Mash Tun Party at HCBC in Brooklyn June 20, 2019

 

Join us Thursday, June 20th from 5-10pm at the Kings County Brewing Collective for the New York release party of issue #13 of Mash Tun Journal. This issue features Guest Editor Miguel Rivas The Beertrekker, whose photographs featured in the Journal will be on display in the Kings County Brewers Collective taproom.

Goundlings Pizza Co. will be here in the Taproom slinging meatball sammys 6-9pm!

The Journal is supported by Marz Community Brewing, who coincidentally will be brewing a collaboration brew with Kings County Brewers Collective and will also be hanging out at the release party sharing a few of their beers.

Come by and say hi, and let us know what you would like to see happen in the next edition of the journal which is now freely distributed at breweries, bottle shops, taprooms and bars across the country.

Mash Tun features contributions by: Kurt Boomer, Jacob Ciocci, Cain Czopek, Franklyn, Nick Gingold, Ben Macri, Michael Maloney, Jack Muldowney, Dan Murphy, Daniel Pische, Miguel Rivas, and Doug Veliky.

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Why Can’t I Taste Beer Online Yet?

 

 

by Jacob Ciocci

 

Last summer I tasted a beer whose name I did not learn, but that I thought was delicious. To me it tasted like an Orange Julius, but in beer form. It was not gross or too “gimmicky,” and it didn’t make you sick the way an Orange Julius makes you sick—it wasn’t like they added orange juice and sugar and milk into the beer. It’s just that that’s what the beer reminded me of. I thought it was the only beer of its kind, an experimental one-off.

 

Later in the fall I moved to Chicago, and found myself inside a beer store. I walked into a room filled with many brightly-colored four-packs of beers I had never heard of. Most of them seemed to be made near Chicago, aka “local,” and most of the artwork on the labels featured some derivation or combination of the following visual tropes: Heavy Metal or Punk Graphix, Super Hero/Comic Book/Monster Graphix, or Psychedelic Graphix. The aesthetic of these beer cans paired perfectly with a consumer vibe I had been noticing since moving here: nostalgia for a childhood rooted in video games, action figures, and superhero comic books, combined with nostalgia for an adolescence dominated by underground rock music, all catered towards the contemporary professional, salaried adult with enough extra money to spend on artisanal food and beer. To put it another way: there are lots of bars in Chicago themed like video game arcades, with lots of long lists of beer names written in chalk behind the bar, that all sound like video games or comic book character names. Also of note: at the Whole Foods here there is an arcade with free old school games and beer shelves made out of old skateboards.

 

It struck me that all three of these stages of consumer obsession: comic books, underground music, and now beer, all have one thing in common: at their heyday, at the peak of their frenzy, it was/is hard to learn about these things: you had/have to go to the store and ask questions like a NOOB to get answers. If you were a dumb suburban kid (me) and literally knew NO cool people, the only way to find out about this secret world was to ask The Person Behind the Desk. This was embarrassing at first, and probably stayed awkward for many months until you earned The Person Behind the Desk’s respect. There was also a heavy Boy vibe in these kinds of stores. (Is that why they are called “Cloudy Boyz” and not “Cloudy People?”)

 

I remember that eventually, if you kept hanging out in these stores you got to know what day the shipments arrived, and you began to get on lists to get your stuff. Maybe if you started to feel really safe, you would share YOUR comics or YOUR music with The Person Behind the Desk (that never happened).

 

Back to the Beer Store: I asked the Beer Salesman if they had any “Cloudy Boyz.” The Person Behind the Desk launched into a very lengthy and opinionated explanation of a style of beer I had never heard of: a relatively new style which many people were unsuccessfully imitating, one with a lot of hype and often not a lot of substance. While The Person Behind the Desk was explaining this complex story to me, I started to drift off and found myself tapping into a very specific feeling from my past. It’s a special feeling I have only ever gotten in two different places in my life: in the comic book store in the early 90s and in the record store in the mid-late 90s. I thought it was a feeling that died in the early 2000s, due to the Internet’s stranglehold on information. It’s a magical quasi-spiritual feeling related to being in an actual store talking to a knowledgeable gatekeeper, trying to understand a new craze that one is late to learning about. In my case, throughout my life this “lateness” somehow always fueled my obsession rather than thwarted it. I got this same feeling when I became obsessed with Todd McFarlane, Jim Lee and Rob Liefield Comics when I was twelve. This era of superhero comics was reaching unprecedented levels of hype, popularity, and collectability before crashing hard. I also got this feeling a few years later when I moved to Chapel Hill and would go to the local record store asking for “any indie rock.” Same situation: a scene that was changed forever by the hype, aka when little kids come into the record store with their parents asking for “local music” you know the scene is dead.

 

So is there something specific about the Cloudy Boy that makes it especially like comic books or underground music? Not really. Real beer enthusiasts are probably really sick of Cloudy Boyz and could probably point me to other styles of beer that mimic comics and beer in a more intellectually interesting way. But for the outsider: I do think the Cloudy Boy represents simultaneously the peak of the craze and the cheapening of the medium, in much the same way McFarlane peaked and then cheapened comics, or the way the catchphrase “Indie Rock” peaked and then cheapened underground music. This is where I start to get excited: it’s when things get interesting. What is going to happen next? Will the bubble burst? Do any of these people actually have talent? Or is it just all in our heads? In three years, will I taste a Cloudy Boy and spit it out while screaming “I was brainwashed!!!” ??????

 

The technology that builds and reinforces our desire for these liquid objects in 2019 is of course the internet. The Cloudy Boy uses the Internet’s Power to leverage this Insanity to new levels. By the time it hits the big stores the Cloudy Boy is no longer fresh, so you have to find it on the right day at the right time in the small stores. Social Media really helps ratchet up the excitement of that process.

