Sam moved to the assistant brewer position. Adam filled his void by cleaning kegs and things. And he was going to law school at the time and gaming Thursday nights as well.  Good old Shitty Farts passed the bar and then went to work. He obviously used his tens of thousands of dollars education to continue cleaning kegs and work up to assistant brewer.

Edmar: Isn’t that one of the first jobs you get out of law school? 

Jerry: Yeah. Either digging ditches or some sort of a housekeeping job.

Edmar: So while you guys were actually talking about this, how did you come up with a name of the brewery?

Jerry: Yeah the name was Grain Palate Overturned, we had to un-sack it all by hand and I thought that Against the Grain would be a good name for it.

Edmar: Great metaphor.

Jerry: Yeah it was something, it was something. So, we just stuck with that from there on out.

Edmar: Now when you were talking about this were you actively looking for places?

Jerry: Sort of. What really accelerated it was when I talked to some people about some rough ideas. We didn’t even have a business plan. We had some very loose numbers. And I got a call from a person who said, “This ex-restaurant has just closed down. Would you like to go and look at it? The previous owner is a friend of mine.” So we went in there and just thought about it and we talked to the landlord there. We told them our concept and they were like, “You are our first in line. We want this concept. Can you get me your business plan by tomorrow?” So obviously I spent some real hard time that night working on business plan numbers and everything, and I came up with a good four page business plan and they were still interested. They were like, “You guys got it all together.” And I was like, “Well, either you are a terrible landlord or…”

Edmar: Desperate.

Jerry: But what really started it in earnest was that we were forced into it, just by that opportunity, to make it happen. By making that business plan we were able to go on from there, revise it, and we ended up telling that person we were not interested in the property. It wouldn’t have worked for us in that location. But it got us started along that road and that was the tipping point. And from there we started to talk to people about funding and money. And people start thinking…

Edmar: Like, “Hey, it’s real!”

Jerry: Yeah. And now you have this ball rolling when people start giving you checks. Other people could see that you were actually raising money and it got them inclined to invest as well. Right at the turn of the year, December, we were thinking about looking at properties. January 2011 happened and by July we purchased this place. That’s how fast it moved.

E: It’s really incredible that the trio of the salad bar, the hooker pirate, and a friend who told you that he had a space available for you forced you all to get together to make this plan. How did you negotiate the relationships to be a partners with each other and decide what your roles would be?

 Sam: I think we didn’t negotiate or talk about what our roles were going to be. We all collectively agreed that we have the same work ethic. That’s important. And that our talents would be the heaviest part of us and we would settle into the spot. Which has happened. We have all collectively settled into where we need to be.

Jerry: I think at first it was a lot of people trying to do a lot of different things, and trying to know everything about it, and it wasn’t consciously talked about. Everyone just slid into their role.  I don’t have a damned clue what’s happening with the restaurant, for example. I don’t even know when we close at night. [Laughter]. But I do know what’s happening in the brewery and I don’t expect anybody else to have to know. Of course, we are always open, and if anyone wants to know anything, they can ask, and we can say, “Fuck off, I’ve got that handled.”

E: You know I didn’t even think about the restaurant portion of the pub. Who is the guy that runs it? Did you hire a guy or is he one of the guys?

Sam: It was Andrew. Andrew was a server at BBC. One day Adam and Jerry and I were in the brewery whispering about this brewery we were going to open. And we’re trying not to tell anyone, because our previous employer was a fucking lunatic and thought we were stealing ourselves from him. Andrew would come in and chitchat with us. He is a likable guy, you know, and he’d come in, and he knew a little bit about plumbing. So Jerry is kind of interrogating him about plumbing, and one day Adam threw it out there and said, “You guys ever consider opening your own brewery?” And sure enough Jerry was: “Well, yeah. Here, read this. You got any money?” He looks at it and is like, “Yeah, this is really good, but you don’t have any business end on the restaurant.” Andrew is from the Outback/Bonefish family of restauranteurs and had experience opening restaurants.

Edmar: So he had experience as an opener and understood the whole operations end of the restaurant biz. 

Jerry: We didn’t know that at the time, we just thought he was another shit-ass server. Apparently he was working his way into going back to school to do something different.

Sam: He pulled his weight, so we asked him if he wanted to be a partner, and we had the complete team at that point to do this.

Edmar: Jerry, were you always going to figure out how to start your own place?

Jerry: I knew that there were a lot of headaches coming with the ownership. And I was always a little reticent to go that route. Basically because I didn’t have any money. But I also always had this nagging feeling that I can’t do this forever. This is a young man’s game. Brewing is a young man’s game. You saw what we did this morning…

Edmar: Oh yeah, I can’t do that forever. I am an old man.

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Jerry: I would ask myself, “Am I going to do this until I’m 60? Hump bags of grain and stir a kettle?” Ain’t going to happen. So I knew that there was going to be some point where I would have to change what I’m doing. Whether that was getting out of the business or what, I didn’t know at that time. But luckily having the people to start this place gave me the vision of how this is going to go in the future. And I wouldn’t be able to do it without Shitty Fartson, Cram Jizz, or Main Glue Frawt. So, now I have this idea on how this goes from here on out so I don’t have to hump every bag of grain to make good beer. You just need to set people up to do that, and hopefully we are working on that right now. We are transitioning. I do less of the actual brewing, more of the actual planning and things like that, so it’s been a different role for me, but it’s something that I am learning and I have to do.

Edmar: Well, the interesting thing about this story is that you found this place which used to be called Brownies.

Jerry: Well, they looked like a sinking ship.

Edmar: You could tell it was going down? 

Jerry: We came here with the intention to take the equipment.

Edmar: You wanted to just buy all their shit and get out?

Jerry: Yeah. And we were like, “Their fecal matter is not gonna leave.”

Edmar: And then they were like, “Please take the entire toilet.” So, you made an offer on all of their equipment and they offered you the option to take over their lease and business?

Jerry: That is exactly what happened. We gave them a really fair price and bid on their equipment and they said, “Oh wait that’s way too low.” Well, obviously it wasn’t, but their comeback was, “How ’bout the whole place, then?” And the jumping-off point for their number was very nice.

Edmar: So you took over and how long did it take for you to open?

Jerry: It took until July 29th. We opened Oct. 4th.

Edmar: Holy shit, wow. 

Jerry: So that was another real big benefit of purchasing this business. There was no equipment to install, there was no buildout for anything, no need for cleaning or inspections. We just had to focus on dialing in what we wanted to do in brewing, having beer ready, and changing the license. We purchased their assets; we did not purchase their liabilities.

Edmar: So in 2011, when you guys started doing this stuff, did people give a shit, did they care that you guys opened up a new place?

Jerry: They cared a lot, but, you know, there is still a really small segment of really avid craft beer drinkers in this town. You can’t sustain what we are doing without having new business as well. So it took a good eight months…  It took a while to cultivate enough restaurant business at six months. It was pretty dicey there the first few months. You had the initial crop of people coming in and drinking. But it took us a good year to feel good about it, feel like, “Hey this is all going to work, we are not going to close.” And we could actually continue doing more interesting things that cost money, bringing us to a different place after about a year, I think. And now as more and more people come in, we are more well known around town, people are coming in for the food. The food is really good. So, we have really seen a lot of growth in the last year independent of that first six months.

Edmar: And you are counting on business from the Louisville baseball park having people coming out to drink some beer, eat some food. 

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Sam: We have two segments that we market in. When I say marketing, for baseball games or for the baseball stadium business, we just open the doors and that’s the plan. The doors open, the people come in. If the product is good they keep coming back. The opposite end is focusing on the city and getting out there, and our capture over the last year has been phenomenal. It’s been a combination of really doing what we said we wanted to do in the beginning, and that is put beer on the pedestal it should be on. So we have a lot of beer-centric events and a lot of guests come in and do things, and it’s all centered around what we do best. And that is make beer.