 

The Comic Book Craze and Indie Rock Craze both happened without the internet. There was no easily accessible centralized database for discovery at your fingertips to cross-check if your purchase was wise. You had to walk around cluelessly in the store for a long time. You had to buy lots of records because the covers looked cool, and then sell them back to the same store in shame because they sounded like country music instead of cool angular distorted sad boy songs. I went to the beer store recently and watched a person with great confidence stride quickly to just the right spot in the store and make a consumer decision that would have taken me a half-hour to ponder. The person made the decision without looking at his phone for reviews of the beer, or without asking The Person Behind the Counter for Advice. Later, when I was home and decided that I had made the wrong consumer choice: I researched the beer this Person had chosen and realized it was superior to the beer I purchased, considering the timing of the purchase. This doubled my desire to go back and to try and get what that Person had got. When I went back, they were sold out. This kind of Insanity has not happened inside my mind since I was fourteen years old.

 

When you are waiting in line to buy a twenty-dollar four-pack of Cloudy Boyz, you are experiencing the Cloudy Boy Experience as much as when are sipping the Cloudy Boy. The experience is not just the beer: it’s the whole process of learning about the beer, finding the beer, and then when and how you drink the beer. A lot of this, even with beer, happens online, in a weird nebulous space that defies media categorization. You are looking at pictures, reading text, and at the same time you are checking email and commuting to work. Are you “drinking” a “beer” at that moment???

 

One of the most interesting things about the time we live in is how blurry the borders between mediums and “media experience” gets, once we start to think about it. When I was younger, it was much easier to say “This is a record” or “This is a comic book.” But now many, many forms of media aren’t really consumed as discreet experiences with distinct beginnings, middles, and ends: they exist instead in relation to one another, in a kind of amorphous digital soup that starts and stops at the speed of one’s scroll in a browser, or based on a phone’s battery power. Even though I keep listening to the same chapter of Kill All Normies over and over as I fall asleep I still tell people I am “Reading” that “Book.” If I listen to a tiny excerpt of a highly compressed MP3 rip of an album on Youtube that has been pitched down to avoid copyright laws, I still say I have heard that album. Sometimes I say I have heard an album even if I have only seen a picture of the artwork for the album.

 

On the other hand, Artisanal Consumable Liquids and Solids stand in contrast to this: they still have to be bought. Or maybe we are just too scared to steal Artisanal Consumable Liquids and Solids? When you swallow a sip of a Cloudy Boy it feels like you are consuming one “thing” rather than a network of “mildly interesting things I recently heard about that I might remember to research/watch/read/listen to later.” It feels satisfying in a way that listening to a record on Spotify is not satisfying. I am sure this is related to the fact that I have to pay for the Cloudy Boy and thus have to “stand behind” my consumer/aesthetic decision. I have had many dead-end conversations over the years, theorizing about how young adult culture after Social Media is secretly rooted in the consumption of Consumable Liquids and Solids (rather than being rooted in the old triumvirate of Fashion, Art, and Music, as it perhaps was in previous decades). If we had the technology to look at where “the heat” of any given culture really is, like an infrared gun that showed you where the true energy hot spots really are: I’m pretty sure it would be in Liquids and Solids, and not Fashion, Art, and Music. On the other hand, in the 70s the Heat probably really was in Fashion, Art, and Music, and food probably just tasted “bad.” Patti Smith probably did not care what food she ate, but she probably really cared what clothes she wore, what records she bought, and what art she looked at.

 

I know I’m talking in circles here, and that this next point is just an attempt to wrap this up with an interesting idea, but here goes: maybe the Cloudy Boy craze is the closest we have gotten to blurring this line between Internet Experience Beer and Actual Beer. Is the Craze getting so wild with this style of beer that the taste is becoming more virtual than actual? That’s how it feels sometimes, when I take a sip. I know ultimately this is a dumb question, and I am ten years late to this whole actual-versus networked-object think-piece debate anyway. I apologize if you read this whole thing to the end and have now come to this unsatisfying anti-climactic end.

 

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Craft Beer and the Coming Recession

 

Craft Beer and the Coming Recession
by Daniel Pische

In recent years, there has been no shortage of articles and interviews on the continued expansion of the craft beer industry. While the market continues to expand, an area of increasing attention has been the struggles of well-established brands such as Green Flash and Smuttynose. As more breweries open and the number of closures begin to edge higher each year, I can’t escape this question: what happens when the current competitive environment intersects with an economic recession?

As a reference point, let’s take a look at the current period of economic expansion that began after the end of the Great Recession. The Great Recession lasted from December 2007 through June 2009, and was followed by a period of economic expansion that has extended to present day. At the end of 2010, the first full year of recovery following the recession, an estimated 1,759 breweries were in operation in the United States. By the end of 2018, there are an estimated 7,000 breweries operating, a near 300% increase from 2010.

I pose this macroview of the economy as perspective for the next question. What happens when the next recession hits and the associated economic pressures are placed back on consumers? As of February 2019, the current period of economic expansion is entering its 116th month. The longest period of economic expansion to date is 120 months.

This is not to say that the next recession heralds doom for the craft beer industry, rather that it would amplify challenges already present. Between the ever-growing number of breweries and increased capacity at many prominent of producers, competition comes from the bottom, the sides, and the top. The bottom represents new, up-and-coming breweries who are looking to carve out their footprint. The sides represents the out-of-market breweries whose increasing capacity will require them to expand into new markets. Finally, the top represents larger breweries already in market with greater production capacity and capital.

Regardless of how strong the economy or a specific industry is, any business owner can confirm that even if times are good, they are never easy. As we enter 2019, I believe there are measures that can be taken now to help the business for whatever challenges lay ahead.

Finding your Place Amongst Parity:

We live in a golden age when it comes to the availability of excellent beer. Prior to moving to Miami in late 2016, I use to live down the street from the Beer Temple in Chicago, IL. My work takes me back to Chicago regularly, and every time I stop in at the Beer Temple, I am amazed at the selection of beers just sitting on the shelves. For me, coming back to Chicago and visiting bottle shops is like stepping out of a 2016 timewarp. Just a few short years ago, I remember seeing Facebook posts about new bottle releases and then jetting out of my office to try and beat out the enterprising entrepreneurs following the trucks around the city. Today, those beers and many that are better can be found on shelves, with not a truck chaser in sight.

I believe the simple reason for this is the volume of quality beers seeing distribution. Coupled with the limited offerings available as brewery only releases, there is no shortage of quality offerings in most communities. This parity is a major factor in the squeeze being felt by breweries across the country.

In this landscape, where does your brewery fit in? As more breweries open and the number of available beers available increases, I believe this question becomes even more important.

While some breweries focus primarily on specialty offerings, you have to ask where a $40 barrel aged sour or stout fits, when people are more mindful of their spending. As nationally-distributed breweries can offer a comparable product at half the price, what impact does that have on a more price-conscious customer base? If customers focus more on price point, does the brewery have the ability to adjust offerings to accommodate those changes?

In a crowded marketplace, I believe narrowly-focused breweries are at risk. When breweries such as Hill Farmstead and Side Project have determined that selling pilsners and hazy IPAs is necessary, that is something to take note of.

Focus on the Customer Experience:

When it comes to limited beer releases, lines are a reality, but hours-long lines are a choice.

In a landscape of increasing competition and market parity, customers will inevitably come around to this fact. In 2018, there was no shortage of stories about beer releases with overnight lines, with some even receiving local news coverage. What happens when consumers begin to ask why this sale was not conducted in a manner more respectful of their time?

Justly or unjustly, breweries who are fortunate enough to have to deal with considerable demand for their limited releases will be judged on how they manage the sale process. While I often believe this criticism to be misplaced, it remains nonetheless, and must be managed accordingly.

In reviewing the ways that bottle releases were run in 2018, I would like to highlight two breweries who did excellent job in terms of the experience they brought to their events and regular releases.

In-demand breweries are in a difficult position, as they have to both manage their production of product as well as the expectations of the market. For this review, I will consider a pair of breweries who have done an excellent job of managing releases on a local level, as well as a market level.

Voodoo Brewing (Meadville, PA) has built a nationally recognized brewery in Western Pennsylvania. Combining their production facility in Meadville with satellites spread throughout the state, Voodoo has built a loyal following, as well as national attention for their Barrel Room Collection. I find their management of the Barrel Room Collection to be beautifully simple. With seemingly no advance notice, Voodoo will release bottles periodically throughout the year, with pickup options at most of their facilities.

A system that rewards local supporters as well as those who follow on social media, the release process is extremely fair, as it does not allow for much planning on those looking to corner the market. This no-frills approach trades the hype that can be created in the weeks leading up to a major release in exchange for a process that puts products in the hands of local supporters.

Moving from local releases to ones that expand across a larger market, Revolution Brewing (Chicago, IL) has expanded their Deep Wood series over the past two years, and found a way to balance their highly sought-after releases between their own facilities and the bars and retailers who carry their product throughout Chicago. What I love about this approach is their ability to pair the marketing of their barrel-aged beers, normally released in pairs through their taproom, with release events at local craft beer bars and retailers.

This view respects the relationship between brewer and retailer, and includes both in the release process when much of the industry has moved in the opposite direction. As the craft market continues to mature, I believe the breweries who focus on building distribution channels will benefit in the long run, as they will cultivate a diversified distribution network capable of reaching more supporters and fans.

Putting the Fiscal House in Order:

The number of brewery closures is clearly on the rise, and unlikely to reverse course anytime soon. While the reasons for these closures will vary from brewery to brewery, this is a trend that I expect to continue as the market becomes further saturated.

So what can be done? While the natural inclination is to focus on the brewery or the taproom as the two most integral components of most breweries, measures can be taken to help improve the financial wherewithal of the business.

For those breweries with existing loans on their books, reviewing the terms and upcoming maturities ahead of time can be extremely beneficial, given the rising rate environment that we now find ourselves in. After nearly a decade of flat interest rates, rates have been rising steadily for the past twenty-four months. While predictions on future rate increases in 2019 are uncertain, breweries with loans coming due in the coming year or two may want to consider renewing those facilities ahead of schedule, in order to lock in lower rates for the upcoming term.

This remains especially true for breweries who are borrowing on variable or floating rate terms, specifically lines of credit or credit cards. Since borrowing costs adjust as rates rise, the carrying costs associated with these loans will increase accordingly. If a line of credit or credit card was used to finance any type of fixed asset or equipment, refinancing that debt into a fixed-rate term loan can be a simple way of hedging your associated exposure to rising interest rates.

In addition to managing exposure to rising interest rates, reviewing standing balances on a line of credit or credit card can also be a proactive way of managing cash flow. If either of these facilities has carried a balance for an extended period of time, without the typical paydowns that a lender would expect, that loan could be modified to require regular installment payments. Addressing these balances proactively can allow a brewery to negotiate the repayment terms in a manner that better fits their cash flow rather than having those terms dictated to them under their existing loan agreement.

As the craft beer industry continues to grow, challenges will present to brewers both new and old. Regardless of what the coming period holds, taking measures to improve your business will only help position your brewery for the road ahead.

Daniel Pische is a Commercial Lender and can be reached on LinkedIn.