Edmar: When we first got your beers in our bar in Chicago we had no idea who the fuck you guys were. We tasted your beers, and couldn’t believe this beer was being made in Louisville. It was really a treat to get your liquid. And I remember we were driving back from a vacation in the Redneck Rivera and we looked you up and purposely drove here to drink your beer. I don’t know how you designed your distribution strategy, but the fact that you all managed to reach outside of Louisville and find a market in Chicago showed me that a small brewery in the middle of the fucking country could compete with every fucking brewery on earth and destroy them.

Sam: Well, that’s really what we do. We have distribution in 38 of the 48 contiguous states in the US.

Jerry: You forgot about Alaska.

Sam: That’s right, we also have Alaska.

Edmar: The Mash Tun readers in Alaska are going to be so pissed off.

Sam: And then we also have Western Europe. A lot of Western Europe, actually. With the expansion of the new place I think we can add two more global markets pretty quick.

Edmar: Did you consciously decide like to go wide with your beer because you knew that the local market couldn’t drink all of it?

Jerry: We are fortunate in a lot of ways. First of all, just being at the right place at the right time. Meeting the right people at the right time. But what I’ve always thought about local breweries is that everyone always says they want local, but in reality they don’t. They want extravagant. They want something no one else has ever had. Because nobody respects you in your hometown. You send it away and if people drink this and it’s good, they are like, “What is going on here?” They will write about it, RateBeer about it, BeerAdvocate about it. They will write it in some Mash Tun Magazine or some bullshit like that. Something nobody reads–except in Alaska. And it actually forces the person next door to respect you. Nobody respects the person right next door that is doing great. They don’t care about them. But people care if it came from a long distance and if it is exclusive. It helps to have good things out and then let it come back to you. It was a very different way to think about it.

Edmar: Did you know this in advance? 

Jerry: It was kind of a theory.

Edmar: Well, I guess you proved it.

Jerry: Well, again, it was also a lot of good circumstances at the time. Let’s talk about our relationship with River North. It was a big example of a way to sell your beer away. The people from River North came to Kentucky to visit another brewery called Alltech (The makers of Kentucky Bourbon Ales) and learn about their beers. I don’t know who called them, but someone told them you need to stop by Against the Grain. And they stopped by. They tried the beer, they liked the place, we talked to them. And they said, “Why don’t you put some stuff on a pallet?” and that is how it started. And it just kept going from there. But that was when they didn’t have the Shelton Brothers portfolio. I talked to another guy at River North. He said, “You were one of the cornerstones of when we started doing more craft. One of the other things is that everyone is using the sales guys that have every craft brand. Like Windy City or Louis Glunz. We were like, “Let’s not, we would be lost in a sea of brands.” Let’s go with the Anheuser-Busch guy and be one of their six. It made sense for us at the time. It apparently made sense, I guess. It’s just how things worked. [Editor’s note: River North has since become Lakeshore Beverage.]

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Edmar: Through that random encounter you made ties to Chicago. You guys have worked with a number of people there: from the cats at Local Option, multiple chefs, that amazing place in Berwyn, Cigars & Stripes, the Aviary, and even us guys from Marz. How do you make these decisions on who to collaborate with?

Sam: It has to make sense for both of us. We don’t expect to make a collaboration beer with Lagunitas, you know? It doesn’t make sense for them to make ATG beer or us to make Lagunitas beer. We have to have a similar trajectory and also have similar interests. Maybe similar idiosyncrasies and then when we combine the brands they will be a little bit more as opposed to one dwarfing the other. They both shine through. So I think that is a part of it.

Edmar: A true collaborative spirit. 

 Jerry: It’s one of those things. But another part is we just like the people we work with. And that has a lot to do with it too. But we are also one of the few places where there is no limit. There is no limit to what we will try. A lot of places are not going to take a risk.

Edmar: Including your extensive list of collaborations you have also managed to kick out how many different brews to this day?

 Jerry: You know, I have lost count. But I know it’s probably 260 beers since we have started. 200 are unique.

Edmar: So over 75% of your beers are unique and primarily distributed though Twelve Percent?

Jerry: Yes, that just started in 2014. In the past everything we brewed also had a portion distributed. We couldn’t sustain that with our growth, so we decided we are going to do more regular brands for distribution with some specialty thrown in. And then we will use the current system just to fill our tanks for the brewpub and let that be a very unique beer here. People will have to come here to get some of the brewpub-exclusive beers.

Edmar: Great idea. In fact you guys just opened an expansion brewery. Was this part of the plan?

 Jerry: Yeah, exactly. Well, it’s just another one of those things. “Let’s start thinking about it.” Two months later, we’ve bought a building. [Laughter]. You have to be very, very careful what you think about. This shit comes true real quick.

Sam: I remember January was funny, “Let’s start thinking about what the numbers are like.” I look on the internet for real estate listings. And in March I guess we are opening a brewery. Got a building, got everything we need.

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 Edmar: There are a bunch of breweries expanding lately. And you guys are moving to a pretty close part of town. Breweries in Chicago are doing the same thing. Half Acre is expanding. Obviously Lagunitas built a huge facility in Chicago. Our local faves Pipeworks just signed a long-term lease right by the cholos at Off Color. With that said, you’ve heard the arguments about this notion of the second bubble for craft beer. I think it is a bunch of bullshit because this is a different era, different audience, different generation of people that actually want flavorful, unique, weirdo shit. Or people want something good to drink as opposed to the garbage of the mainstream beers. 

Sam: I think we have multiple things working in our favor for this. One being that we produce great beer. I know that, you know that, we all know that. That is what we want to do no matter the cost. We are never going to stop producing quality beer. Beyond that we are very conservative with our growth, believe it or not. We don’t take big chances. As wild as we may seem, everything makes sense financially. The brewery that we are building would be fine to stay closed any amount of time as long as we continue to operate as we have, business as usual. So it’s really something that makes sense financially. I think that’s why its a safe bet.

Edmar: So what is your strategy with this production brewery?

 Sam: Well, right now we are a few drops of liquid in an ocean of beer. We are going to produce 10,000 bbls to start. Never going beyond 70,000 in that spot. It just can’t physically hold the tank space for that 70,000 barrels. So with all the markets that we have touched down in and put a trickle of beer in it would only be maybe adding a few more drops to those markets and keep people aware that you know we still exist. I think it isn’t necessarily our intention to revolutionize beer in Portland, Oregon. But to have a long-sustaining business in Louisville that can support not only my partners and I but also the network of employees that we have created. And, then, also allow us to pursue some of the other things we want to do. I know collectively we want to leave Louisville in a better place than we found it, and our intention is to do that with some of the success we have.

Edmar: That’s awesome. Yeah, building this kind of endeavor affects, like you said, your employees, so many different people. It’s intense how responsible you are for a large community and their families and their livelihood, really. 

 Sam: We employ 54 people right now. And you know I can say that it is a regular thing for me to think about those 54 people and I want to see them do well.

Jerry: Whereas I could give a fuck about them.

Sam: He doesn’t even know who they are.

Edmar: Could you speak about the role the brewery has in transforming your neighborhood? You have participated in the growth and development of industry here in Louisville. Do you think that the city will continue to attract more people, more business, more activity?

 Jerry: I think so.

Sam: Over the last 10 years this place has changed dramatically. You can see a lot of the projects coming to fruition, while some go away. I think we reinvigorated the park, so of speak. The baseball stadium was pretty stagnant. They wanted to redo it anyway. They wanted to pump money into here but we reinvigorated the good times. Before we opened it was a place to bring your kids to the ballpark, watch the game, and get out of here. Now people are interested in what’s going on at Against the Grain. And it shows in our business, you can see the growth there. As far as setting this corner of downtown into a good spot, we have done that as well. I think it helped the businesses down the road a little bit. Most importantly I feel like we were a springboard for other entrepreneurs that want to start breweries or get into the beer business. I feel like our successes have been an example to other people that they can do this as well.

Edmar: I always ask brewers I interview to offer advice. Jerry, you mentioned you never really thought about owning a brewery just five years ago. What are some things you have learned that have gone beyond being a brewmaster in someone else’s brewery. What kind of advice do you give to people who have liquid dreams?

Jerry: I just think you have to put it down on paper. If it makes sense on paper it will make sense in the real world. Don’t fool yourself on things, just be realistic about it. Number one, make good product. Number two, make it interesting for yourself. If it’s interesting for yourself it will be interesting for other people out there. And that is some of the best advice I would suggest. Make good beer, have fun with it. If you are actually having fun with what you are doing it will shine through. How you market it, what you’re selling will all come to fruition. People can see that.

Sam: I have two pieces. One is don’t be afraid to change. If you realize something isn’t working there is nothing wrong with finding something that works. You just can’t be afraid of that. Also, realize you don’t know anything. You are not the end-all. Respect yourself and realize you probably know more than others, but you don’t know everything. So, again, don’t be afraid to change and don’t be afraid to surround yourself with people who do know. I think that is very important as well.

E: Right on.

 S: Listen to everybody. Everybody has an idea.

This interview appeared in Issue 6 of the Mash Tun Journal.

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The 2015 Homebrewer’s Ball Call for Beer!

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Mash Tun Society and Mash Tun Journal present:
The 2015 Homebrewer’s Ball Call for Beer!

The 2015 Homebrewer’s Ball is our second annual homebrewers competition. The Ball takes place on August 23, 2015 at the Co-Prosperity Sphere.  The 2015 winner will have their liquid brewed and distributed by Marz Community Brewing Co. The competition is open to homebrewers in the Chicagoland area and entry to competitors is FREE! DEADLINE FOR PARTICIPATION IS AUG 1, 2015!

Judging of the event is open to members of the Mash Tun Society. Proceeds of the event go to the Public Media Institute, the non profit that publishes Mash Tun Journal and organizes The Mash Tun Society.

Here’s how it works:
•    Any homebrewer, whether a member of a homebrewing club or not, is encouraged to enter his or her beer in the competition. There is no entry fee for competitors.
•    A maximum of 25 beers will compete. You must email us to state you are going to compete.
•    The Ball and competition both kick off at 3pm at the Co-Prosperity Sphere on August 23, 2015.
•    Mash Tun Society members will sample competing beers and vote on their favorites.
•    Four finalists will be selected based on Mash Tun Society members voting results.
•    A panel of judges chosen by Mash Tun Journal will choose the winning beer through a blind tasting.
•    The Winner will have their beer brewed by Marz Community Brewing Co.

How do homebrewers Qualify?
1.    You need to decide if you are going to compete and then email ed@mashtunjournal.org  Email Ed your name, address and phone number.
2.    The competition is open to anyone, regardless of homebrew club affiliation. There are no “official club entries”.
3.    Register early! ONLY THE FIRST 25 ENTRIES WILL BE ACCEPTED.  You must email ed@mashtunjournal.org and inform him that you will be competing. The first 25 persons to email will be put on the list of competitors. You will be contacted to receive information about your submission and the process for getting your brew into the competition. DEADLINE FOR RESERVING A SPACE TO COMPETE IS AUG 1, 2015!
4.    Only one beer may be entered per person/team.
5.    One co-brewer is allowed. Please, no brewing teams of three or more.
6.    Beers may be submitted in Cornelius ball-lock kegs or pin-lock kegs. Bottles will be accepted this year. We need about 5 gallons of bottled beer to be sampled out.
7.    Brewers must will supply all tapping equipment. We supply the sampling glasses, buckets and ice. ( We do not have 25 tanks of gas or tapping systems, sorry).
8.    Beer submissions must be dropped off during business hours at Co-Prosperity Sphere by August 22. No late submissions will be accepted! You must label your submission with your name, phone number, email and name and style of beer.
9.    Beers not received by August 22 will be disqualified from the competition.
10.    It is not guaranteed that the winning beer will be the exact beer that will be made by Marz Community Brewing Co—e.g., if the winning entry is a sour beer, we may not be able to brew it. Regardless, the winning brewer will select the recipe and work directly with Marz brewers to make the beer.
11.    The locally released beer will be a collaboration between Marz and the winning homebrewer(s) only.
12.    We cannot accept recipes for bacterially soured beers, Brettanomyces beers, beers brewed with artificial flavorings or ingredients, or beers requiring extended aging (more than 60 days) for brewing on our system.
13.    Employees of Marz Community Brewing Co. and their family members are not eligible to compete.

Important Information on How to Submit Your Beer
•    All beer must be submitted in Cornelius ball-lock kegs or pin-lock kegs or as bottled beer.
•    Beer must be dropped off at Co-Prosperity Sphere between Wednesday, August 19 and no later than Saturday, August 22 during the hours of ( 11pm – 7pm)
•    Participating homebrewers must bring their own gas, and tapping equipment, we will supply the ice and containers for your brew.
•    Any changes to your entry (e.g. different beer or name) must be submitted no later than 4pm on Thursday, August 20, 2015.

Photo Credit: Carl Kleiner

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Liquid Dreams! The Lagunitas TapRoom Party

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Liquid Dreams! The Lagunitas TapRoom Party

Join us from 5:30pm to 8:30pm on June 16, 2015  at Lagunitas Company TapRoom (2607 W 17th Street) for a fundraiser in support of Chicago’s newest FM radio Station: WLPN, Lumpen Radio.

BUY TICKETS HERE: http://www.eventbrite.com/e/liquid-dreams-the-lagunitas-taproom-party-tickets-17295977735

For only $30 you get:

• Complementary culinary delights by Publican Quality Meats

• THREE drink tickets,

• A live set by some of the best jokers in Chicago’s comedy scene ( The Comedy Butchers featuring: Mitch Nathan, Abby Stassen, Ray Holleb & James Vickery)

• Audio action by DJ Major Taylor

• The new issue of Mash Tun Journal featuring an in depth interview with Tony Magee

• And a chance to win a slew of Raffle Prizes.

All additional drinks are $ ( including rare TapRoom only beers) and the net proceeds from the tap room go towards building a new studio for Lumpen Radio.
You can also purchase a $10 ticket which gets you admission to the party, but you get NO drink tickets.  You will have to spend $ for your own drinks.

Additional Info:
Lumpen Radio: http://www.lumpenradio.com/
Mash Tun Journal : http://www.mashtunjournal.org/

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Edmar’s Top 13 Tips For Opening A Brewery

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Ed Marszewski ( Edmar) is the Publisher and Editor of Mash Tun Journal. He is also the co-founder and owner of Marz Community Brewing Co. based out of Chicago.  (Photo credit: Edmar – Tony Magee & Eric Olson hanging at Marz.)

In the past few years I have incubated and launched  a brewery in Chicago with a group of friends and members of my family.  It has been an amazing journey. These are  a few tips I scribbled down for people interested in getting into the biz. These  insights were inspired by the horrors of opening a business in Illinois, but I think some of these tips will help you wherever you decide to make your liquid dreams come true.