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Mash Tun #13 Release Party in Chicago

 

Join us Sunday, April 7th from 1-4pm at the Marz taproom and kitchen for the release of issue #13 of Mash Tun Journal. It is guest edited along with Miguel Rivas, the Beer Trekker.

This issue features guides to some breweries and beer bars around the world as well as artist Jacob Ciocci’s essay about the hazy beer craze, “Why Can’t I taste Beer Online yet?”.

Jacob will be present during the release party to share his research into the hazy, juicy beer trend. He has recently taken the position of Reverse Cloudy Boy Engineer at Marz, and will be unveiling his dry-hopped orange juice and hop smoothie concoctions that he has R&D-ed with our brewers.

Mash Tun features contributions by: Kurt Boomer, Jacob Ciocci, Cain Czopek, Franklyn, Nick Gingold, Ben Macri, Michael Maloney, Jack Muldowney, Dan Murphy, Daniel Pische, Miguel Rivas, and Doug Veliky. Cover photo by the Beer Trekker, Miguel Rivas.

The release party takes place during the Marz  Sunday Brunch Series: Microdose

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Interview with Lance Shaner of Omega Yeast Lab

Interview with Lance Shaner of Omega Yeast Lab
By Tim Lange

Beer can be made with as little as 4 ingredients including yeast, and the understanding and control of yeast and fermentation variables largely control the outcome and quality of any beer.   Yeast options and labs have grown with the rest of the craft beer industry, which means more brewers have access to a wide variety of fresh, healthy liquid yeasts from their regional suppliers.  At my brewery I worked with Omega Yeast Labs (OYL) to isolate bacteria from grains and test them to develop a new quick souring bacterium that’s been a significant element of our production, and now this bacterium is widely used across the industry today.  The open source nature of the people in craft beer allows cultures like these  to spread quickly and influence new beers.  The Midwest has especially been influenced by the work of Lance Shaner and his team at OYL, and I talked with him about their history and bright future here in Chicago.

TIM: What’s the origin story for Omega?

LANCE: It comes down to one discussion while I was an attorney. Before I was doing this I was a patent attorney at Marshall, Gerstein & Borun LLP here in Chicago and one of our colleagues at the firm, Andy, was one of the partners at 1090 brewing. We were at our annual associates Christmas lunch and I was chatting with Andy about his brewery and how that was coming along. They were still in planning and one of the things he mentioned was yeast and ordering from Wyeast with expensive overnight shipping. Yeast is a perishable product so it’s generally shipped next-day air. It clicked that second and I can trace all of this back to that one conversation and I thought this is something that needs to be done around here. No one else was doing it. That day I went home and told my wife I starting a yeast lab. She was skeptical for a while, but I started thinking about it and planning it. This was December 2012. One of my colleagues at the firm, Mark Schwartz ended up being my business partner. He was more entrepreneurial and business savvy than I was, so I was running everything by him at work. One day he stopped by my office and asked if I wanted a business partner. It was daunting to start something like this completely alone so it sounded good to me and we worked together from there on planning and finding a small space that ended up next to a costume warehouse and Lake Effect Brewing. I began doing small scale experiments at home, I’m a microbiologist by training and home brewed for years. We were operational by July 2013, so it came together really fast from initial conception to actually launching.   Lake Effect brewing was in the same building as us, so we had a customer there. 1090 started working with us right away. From there you know brewers are, they start talking to each other, and they did our marketing for us.

T: And you were very present on social media doing Milk The Funk posts and commenting on things in front of a huge passionate group of pro and home brewers

L: Sure, that came a little later and lead to good news and more notoriety that helped us grow.

T: How different were the actual day to day operations and production projections for Omega compared to your business plan? Usually the business plan doesn’t play out as expected.

L: Yeah, [laughing] it may sound ridiculous, but we never actually had a full written out business plan!

T: You knew it was a pointless exercise?

L: Yeah, ugghh, I don’t know.   I was in the right frame of mind at the time. I was actually looking to do something else, for other opportunities when I had that conversation [with Andy] so I was primed to do something else at that point. I loved the people I worked with, but I was getting bored with law work and then this happened. I ran with it. In some respects, we’re still doing things pretty similar to how we started. Without going into details, we’ve certainly tweaked things. Looking at what was out there and what was affordable at the beginning, things ended up working out very well. Our system is very flexible and if we have enough capacity we can turn around a 1bbl pitch into a 240bbl pitch from order to shipping. We could still to this day use more capacity. Now we have big tanks that can help us pool some orders, but it’s all based on the same principles of our original system just on a larger scale. The rate of growth of this industry and the fact that there’s nobody else within hundreds of miles doing what we’re doing, it was in my head that if we can do it right and execute it would just work [laughing]. That might have been wildly naïve, but like I said, I was in the right frame of mind and the right time in my life and career to take the risk.

T: So going back before you were a patent attorney, what was your background as a microbiologist and how did these things come together before you started Omega?