1. Just brew it!
No matter what you do: make beer! Test your recipes, tweak them, tweak them again and then again. Join a co-op or home brew club. Meet other brewers. Ask them for advice, criticism and “pro” tips. Listen. Maybe your coconut ghost chill porter really isn’t that great. Add some lacto? Hmmmm.

2. Find some money.
Well obviously you need money, but how much money is dependent on the size of your brewhouse, tank farm, chillers, boiler (if needed), bottling or canning lines you will need to buy and/or build. If you start as a nano- or pico- brewery you can probably find enough cash to start your project. If you are a welder or super smart guy, you can build your own system and save a lot of money. If you have investors or happen to be a trustafarian, well, cool. But you still need to think about how much money you will have to spend and just get on with designing a system that can help you reach your goals.

3. Make that business plan.
If you can secure funding, you then need to make a business plan. If you don’t know how to do that, you better learn how to do it or find someone to help you.  Some questions to answer when making your plan: Are you going to start off contract brewing? Are you going to wait for your system to be installed before you brew? Do you need to make accurate forecasts to find investors? Do you know which retailers might buy your beer? Do you know how to price your beer? Are you self-distributing or do you want to sign up with a distributor? Do you know how many employees you will need to make your beer? If you can’t answer these questions right now then you better do some research. Just know your business plan is a living document that will always evolve and change. And don’t worry about this fact. Roll with it.

4. Look for buildings.
This sucks. Looking for fantasy facilities when you don’t even have any money or a solid business plan is pretty futile. But you must look. You must determine what size place you want to open and where it will be located and how much it will cost before you can begin even making a plan. It will drive you crazy. You will meet awful landlords and building owners and skeezy real estate people. They will try to squeeze as much money as they can out of you. You also have to convince the owner of the building to give you a conditional lease based on whether or not you get your licensing approval. Which means they have to wait 6-12 months for your sorry ass to get your shit together with your brewers notice and licenses from the state and still hold onto the property for you should you even get to that point.  Not many property owners will do that.  Also make sure you find a space that is zoned for manufacturing and make sure the local politicians or officials will allow you to open up a tasting room. Do not believe them when they say they can change the zoning for you. Make sure its zoned for that type of activity from the get go. You must serve beer on premise if you want to survive and grow your business.

5. Decide on a brewing system.
Visit every brewery around you and see what system they are brewing on. Get the specifications of their systems.  Ask questions about the durability of their gear.  If you’re lucky maybe you can volunteer at a local brewery and learn how they work on their system. If you have time and tuition waivers, learn how to brew at the Siebel Institute or a university that offers a degree in brewing. The formal education will help you make better decisions on choosing a system to brew on and make you a better brewer.

5. Can you make great beer (or at least good beer)?
If you can’t make beer that is as good or better than the ones being poured at your favorite watering hole then really sit back and think hard. Maybe you shouldn’t do it. Don’t open a brewery. We don’t need mediocre beer. You will be one of those guys ruining it for the entire category. But if you believe you have the gumption to make great beer then revisit Tip #1.

6. How much money can you bleed?
You will spend at least one year spending tons of money without a prospect of earning a single dime. The start up burn rate is scary but it is what it is. If you can’t stomach or afford to lose all that money then you might want to consider NOT opening a brewery. Breweries (like all small businesses) are riskier investments than dot com stocks in 1999.

7. The TTB is your friend.
Government bureaucracy = bad. And the forms that need to be filled out to get your Brewers Notice might as well have been written by Kafka’s boss. But do not be afraid. Call the TTB. Ask them questions. They are really nice. Or if you’re lucky, someone you know that started a brewery will show you how to fill out the forms. You could also pay them for their time. Brewers sure need the money.

8. Hire a graphic designer that doesn’t suck.
If you cannot hire or have in your employ an outstanding designer that can realize the aesthetic considerations of your company brand and the individual beer brands you hope to create, then you better find one or find the budget for one now. DO NOT hire your family members to do the design. DO NOT do it yourself. You are not that good at it. (Otherwise you would not start a brewery, right? You would be a graphic designer.) You will not be able to sell your beer if you cannot create a brand that looks as good or perhaps even better than the taste of your beer. This is just my personal opinion as many breweries make great beer but have shitty packaging and marketing materials and they still sell tons of beer.

9. Brewers are not therapists.
People in the industry are busy. They have a lot to do. Do not share how hard it is for you to start your brewery with them. In reality no one really cares about your problems. Don’t make them feel uncomfortable by sharing your sad songs and expecting them to hold your hand or give you a back massage.

10. Murphy’s Law is always in effect.
No matter how well you make plans, everything you think will happen will not. All of your plans will not fall into place. So fail fast. Accept it and learn from it. Equipment will break, your Standard Operating Procedures need constant tweaking, you will forget to order something, you will have to buy more equipment you didn’t even know you needed. Everything will break. Everything. And you need to fix it. That’s yer job.

11. Make sure you can do everything.
Speaking of your job.. If you want to truly understand your brewing business you need to be able to do everything it takes to operate a brewery like: create recipes, secure contracts with suppliers, brew beer, clean everything, package your beer, sell the beer, do accounting, do yer taxes, hire and train people, deliver beer, schmooze, and make everyone believe your beer is the best in the world. By understanding all of these roles you will be well equipped to tweak and forecast the costs of your goods and labor. You will be able to use these figures to determine how much liquid you need to brew and sell to get out of debt. Maybe some day you will make a few bucks and take a day off.

12. Never release mediocre, or even worse, bad beer, to the public.
If you do not know if your beer is bad then you are in deep shit. If you discover you have made flawed or bad beer then do not release it. Dump it. In this marketplace, you can only make a few mistakes before you will get a rep as a shitty brewery. And then it’s a slow death.

13. Don’t be a hater.
Just because you think you’re hot shit, doesn’t mean you are.  So please don’t shit on your fellow brewers and breweries because you think you make better beer than they do. The one thing that will kill this industry is the insecurity and fear of competition that craft brewers have for newcomers to their market and the new kids on the block. Remember, we are all competing against two companies, Anheuser-Busch InBev and SABMiller, who now own more than 200 brands based in 42 countries (including 18+ in the U.S. alone). We have a long way to go before the entire craft brewery industry of over 3,500 breweries even makes a dent in their massive empire. Not all businesses and certainly not all breweries will survive. The failure rate is very high in the hospitality industry and the breweries that suck will eventually close. Don’t be dogging other breweries because you feel the heat. Just make your own beer and shut the fuck up. Let the people who drink beer decide what they like and leave your insecurities in the mash tun. The breweries that make garbage will close.

Ok, Good Luck.. You will receive even better advice  by seasoned cholos  in issue 6 of the Mash Tun Journal!

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Omnipollo Gets It Right: The Art of Beer with Karl Grandin

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Interview appears in issue #6 o the Mash Tun Journal

Karl Grandin is part of the dynamic duo that is Omnipollo, a Swedish-based beer brand that he and Henok Fentie created in 2011. The beers have been sporadically making it into the US marketplace, and they are both unique and delicious in their packaging and taste. Conceptually and aesthetically the bottle labels leap from the shelves and entice you to pick them up. A mixture of psychedelic abstractions and pop/religious culture icons, the artwork is unique, almost mind-blowing, really. Omnipollio bottles are collected by beer nerds and designers alike. We bugged Karl to see what is ticking in his mind, to give us the story of their liquid dreams, and to explain how important it is to present their beers the way they do.

Ed Marszewski: Please tell me how the idea of Omnipollo started. How did you and Henok meet?

Karl Grandin: We were introduced by a mutual friend in 2010. She is a curator at a gallery and knew about my art and Henok’s brews, and thought the two of us should create something together. The first time I met Henok, he had recently returned to Stockholm after spending a year in Belgium. He told me about this strange new beer that he was working on. We ended up spending a whole day talking about Max Ernst, René Magritte, Hieronymus Bosch, Cabaret Voltaire and Dadaism, and never really stopped.

E: Were there any other breweries that inspired you?

K: We were excited by what a lot of different breweries were up to at the time, new as well old ones. It seemed like things in the beer game were changing—many people trying out new ideas and new ways of working, not only in the US and Europe but all over the world. But it was also important to us from the very beginning not to look too much at what other breweries were doing. Instead, we wanted to find our own way of doing things and create something that we really enjoyed.

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E: What breweries do you make your beer at? And how difficult was it to get your beer distributed?

K: We have been brewing most of our beers at De Proefbrouwerij in Belgium, but we work closely with a number of other breweries as well. Like De Molen in The Netherlands, Buxton in the UK, and Pub Dog in the US. We have also brewed in Brazil, Spain, Denmark, and even a few beers here in Sweden.

E: Does the artwork inspire the recipe or does the recipe inspire the artwork?

K: Both ways. Usually our ideas feed off each other. Rather than trying to make artwork that would somehow describe or portray the style or taste of a beer, I look for what is going on around Omnipollo and try to capture something less obvious. There is always a synergy between the beer, the artwork, and the name. Sometimes it’s straightforward and obvious, and sometimes it is more cryptic.

E: How important is the presentation of your beer to the public?

K: We want Omnipollo to be about more than just the beer and the artwork. Presentation and stories are important parts of what we create. The shape of Omnipollo will keep developing and shifting. We have made handmade glass cups, garments, jewelry, and a book on homebrewing. Through all the people we meet, the collaborations we do, and the ideas we dream up, Omnipollo is becoming more than the sum of its parts.
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E: You said, “Omnipollo is an imaginary world that is developing with each bottle. Most of the Omnipollo images are about transforming and distorting the meaning of symbols and other popular references.” Can you give me the narrative of that world to date?

K: Most of the Omnipollo images are based on my dreams, and I try to bring that psychedelic and enigmatic sort of logic into the artwork. It’s an open-ended cosmos. Although the Omnipollo imagery is often allegorical, I encourage people to explore their own interpretations rather than explain my intentions.

E: Can you tell us a bit about Brygg öl? It looks like the most beautiful home brewing book I have ever seen. Where can we buy it?

K: Brygg öl, translated as “brew beer,” was published in spring 2013. About a year before, I was contacted by an editor at Natur & Kultur, a Swedish publishing company well known for their books on food, and she asked me if we was up for making a book about making beer. There are many books about brewing and most are explaining the complexity of the craft. We wanted to make a book about the joy of brewing and show people that this is something that anyone can pull off, that you can actually create something amazing in your own home. The way we did the book was more or less a documentation of Henok teaching me how to brew in his kitchen. You can get the book from most book shops here in Sweden or from the Omnipollo website. Brygg öl is in Swedish, but hopefully we’ll have the opportunity to make translations of it in the future.

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E: You said, “My ambition is to change the perception of beer… forever.” I think your contribution to exalting the art of the beer bottle has helped accomplish that goal. What advice would you give to other budding breweries when they consider their marketing and branding strategies?

K: Go your own way and have a good time!

E: Where should we drink when we are in Sweden?

K: At Omnipollo’s hatt, our bar opening in Stockholm in Spring, 2015. Welcome!

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The Lager Beer Riot Reenactment! April 25, 2015

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To mark the 160th anniversary of the Lager Beer Riot, Chicago’s first act of civil disturbance, and to celebrate the city’s growing beer culture, Pocket Guide to Hell and Marz Community Brewing Company are hosting an audience interactive dodgeball reenactment and beer tasting on Saturday, April 25, 2015 starting at 6 pm. The event is part of Version Festival 15 and is a fundraiser for Benton House, the historic nonprofit charitable center in Bridgeport. BUY TICKETS HERE!  Mash Tun Journal will be releasing a brand spanking new issue at the event!

The Lager Beer Riot occurred at the Clark Street Bridge in April 1855. The reenactment is going to be staged in the Benton House gymnasium as a game of dodgeball following National Amateur Dodgeball Association rules.

One team, consisting of representatives of Law & Order under the command of Mayor Levi Boone, is to be made up of 10 representatives of Chicago area breweries.

The revolting Irish and German bar owners are to be portrayed by 10 representatives of the Bridgeport community.

The Strange Brews podcasters (Alison Cuddy and Andrew Gill) are going to provide play-by-play coverage with color commentary from Randy Mosher (The Map Room, Five Rabbit) and Tim Samuelson (City of Chicago Cultural Historian).

Historical referees, halftime music by Brass Inferno Productions, and a working model of the Clark Street bridge round out the experience.

The Lager Beer Riot reenactment is going to consist, per NADA rules, of 10 three-minute matches, with an 11th if a tiebreaker is needed. There will be a halftime show after 5 matches are played.

A beer tasting of specially brewed beers run from 6-9 pm at Benton House in the remains of the former Ramova Grill.

Participating Breweries:

Marz Community Brewing Company

Revolution Brewing

Goose Island Brewing

Haymarket Pub & Brewery

Middle Brow Beer Co.

Urban Legend Brewing Company

Spiteful Brewing Company

Ten Ninety Brewing Company

Cademon Brewing Company

Ale Syndicate

Tickets:

$30 gets you admission to the Lager Beer Riot, 10 beer tickets, and a NEW issue of Mash Tun Journal.

$40 gets you admission to the Lager Beer Riot, 10 beer tickets, the special issue of Mash Tun Journal, and a limited edition event poster by Kathleen Judge. (Limit 20)
$50 gets you admission to the Lager Beer Riot, 10 beer tickets, the special issue of Mash Tun Journal, limited edition event poster, and the chance to play in one of the 10 dodgeball matches (Limit 10)

Proceeds benefit the programs offered by Benton House

 

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Drinking up The Chicago Flag

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We are loving the Drinking Up The Chicago Flag series that is in progress on the ChooseChicago website. Our new pal, Elizabeth Garibay, is writing about Chicago beer history using the five stars of the flag as starting points for her tales. Here are the links to the  Star 1, Star 2 and Star 3  stories   #4 and #5 will be published in forthcoming weeks.  Enjoy the reads!

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Feb 14: The Power of Sour

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Marz Community Brewing Co presents: The Power of Sour

Feb 14, 2015 4-8pm

Western Exhibitions • 845 W Washington Blvd. 2nd Floor Chicago, IL 60607

Marz Community Brewing is excited to bring you an anti-Valentines Day event on Sunday, February 14th at Western Exhibitions.

We have been dying to do an Art of Marz Brewing event with Paul Nudd, one of our favorite painters, trouble makers and friends along with his gallery, Western Exhibitions. Paul made the painting of the “Bubbly Creek” monster which adorns our Bubbly Creek Berliner Weiss bottles. For this event we are releasing a limited edition four color silk screened print made especially for this Power of Sour event. And Paul’s work will also be on view.

To enjoy Paul’s art Marz will be sampling out our expanding line of South Side Sours. Our sour ales are made with a strain of Lactobacillus plantarum discovered by Marz Brewer, Al Robertson, and isolated by Omega Yeast labs. It’s our secret weapon in converting beer drinkers to a style of sour ales that are tart, mildly acidic, delicious and made here in Chicago.

During the Power of Sour event we will provide complementary pours of our Bubbly Creek Berliner Weiss, The Duchess de Bridgeport sour brown ale and our brand spanking new Gose style beer called Ruby’s Tears. Sampling glasses will be provided by our sister project, Mash Tun Journal.