L: I was a microbiology undergrad from the University of Illinois in Champaign and while I was there they had a home brew club called BUZZ, Boneyard Union of Zymerlogical Zealots or something like that. It’s an official University sanctioned club and I was a member of that when I was 19 or 20. You can buy all the ingredients to make beer even if you aren’t 21. Grains, yeast, and hops aren’t inherently illegal on their own, so I joined and that’s when I was bitten by the home brewing bug. Looking back we did so many stupid things home brewers do; this isn’t going fast enough, let’s heat it up! I kept home brewing for years and ended up moving to Houston to get a PHD in microbiology molecular genetics from the University of Texas and ended up in the yeast lab there not studying anything related to beer and brewing, but the same organism-more of a basic science type thing. Professors go department to department doing seminars and I met a woman from U of T studying Anthrax at the time while I was applying to grad schools. My first thought was studying anthrax would be neat, but the first years of grad school are rotations in labs, and there were already a couple students working with her the first semester, so I wanted to try working with someone else and maybe get back to her work later. I went to a fairly new professor that had been there for a couple years studying yeast and obviously had an interest in that already. I ended up really loving working with yeast genetically. They’re very malleable when it comes to their genetics and you can do almost whatever you want to them with tons of tools available since it’s been used as a genetic model system for years.   It allowed me to keep my brewing strains frozen and grow them up whenever I wanted them. Towards the end of grad school I figured I didn’t want to stick with bench work. It’s essentially begging for money and it can be really hard to get a position. I wanted to leverage what I had done and learned so far, so I went to law school thinking about doing patent prosecution work. To do patent prosecution you have to have a technical degree in addition to the law degree to practice in front of the patent office. You’re a bridge between the inventor and the legal office. You can translate the invention into legalese.

T: Can you tell us how all of this experience lead you to mate two saison strains soon after you opened?

L: We used traditional mating techniques just to avoid it being GMO – if you start plugging in other genes then you’ve got a whole other regulatory scheme to get over.   We mated the French Saison and the Dupont strains. The French is a pretty reliable strain that tastes fine, but it’s not the most exciting profile. Dupont has a more iconic Saison flavor, but it’s a very finicky strain to work with. We were hoping to get more of the Dupont flavor without the challenging fermentation. The mating process creates hundreds of children, so we started brewing with them and found ones that almost universally had good kinetics and behaved like French with the Dupont flavors we wanted.

T: That seemed like something that was very unique and new to the industry. Is that true?

L: I don’t think anyone has released anything like this, but we make no claims to creating the ability to hybridize yeast cells. It’s harder to mate domesticated brewery strains than it is wild cells. Some of them just won’t do it. I think the saison strains may be closer to wild because they’re a little more amenable to these techniques. There very well may be unreleased things like this in freezers somewhere?

T: Getting more into the genetics of some of these yeast and bacteria we use to brew, there was the discovery recently that what brewers were purchasing as brett trois wasn’t actually brett, but rather a saccharomyces strain very close to brett. Is genetics going to play more of a role in understanding our brewing yeasts and bacteria and is that something you plan to peruse with your new facility and lab space?

L: Yeah, we have long term plans to get into more R&D with these genes and even have people in mind that we want to head these sorts of things, but this is more of a 2 or 3 year out goal right now. We’re just trying to get through the day and keep up right now. So I’ll end up back at the bench some day? White Labs publishing the genomes of all the brewing yeasts is a huge amount of data to sift through and manipulate.

T: What’s new and exciting for your customers lately?

L: We’re really high on these Norwegian strains right now that a lot of people are flocking to. They’re clean fermenting yeast strains that have a high heat tolerance with fruity flavors and aromas that suits what brewers are doing these days. We’ve got a couple of those that are available to pro brewers now, and we just released Hornindal Kveik to home brewers. This fits in with our existing Norwegian strains, but Hornindal is even fruitier. We made a Chinook IPA with this, which on it’s own shouldn’t be very exciting, but it tastes like there’s a lot more going on that just Chinook. This is how we can help brewers limit hop requirements and make beers taste more expensive than they are.

T: And fill in some hop flavors for brewers that may not have access to all the sought after hop varieties.

L: Yeah! And where we’re sitting right now will be close to the bar of a yeast focused taproom.

T: Exciting! I’ve never visited the taproom at White Labs and I know that can be an incredibly valuable experience for brewers and beer enthusiasts.

L: Phase 1 was getting production online here, and phase 2 will be demolishing the front of this building and turning it into the taproom where we can show off beers that are split up and the same wort is fermented with different yeast strains for our customers and the public to try. We’ve heard this neighborhood has improved a lot over the last 20 years and we want to keep that going. With Lake Effect and OIB nearby we want to help make this more of a brewing destination with this new facility and taproom.

T: We can’t wait to have some beers here with you soon. Cheers!

 

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Mobile Canning or Bust


Interview with Joel McGinnis of Midwest Mobile Canning
by Reuben Kincaid

 

The age of the bomber has seen it’s zenith. With hundreds of breweries and thousands of different skus available for sale, smaller breweries are having a harder time selling their beer in bomber format. In order to get their beer into store shelves it’s become necessary to put it in 12-16 ounce bottles or cans. Buying a canning machine can set you back between $50-250K and its not easy to invest or save that much money If yer only kicking out a few thousand barrels of beer a year.

 

To help growing breweries compete in the marketplace better mobile canning companies have sprouted up all around the country. I spoke to Joel McGinnis of Midwest Mobile Canning to check in on the state of the canning biz.

 

Tell us a little about you and the founders of the business.  What inspired you to be involved with the craft brewing industry?
I spent several years in the retail industry both at the store level and corporate level. My father Terry was also in the retail industry at the corporate level. He was getting ready to retire but wanted something to keep him busy during retirement. We came across an article in a newspaper about the need for cans in the craft brewing industry. Most breweries are using their available capital on brewing equipment, tanks etc. and therefore do not have the extra resources to purchase a canning line. That’s when we decided that this is the perfect opportunity to fill that void.

What was business like when you first started? What kind of barriers are there to entry and how did your business model change?

Business was tough when we started approximately five years ago. We were not real familiar with the craft brewing industry, the process of brewing and of course the whole distribution process. For me, that was the biggest challenge. Running a business in an industry that you are not familiar with can be tough. We worked with some of our counterparts in different areas of the country that had a year or so under their belts. We learned a lot in the first six months. As we learned we started bringing on new accounts and shortly thereafter a second canning line was on order.