A suggested donation of $15 will get you one of the prints made by Paul. If you want to guarantee you will receive one of the edition of 100 or so prints you must purchase Admission online at EventBrite. The link is below :

https://www.eventbrite.com/e/the-power-of-sour-tickets-15611467319

See ya there.

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The Big Dog: Tony Magee

A Conversation with Tony Magee of Lagunitas Brewery from issue #6 of Mash Tun Journal ( photos by Hank Pearl ) Ed Marszewski: Let’s start out with something like this: What’s a typical day like for you, Tony? Tony Magee: A typical day, well…  A typical day in 2014 is a very different day than a typical day in 2013, ’12, ’11, or ’10. I mean my job has never stopped changing and morphing radically, you know. The one thing that has always been essential is conversations like this, and it used to be that I would have conversations with one customer sort of like this, one day at a time, one customer at a time, one bar at a time, but now I do an interview and you know, it goes out on the internet and becomes a bit of a larger conversation. I talked to people through the labeling, through the branding. I write the stories through the bottle label and I design the labels from scratch on my little powerbook, just like that. And that’s where all the labels come from. So 90% of my job has always been just trying to communicate the thing we do, and the other 10% is the kind of thing that can take up 90% of my time, you know? E: Yeah. I sure do. T: And that was just trying to hold the ship together, trying to hold it together financially, or from a raw material standpoint, or a supply standpoint, the relationships with distributors standpoint, it just never ends. Trying to hold the ship together, even today it’s still the same. Now I am involved in this whole kind of crazy thing where another large brewer has decided to do a label that’s almost identical to ours. So this is a moment of trying to hold it all together, you know, and to keep the thing intact and safe. But in the past, I was trying to keep it safe from a predatory line of credit that we’ve been attached to. Or I was trying to keep it safe from the glass supplier to whom I owed a lot of money, and needed to keep him comfortable so we didn’t impair all my employees or impair the company. E: So in many ways a typical day today is very much like the beginning of when you started the brewery: it’s your job to steward the company. You have to deal with the various day-to-day activities of running a business. T: That’s right. Another way to look at the same thing is that it’s more abstract than the day-to-day of running a business. I often think to myself, there’s a ghost in the machine. Kyle Young wrote about the person inside of the body. You cut off your leg and it’s not going to change who you are. It might change what your body will do, but you are obviously by definition separate from that. So I’m the ghost in the machine at Lagunitas. I have always been that, and hope to always be that. As far as I know with the future of the business, I’m in the “die in payroll” plan, so to that extent I’ve got to remain that ghost within the business. E: As you know we just started up our project, called Marz Community Brewing, and it really is like you are saying. I check our figures every week. I wonder to myself “are we going to bring in enough money to cover our costs for all the shit we’re buying next week? And it’s a constant circulation of funds. I call it the continuous cash flow system. It’s like there is really no money, it just flows. T: It just turns around and around. E: It just turns around and it doesn’t exist anywhere really. T: And the truth is that at about 35,000 barrels that all changes. E: You have to get to 35,000 barrels for it to change?! T: Or you, see you are in a really nice spot right now where you are able to sell the beer for $8 or $9 for a bottle, so they’re very special and people regard them as rare. But if the quantity of beer you make were to grow, then they are not quite as rare anymore and by definition a little bit of that special-ness is sort of ground off of it, and so the pricing has to change. So then you have to grow. There are these little step function things. Sometimes you’re walking up the stairs and each step is the same size as the one before but then you get to one step that’s a big step. And so if you step beyond, in my experience, beyond 5,000 barrels, things change until you get to about 35,000. E: I was thinking that change came at 2,000 barrels. T: Keep thinking that. It’s something that will keep you going. For years and years and years I told my wife, three-to-five years honey, three-to-five years, trust me, trust me. E: Yeah absolutely. Well you know that’s funny. That’s really funny. T: But don’t kid yourself, if you do well, if you do this right, 35,000 is not that far away. E: You’ve gotta be kidding me. T: It’s a lot of decisions between here and there but consumer acceptance will carry you there. And then you’ll have to ask yourself, do I want to make more beer to say thank you to the people who’ve said they love us? Or do I want to say no, we are going to stay rare and hard to find. And if you want to stay rare and hard to find that’s a decision you can make but then your customers are going to say, “Oh well but, won’t you make more? We’d like to drink more.” So it’s just a question you have to answer. There’s no demand, there’s no imperative, there’s no ambition in…

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Punk Rock and Beer

By Ian Wise – from issue #6 of Mash Tun Journal I woke up earlier today after a stressful night in the beer industry and read that Tommy Ramone had died. I had the idea for this article a while back, but now it feels a little more urgent. This article is about two very specific things: beer and punk rock. Outside of my family (or perhaps in spite of my family), those are pretty much the only two things that actually matter, in that I still learn so much from both of them, despite the fact that they are basic and erroneous. I know that beer is water, barley, hops, and yeast, but looking at those four ingredients is a confusing rush. Like the first time I heard an SS Decontrol record and thought, “Holy shit, that’s just four people?” There’s something fantastic in how four simple ingredients controlled by tiny variables can create an impossibly large world of flavor and weights. Sometimes something hits just right and all the spaces in between seem to disappear. The four ingredients in beer have taught me more about chemistry, history, and sociology than I ever learned in school. While punk is usually four upset kids yelling, the life lessons I’ve taken away from it have literally defined who I am and what I do with my life on a day-to-day basis. If I hadn’t found punk early in my life then I probably wouldn’t have the confidence and resilience it takes to cut it in the beer industry, and I sure as hell would have found a job more lucrative than backing the craft scene. We currently have more breweries in the US since Prohibition, and now that regional styles are taking off we are starting to see smaller scenes pop up in other countries as well. This explosion mirrors the late ‘70s, early ‘80s trend of aggressive music that empowered people to do something simply because they could. American’s craft beer explosion has similarly inspired a wave of new breweries, to the point of terminal velocity. It seems we are seeing mediocre copycats cropping up. Many are just trying to get us too drunk at the beer fests to remember whether or not we liked their product. Are we really convincing ourselves that bigger is better, or that more of the same is really going to make us complete? Sure, we can all cop Black Flag riffs and spew out a million double IPAs, but does the world really need anything heavier than My War? There is much to learn from the overlooked pieces of our past. Digging out obscure Spanish records—Eskorio, early Deciblios, and the lone single by Vulpess—shows how those bands took cues from British and American styles, before weaving those influences with their own sensibilities. Vulpess, a band composed of four, young Spanish girls, made a notable contribution to the punk canon in 1983 with their ripping cover of the Stooges classic “I Wanna’ Be Your Dog.” Their version includes gender-specific lyrics, and whose updated title roughly translates to “I Like Being a Whore.” It’s not a record people would line up to buy, but it’s on par with the hyped records released by renowned labels of the era. Nowadays, we’ll drive 100 miles—or scour Craigslist—for a bottle of beer whose inclusion into our Ratebeer profile will look good to our friends. Meanwhile, challenging brews sit on the shelves of liquor stores, eager for us to see the intrigue of Maibock, Rauchbier, and Brabent Ale, styles that do not get their just dues, compared to barrel-aged stouts and double IPAs. The brewing industry in the US is catering to a larger, more educated crowd than ever, yet the market’s most popular beer styles show an industry in its infancy. India pale ales make up over 60% of the American craft market, with the term “hop head” being co-opted by even the most bland businessmen affecting a chic persona in their Social Distortion t-shirt. “Yes, I went to college,” they think. “Now I have a lot of money to spend on stuff you can’t afford.” Although the yuppie beer market is expanding, the Danes are an example of counter-culture brewing, churning out awkward brews akin to the glory days of Danish punk like the Lost Kids or the Sods. With breweries Mikkeller and Evil Twin, the Bjergso brothers are showing that they can open up the palates of even those most conservative, aged faux-hipsters. If Evil Twin’s cheeky beers—Low Life Pilsener and Soft DK Imperial Stout, for example—have a rightful place in the market, there’s no reason more esoteric brews can’t make their way into our mouths, right? You may have opened one of the last three issues of this DIY-style zine and read my articles about international cheese pairings with beer. Maybe you actually went to a local market and tracked down something I wrote about. Maybe you had a party with your friends where you paired beer with cheese—I hope my writing had an influence on that. Instead of writing about cheese and beer, this time I’m going to pair beer with records. Whether you find this music at the record store, on eBay, or through BitTorrent, get your shopping list ready. Afterward, invite your friends over for a drinking party that will be a little less sophisticated but a lot more fun. Los Angeles was arguably the punk rock hub of the world in the late ‘70s and early ‘80s, home to many of the revered bands whose influence is apparent in the music played on modern college radio. While Black Flag and the majority of the early Dangerhouse Records set are (rightly) celebrated in the mainstream rock press, there are dozens of other early gems that never got the recognition they deserve. The Chiefs, an early proto-hardcore band, released a fantastic 7” in 1980 called Blues. It invited the listener into the Los Angeles scene with open arms. Those arms were sweaty and probably…

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A Conversation with Jerry Gnagy and Sam Cruz of Against The Grain Brewery.

  Upon entering Against The Grain‘s brewing facility in Louisville, Kentucky you will witness a jaw-dropping three-tier brewing system, something you might see in Bavaria. You walk into a room that has a ceiling 60 feet high. To the left is the bar and kitchen; to the right is seating. A giant glass wall behind the bar shows their system which features a brewhouse on the third floor, fermentation tanks on a second floor, and the serving tanks behind the bar on the first floor. It looks amazing, but this three-tier system is brutal. It can be a physically taxing brew day here for a brewer of any age. Despite its visual complexity this is a very basic DME brewhouse with your standard 15-barrel tanks. It works great. And what’s even better is that these guys make some of the best liquid in the world. I’ve had the pleasure of meeting some of the ATG guys a few times during my stints at Maria’s and at their brewery. We were amazed by their 70K Imperial Stout, Kentucky Ryed Chiquen (packaged with chicken feathers), and Bo and Luke Imperial Stout. We would just order whatever they made regardless of tasting it in advance because we knew it was good shit. While we were in planning mode for our own brewery, Marz Community Brewing Co, we were able to con Head Brewer and Owner, Jerry Gnagy, and Head Lover, Sam Cruz, to let us brew with them. It was our first of what we hope will be many future collaborations. Edmar: Can you tell me how you first came up with the idea of opening Against the Grain. Jerry: The conception of opening a new brewery started when I was working at BBC–Bluegrass Brewing Co. The first thing that made me want to open a brewery was the salad bar. The ownership decided that in order to cultivate a younger clientele, they needed to put in a salad bar. It was not even a very good salad bar. It had its own homemade sneeze-guard made with two-by-fours, some plexiglass, and thread. It had a dowel rod holding it up and at anytime it could have slammed shut. And it probably killed one of the geriatric patrons. But even the mix of what was in the salad bar there was some two or three week-old spring mix, and then a gigantic thing of hotel pan garbanzo beans… Sam: Yeah, chickpeas. Jerry: And they had genetically engineered carrots that were probably three or four inches in diameter, and they would slice them so one slice of carrot could be your whole meal. But I digress. The thing is it was a terrible salad bar. It was a poor concept and I was embarrassed to even walk by it or be associated with it. Sam: And the pizza warmer. Jerry: Aww, fuck! I forgot about the pizza warmer, I took several pictures of the pizza warmer. The pizza is a different story. That’s for another day. But the salad bar was the first reason. The second reason: Pirate Hooker Statue. Not being a seafood restaurant or on water, the owners decided the natural choice to bring people into your bar is to put a gigantic pirate hooker statue outside. Sam: A ceramic whore as a pirate. Edmar: Now that usually works in a coastal town, like in the Redneck Riviera. The Florida panhandle or maybe parts of Georgia.  Sam: I think it was procured in the Redneck Riviera. Jerry: This is even worse–it was purchased for $600. When I looked online I discovered that I could have gotten the same pirate statue for $500 new. That’s what kind of person, what kind of ownership that we are dealing with here. So that was the last straw. I just could not be associated with a place with a salad bar and a pirate hooker statue. So obviously we were forced into doing Against the Grain.  That’s the the long and the short of it. The on-the-record kind of answer is there was a dissatisfaction with every place that you would go to had a wheat ale, and then a pale ale, and then their stout, and then their amber ale, and then their brown ale. And you would go to a place and they’d go, “oh we have those,” and then the specialties. The specialties look good. That’s pretty cool because the creativity of the brewer lies in their specialties because it’s always rotating and the other normal things are kind of stamped out. But the reality was, “Ya’ gotta make another brown ale, gotta make and another brown ale.” We would never taste the wheat beer that we made at BBC because we had made it 300 times. There was no excitement to it. So we were thinking, “what if everything was special?” That’s how the concept started. But to give it some parameter we decided to make beers along flavor characteristics. The session beer’s parameter only had to be under 5% ABV. It could emphasize anything, hop, malt, smoke, dark, and was a nice one that you could do anything within. Obviously other beers had their own characteristics so you would find a breadth of different things one would be able to drink. We knew what that beer was going to be like, but we didn’t exactly know what that beer was yet. So that is kind of how it started. Edmar: How did all you guys meet each other? Sam: I was a home brewer and I would send my pregnant wife to Jerry to get grains. Jerry: She wasn’t pregnant when she came the first time? Sam: I would go badger him for ingredients and one day I happened to come in and say, “Hey, do you need any help?” And he happened to say, “I do need help.” And he gave me the shittiest job there. Which was a good job, actually. I enjoyed it. Cleaning kegs, sweeping the floor. It was really…

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The 2015 Homebrewer’s Ball Call for Beer!