Small breweries usually cannot afford a 4 head canning machine. And many of them are selling large format bottles or draft.  I am assuming those limitations helped you detect that there was a need for mobile canning in the marketplace for small brewers. What are some of the other reasons brewers call you for their services?

Other than the cost of a canning line itself being an issue, breweries come to us with special requests. Whether it be fundraising events, weddings that need special cans for that special day, even ice fishing derbies here in the north need cans. Wherever there is a need for a one time run for an event they like to call on us and we can make it happen. We have a can supplier that can do one time runs on special labeled cans and breweries like that.

What are the benefits of canning vs bottling beer?
Cans have many benefits over bottles. Cans do not allow light in. Light is bad for beer which lessens the shelf life. Cans are 100% recyclable and they can also go places glass cannot go. Many parks, beaches, hotel pools, concert venues and sporting events do not allow glass. Distributors love cans. They are easy to stack, move, and store in their facilities.

Can you describe the process of mobile canning? Give us a typical walk through on what happens before during and after your canning days.

Canning a beer has to start out with a plan. We talk with the breweries and find out what their goal is and what they want in the end. We usually meet with them and do a site survey to make sure we have enough space to fit equipment. Once we decide that everything will work and we know what the brewery wants, we start the process of working on can designs and get the cans ordered. Cans are shipped to the facility approximately 2-3 days prior to the canning date. On the canning date we arrive, unload all equipment off the truck into the brewery, hook up all water, air, CO2 and eventually product. We require the brewery to have three helpers, one feed cans into the machine and two to put packteck handles on and put into cardboard flats as the cans are filled. Once all beer is canned, we clean the machine and pack up and the bewery handles all distribution to the retailers or distributors.

Do you have any predictions for craft brewing in 2018? Some people see that the market is leveling off. Will this effect your business?

At this point we are not seeing the market leveling off. I’m receiving calls everyday from either existing breweries that have not canned yet or startup breweries putting plans in place to put their product in cans. I do know that consumers love to buy local and being able to get their local brews in cans is a win for everyone.

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Mash Tun Issue Issue 12

 

The new issue of Mash Tun Journal is currently being distributed throughout the country. If your bar or taproom wants a bundle to distribute, give us a holler. Email ed@mashtunjournal.org

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Mash Tun Journal 11

We are about to release our next issue of Mash Tun Journal and thought it would be nice to allow you to download the entire  issue of our last salvo Enjoy.

From the introduction of issue 011.

For years, merely opening a production brewery in Chicago was a small miracle – let alone a taproom, too. For as skewed as our production brewery to taproom ratio is – relative to Portland, Denver, Asheville – we do have a second-to-none selection of beers, brewed locally and abroad. It’s a boon for drinkers, but it’s scary for breweries. For breweries, being local isn’t enough to warrant drinkers’ time, energy, and money anymore. We watched the sun set on the packaged-only model – specifically, bomber-only. Breweries adapted by launching four- and six-packs of their year-rounds. But even that turf is becoming contested. “Which brewery launched here last month? Last week?” Breweries can’t rely on the fixed tap handles or placements like they used to, and that’s a good thing. It keeps breweries honest to the tasks of brewing good liquid and laying out reasonable production goals.

Now more than ever, Chicago breweries are keen on serving their beer close to home instead of entering new markets (if their volume allows). Taprooms can accomplish just that, and their on-premise sales come with healthy margins. Numbers aside, there’s no better way for a brewery to express who they really are than through their taproom – even if that means setting the mood with a few low bitrate Eiffel 65 selections played from a first-generation iPod. In that case, ASCAP and BMI goin’ find you (and fine you).

For Mash Tun Issue 011, we surveyed Chicago’s taproom scene – turns out it’s damn good, and it’s getting even better. Here’s a free drinking tip from Mash Tun: Party safely. Bikes and CTA* rule!

*CTA rules, except when it sucks.

– Calvin Frederickson

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Chicago Brewery Tour: Part 3, The Southside

Part 3 of 3, The Southside

A few years ago no one would believe the south side of Chicago would host this many microbreweries or taprooms. From the late 90s until 2010, most of the city’s best craft beer bars and the only breweries in town were located north of Roosevelt Road, my personal dividing line between the North and South sides of the city.

 

The very first southside craft brewery was Argus, opening in 2009. Then in 2012-2013 a new generation of breweries popped up all over Chicago including the second to be located in the southside: Horse Thief Hollow. In the following years many more incubated brewery projects came to life. Including one founded by myself, a few family members, and friends called Marz Community Brewing Co. Today there are sixty five breweries in Chicago proper and at least a dozen of them are located below the Eisenhower expressway.

 

This Southside tour might not be possible for most people to do in one day, but I think it is! Just don’t drink as much as you want to and eat lunch dinner and dessert when I suggest while on this tour. One other caveat: I didn’t include Argus because it doesn’t have regular hours and tours are by appointment. So take a train to that joint when ya have a minute.

So let’s get on with it!

– By EdMar

 

Horse Thief Hollow

 

Our first stop in our South Side brewery tour is a brewpub located in the neighborhood of Beverly and its where we suggest you have lunch at 11:30am.

When Illinois competes at the Great American Beer Festival in Colorado each year, Horse Thief always brings home a medal. Last year they won a Bronze for their Prunkle’s Dunkle, a European-Style Dark Lager that kicks ass. One of the first breweries to open in the very South Side of Chicago, Horse Thief Hollow defied expectations and has become a must visit brewpub for any visitor to the windy city.

 

They have earned this reputation by making tasty suds. Brewmaster, David Williams, was a graduate of the legendary C.H.A.O.S Homebrew club and is the definition of the weird turning pro. We expect him to keep making the award winning brews which complement his solid pale ales, kolschs and IPAs.

 

 

Whiner Brewing

 

Whiner Brewery opened up in the ecologically minded manufacturing complex called The Plant, located in The Back of The Yards, a hardscrabble working class neighborhood. A few years back I saw the area in which the new brewery would be situated and it was an abandoned shit hole of a space. Today, after the Whiner construction team of Heizler Group did their magic it’s an industrial palace. The completely utilized facility has equipment in places that you make wonder what engineering feat they used to install the system and tanks ( I think they blew a huge hole in the wall to get all the stuff in). The lighting is sexy and the overall concrete vibe delightfully urban decay chic. And the beer is fantastic too. Besides their solid saison and brettanomyces beers try some of the barrel aged experiments they have on draft.

 

Whiner is the anchor tenant for The Plant, a vertical farm and food business incubator. Try to visit them on a Saturday when their market is happening and enjoy some tasty bread and treats from Pleasant House Bakery, coffee from a Whiner brewery Sister project, Four Letter Word, and check out Bike A Bee honey.

 

 

Marz Community Brewing

 

The experience of writing for, editing, and publishing Mash Tun Journal is one of the reasons Marz Community Brewing Co came into existence. We were inspired by craft beer and the culture that surrounds it. And somehow our love of beer and the brewers we interviewed talked us into it!

 

So it’s been almost three years since we started our own contribution to brewing in Chicago and we are pleased to announce that our new facility will be open in late spring. The new brewery is located in the first organized manufacturing district in Chicago right off Bubbly Creek.

 

Marz will have a tasting room, a bottle/merch shop and more. Since our tap room most likely won’t be open soon due to licensing, permitting and construction delays (the uholy trinity of the brewing biz), we will be open for tours. If yer in the hood, just stop by and knock on the side door. If we hear it we will let ya in and show ya around. Or just email or call us and we will hook ya up.

 

 

Baderbräu

 

After contracting beer for a few years with the recipe from the original craft pilsner revered by old-timers in Chicagoland, Baderbrau has opened their new plant a stone’s throw from Mc Cormack Place. The spacious brewing floor is complemented by a second floor tap room featuring local street art. Their beers have massively improved since they opened up the new joint.

 

I love the Gunsmoke, a lightly smoked hefeweizen and their Pilsners and Lagers are top notch. Grab a taste of each of these and get ready to check out a few more nearby joints.

 

 

Motor Row Brewing

 

Motor Row is part of the burgeoning development of the South Loop and is also close to the Mc Cormack Convention Center Complex. If yer planing a trip to Millenial park or the Art Institute, this is a great place to get yourself sorted. Motor Row is in a landmark South Loop building and the warehouse-like space has a retail/tasting room and an upstairs taproom for enjoying a few. You can order food in our bring your own. We dig their seasonal IPAs and the Schwarzbier. If you are continuing on, don’t eat yet!

 

 

Vice District Brewing Company

 

Just a mile up the block from Motor Row is Vice District. This south loop brewery nods to the roaring gangster days of Chicago. This part of Chicago was the notorious hunting ground for Capone. And you can see the Ganster tour busses buzzing down the street often in the summer. The cozy tasting room has reclaimed wood tables and bartops, complementing the industrial interior of this former Buick Automobile showroom. Vice makes a wider range than most of the standard brewpub style beers. We especially like their IPAs, especially Habitual, their Cascading Dark Ale.

 

Vice is constantly fighting to keep up with production on their small brewpub system and sometimes they are out of their flagship beers. So partners Quintin Cole and Curtis Tarver II hope to begin brewing at a new 15-barrel brewhouse in Homewood this year. The new 15 BBL system will increase production, feature a 75 person tap room and allow more beer to be distributed throughout the state. We are looking forward to their cans!

 

 

Moxee Restaurant & Mad Mouse Brewery

 

Ok if you are still on the tour this is where you are going to get dinner.

Mad Mouse Brewery is the first Chicago brewery to open up in a restaurant. Situated in the historic zone that was once the Maxwell Street Market, the spot is close to the University of Illinois Chicago and is the gateway to the Southside. The petite 3BBL system makes super small batch brews that complement the wide range of southern style food offered on the menu. Since they are technically a brewpub, Mad Mouse also serves a range of local craft beers from breweries that don’t have tasting rooms as well as whiskey and cocktails. All of which makes it a nice place to chill before heading out. remember to not order dessert because it’s coming up next.

 
Moody Tongue Brewing Company

 

This is dessert.

 

For a brewery known for making culinary beers it’s odd that Moody Tongue only offers chocolate cake and oysters to pair with their beer in their tasting room. But somehow all makes sense. The non descript entrance to this former glass factory hides a meticulously designed tasting room which casts a mid-century vibe in contrast to the brewing facility beyond it’s confines. It’s a wonderful surprise to walk into the elegant tasting room while in this old industrial segment of the Pilsen neighborhood.

 

The menu choices seem weird but they work. I will suggest you order their lager and saison go with your dessert, the chocolate cake. And if yer like me you’ll also want to eat oysters while chilling in such sexy environs.

 

My guess is that the limited menu for both beer and food is designed to make sure you don’t miss out on anything Moody Tongue makes. And brewer, Jaroud Rouben, has made sure you won’t.

 

Lo-Rez Brewing

 

Lo-Rez just opened their tanks in late 2016 and are the newest members of the Chicago brewing scene. Veteran home brewers and partners Dave Dahl and Kevin Lilly took the leap and joined the craft beer movement after three years of research, brewing at local breweries, and securing this Pilsen spot. Their love of Belgian-style and malt-forward beers like saisons, golden ales, scotch ales, stouts is represented in their line up. However, since the brewery has just opened we haven’t figured out what our favorite beers are yet. You can’t go wrong with the Position Zero Pale Ale and we look forward to more of what they have to offer to Chicago.