Mash Tun Society and Mash Tun Journal present: The 2015 Homebrewer’s Ball Call for Beer! The 2015 Homebrewer’s Ball is our second annual homebrewers competition. The Ball takes place on August 23, 2015 at the Co-Prosperity Sphere.  The 2015 winner will have their liquid brewed and distributed by Marz Community Brewing Co. The competition is open to homebrewers in the Chicagoland area and entry to competitors is FREE! DEADLINE FOR PARTICIPATION IS AUG 1, 2015! Judging of the event is open to members of the Mash Tun Society. Proceeds of the event go to the Public Media Institute, the non profit that publishes Mash Tun Journal and organizes The Mash Tun Society. Here’s how it works: •    Any homebrewer, whether a member of a homebrewing club or not, is encouraged to enter his or her beer in the competition. There is no entry fee for competitors. •    A maximum of 25 beers will compete. You must email us to state you are going to compete. •    The Ball and competition both kick off at 3pm at the Co-Prosperity Sphere on August 23, 2015. •    Mash Tun Society members will sample competing beers and vote on their favorites. •    Four finalists will be selected based on Mash Tun Society members voting results. •    A panel of judges chosen by Mash Tun Journal will choose the winning beer through a blind tasting. •    The Winner will have their beer brewed by Marz Community Brewing Co. How do homebrewers Qualify? 1.    You need to decide if you are going to compete and then email ed@mashtunjournal.org  Email Ed your name, address and phone number. 2.    The competition is open to anyone, regardless of homebrew club affiliation. There are no “official club entries”. 3.    Register early! ONLY THE FIRST 25 ENTRIES WILL BE ACCEPTED.  You must email ed@mashtunjournal.org and inform him that you will be competing. The first 25 persons to email will be put on the list of competitors. You will be contacted to receive information about your submission and the process for getting your brew into the competition. DEADLINE FOR RESERVING A SPACE TO COMPETE IS AUG 1, 2015! 4.    Only one beer may be entered per person/team. 5.    One co-brewer is allowed. Please, no brewing teams of three or more. 6.    Beers may be submitted in Cornelius ball-lock kegs or pin-lock kegs. Bottles will be accepted this year. We need about 5 gallons of bottled beer to be sampled out. 7.    Brewers must will supply all tapping equipment. We supply the sampling glasses, buckets and ice. ( We do not have 25 tanks of gas or tapping systems, sorry). 8.    Beer submissions must be dropped off during business hours at Co-Prosperity Sphere by August 22. No late submissions will be accepted! You must label your submission with your name, phone number, email and name and style of beer. 9.    Beers not received by August 22 will be disqualified from the competition. 10.    It is not guaranteed that the winning beer will be the exact beer that will be made by Marz Community Brewing Co—e.g., if the winning entry is a sour beer, we may not be able to brew it. Regardless, the winning brewer will select the recipe and work directly with Marz brewers to make the beer. 11.    The locally released beer will be a collaboration between Marz and the winning homebrewer(s) only. 12.    We cannot accept recipes for bacterially soured beers, Brettanomyces beers, beers brewed with artificial flavorings or ingredients, or beers requiring extended aging (more than 60 days) for brewing on our system. 13.    Employees of Marz Community Brewing Co. and their family members are not eligible to compete. Important Information on How to Submit Your Beer •    All beer must be submitted in Cornelius ball-lock kegs or pin-lock kegs or as bottled beer. •    Beer must be dropped off at Co-Prosperity Sphere between Wednesday, August 19 and no later than Saturday, August 22 during the hours of ( 11pm – 7pm) •    Participating homebrewers must bring their own gas, and tapping equipment, we will supply the ice and containers for your brew.
•    Any changes to your entry (e.g. different beer or name) must be submitted no later than 4pm on Thursday, August 20, 2015. Photo Credit: Carl Kleiner

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Liquid Dreams! The Lagunitas TapRoom Party

Liquid Dreams! The Lagunitas TapRoom Party Join us from 5:30pm to 8:30pm on June 16, 2015  at Lagunitas Company TapRoom (2607 W 17th Street) for a fundraiser in support of Chicago’s newest FM radio Station: WLPN, Lumpen Radio. BUY TICKETS HERE: http://www.eventbrite.com/e/liquid-dreams-the-lagunitas-taproom-party-tickets-17295977735 For only $30 you get: • Complementary culinary delights by Publican Quality Meats • THREE drink tickets, • A live set by some of the best jokers in Chicago’s comedy scene ( The Comedy Butchers featuring: Mitch Nathan, Abby Stassen, Ray Holleb & James Vickery) • Audio action by DJ Major Taylor • The new issue of Mash Tun Journal featuring an in depth interview with Tony Magee • And a chance to win a slew of Raffle Prizes. All additional drinks are $ ( including rare TapRoom only beers) and the net proceeds from the tap room go towards building a new studio for Lumpen Radio. You can also purchase a $10 ticket which gets you admission to the party, but you get NO drink tickets.  You will have to spend $ for your own drinks. Additional Info: Lumpen Radio: http://www.lumpenradio.com/ Mash Tun Journal : http://www.mashtunjournal.org/

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Edmar’s Top 13 Tips For Opening A Brewery

Ed Marszewski ( Edmar) is the Publisher and Editor of Mash Tun Journal. He is also the co-founder and owner of Marz Community Brewing Co. based out of Chicago.  (Photo credit: Edmar – Tony Magee & Eric Olson hanging at Marz.) In the past few years I have incubated and launched  a brewery in Chicago with a group of friends and members of my family.  It has been an amazing journey. These are  a few tips I scribbled down for people interested in getting into the biz. These  insights were inspired by the horrors of opening a business in Illinois, but I think some of these tips will help you wherever you decide to make your liquid dreams come true. 1. Just brew it! No matter what you do: make beer! Test your recipes, tweak them, tweak them again and then again. Join a co-op or home brew club. Meet other brewers. Ask them for advice, criticism and “pro” tips. Listen. Maybe your coconut ghost chill porter really isn’t that great. Add some lacto? Hmmmm. 2. Find some money. Well obviously you need money, but how much money is dependent on the size of your brewhouse, tank farm, chillers, boiler (if needed), bottling or canning lines you will need to buy and/or build. If you start as a nano- or pico- brewery you can probably find enough cash to start your project. If you are a welder or super smart guy, you can build your own system and save a lot of money. If you have investors or happen to be a trustafarian, well, cool. But you still need to think about how much money you will have to spend and just get on with designing a system that can help you reach your goals. 3. Make that business plan. If you can secure funding, you then need to make a business plan. If you don’t know how to do that, you better learn how to do it or find someone to help you.  Some questions to answer when making your plan: Are you going to start off contract brewing? Are you going to wait for your system to be installed before you brew? Do you need to make accurate forecasts to find investors? Do you know which retailers might buy your beer? Do you know how to price your beer? Are you self-distributing or do you want to sign up with a distributor? Do you know how many employees you will need to make your beer? If you can’t answer these questions right now then you better do some research. Just know your business plan is a living document that will always evolve and change. And don’t worry about this fact. Roll with it. 4. Look for buildings. This sucks. Looking for fantasy facilities when you don’t even have any money or a solid business plan is pretty futile. But you must look. You must determine what size place you want to open and where it will be located and how much it will cost before you can begin even making a plan. It will drive you crazy. You will meet awful landlords and building owners and skeezy real estate people. They will try to squeeze as much money as they can out of you. You also have to convince the owner of the building to give you a conditional lease based on whether or not you get your licensing approval. Which means they have to wait 6-12 months for your sorry ass to get your shit together with your brewers notice and licenses from the state and still hold onto the property for you should you even get to that point.  Not many property owners will do that.  Also make sure you find a space that is zoned for manufacturing and make sure the local politicians or officials will allow you to open up a tasting room. Do not believe them when they say they can change the zoning for you. Make sure its zoned for that type of activity from the get go. You must serve beer on premise if you want to survive and grow your business. 5. Decide on a brewing system. Visit every brewery around you and see what system they are brewing on. Get the specifications of their systems.  Ask questions about the durability of their gear.  If you’re lucky maybe you can volunteer at a local brewery and learn how they work on their system. If you have time and tuition waivers, learn how to brew at the Siebel Institute or a university that offers a degree in brewing. The formal education will help you make better decisions on choosing a system to brew on and make you a better brewer. 5. Can you make great beer (or at least good beer)? If you can’t make beer that is as good or better than the ones being poured at your favorite watering hole then really sit back and think hard. Maybe you shouldn’t do it. Don’t open a brewery. We don’t need mediocre beer. You will be one of those guys ruining it for the entire category. But if you believe you have the gumption to make great beer then revisit Tip #1. 6. How much money can you bleed? You will spend at least one year spending tons of money without a prospect of earning a single dime. The start up burn rate is scary but it is what it is. If you can’t stomach or afford to lose all that money then you might want to consider NOT opening a brewery. Breweries (like all small businesses) are riskier investments than dot com stocks in 1999. 7. The TTB is your friend. Government bureaucracy = bad. And the forms that need to be filled out to get your Brewers Notice might as well have been written by Kafka’s boss. But do not be afraid. Call the TTB. Ask them questions. They are really nice. Or if you’re lucky, someone you know…

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August 2015
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