 

Lo-Rez are are putting the finishing touches on their taproom in Pilsen and will be open for business in a couple months. Keeping our fingers crossed because they are dealing with the aforementioned Unholy Trinity. Drive by anyway and see if the lights are on. If so knock on the door and tell them we said hello.

 

 

Lagunitas Brewing Company

 

Perhaps best for your last stop, Lagunitas’s Chicago plant will astound you. First off it is the largest craft brewery in the city, and perhaps the midwest. When it opened in 2014, the 300,000 sq ft brewery cemented the city’s place as one of the worlds best craft beer destinations.

 

After a long walk to the tap room you will find yourself two floors above the brewing facility. The spacious room gives you great views of the plant and it’s thousands of tons of stainless steel. The food is top notch, there is live music on the weekends and the tours are free. What else do you want? Oh there will be more.

 

Lagunitas has been planning on building a concert venue and rooftop bar since the opened. We noticed they just got their permit for the rooftop patio. So keep your eyes peeled for the opening in the next few months.

 

 

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Chicago Brewery Tour: Part 2, The North Side

Part 2, The North Side – Read Part 1: The West Side here.
Chicago’s North Side is teeming with brewery taprooms. Thanks to a comprehensive public transit system and (mostly) bike-friendly roadways, drinkers can navigate North Side brewery taprooms with ease. Seriously, get a bike or a Ventra card. Cycling is ideal, but the CTA’s buses and trains (Blue, Brown, and Red lines) can take folks from one North Side brewery to another in a jiffy. – Calvin Fredrickson

 

Photo supplied by Half Acre

 

Half Acre

 

Start here. You’ll probably end here, too. If you didn’t already know, Half Acre is a Chicago beer institution. Their 16-ounce cans of Daisy Cutter Pale Ale, Pony Pils, and rotating seasonal IPAs are icons of Chicago’s obsession with hoppy beer. At Half Acre, aesthetic and concept can be as important as the liquid itself. Their social media and blog posts are a testament to the eccentricity that runs in the water over there. Rest assured, the beer’s as good as its story.

 

Finding a table or seat at Half Acre’s taproom is tough some evenings, so get there early and let the staff guide your choices. When in doubt, order a pint of Pony or freshly-released Tuna extra pale ale and coast into a reliably delicious experience.

 

Photo by Steph Byce

 

Dovetail

 

Ales – mainly IPAs and big stouts – have long dominated Chicago’s tap lines. That domination may be due to a lack of representation of lager, limited mainly to elder statesman Metropolitan and, more recently, Baderbrau. Add to the lager-brewing movement newcomer Dovetail, your continental European-inspired huckleberry. Take the Brown Line to Irving Park and stroll over to their brewery/taproom, where tradition, balance, and patience are sacrosanct brewing tenets. With crowds at Dovetail often reaching capacity on weekends, and seeing an increasing number of Dovetail tap handles at bars around town, Chicago may well be falling for lager.

 

An amicable mix of big 10 bros, regular Janes and Joes, and old money tickers will find themselves rubbing elbows at Dovetail’s relaxed taproom. Food trucks are usually parked nearby, but if you don’t feel like getting off your barstool, order a dried sausage and a pretzel. If you’re lucky, Jenny will have some stinky cheese on hand. Be nice and she’ll save you a wedge, on the house.

 

Saturday brewery tours at Dovetail allow guests to drink beer straight from the fermentation and brite tanks while listening to the story of liquid dreams turned reality from co-founders Hagen Dost and Bill Wesselink themselves, offering an up-close view and taste of Dovetail’s heart and soul, fermentation. Buy a ticket to their tour, ya’ Scrooge – if it isn’t already sold out. Photograph their brewhouse – a 106-year-old copper vessel formerly of Weihenstephaner may catch your eye – coolship room, open top fermenters, horizontal conditioning tanks, and barrel cellar, filled with barrels of spontaneously-fermented beer brewed in the tradition of lambic.

 

Photo by Tricia Scully

 

Old Irving Brewing Co.

 

At last, the Northwest Side finally gets a brewery/taproom. Take the Blue Line to Montrose. Excellent food and great beers are the game at Old Irving Brewing. Formed in the wake of the Crooked Fork concept – a project put forth by now-deceased Homaro Cantu – Old Irving feels like a vision carried out by Cantu’s friends. Highlights from our visit include a few hoppy numbers and the dessert-like Krampus Cookies, a double chocolate stout brewed with cacao nibs and Madagascar vanilla bean.

 

Looking to play some drinking games while you, err, drink? Hold my beer, Old Irving has cornhole boards for casual gameplay, and a bocce league for the serious player. They also rent out space for birthdays and other events. Parents without a sitter will be glad to find Old Irving offers several kid-friendly food options, along with an attentive waitstaff. Their elevated, wood-fired pub fare and sound contemporary American beers make Old Irving a fine addition to Chicago’s North Side brewing scene.

 

Photo by JJ Jetel

 

Hopewell

 

This clean, airy brewery/taproom is the 2017 zeitgeist of Logan Square. Spacious as it is, Hopewell’s taproom is packed most nights, due in part to their central location and selection of thoughtful, peppy beers, brewed with the consideration of seasonality. Take the Blue Line to Logan Square. Order a Squad – quad brewed for Hopewell’s one year anniversary – and scribble on a coaster while soaking in the bubbly atmosphere of Hopwell’s taproom, marked by well curated music and conversation of area socialites.

 

As a brewer at Brooklyn Brewery, Hopewell co-founder Stephen Bossu gained an appreciation for brewing lager – an appreciation that informs Hopewell’s lager-friendly portfolio, including year-round First Lager and several other rotating lagers. Their kettle-soured Clover Club – brewed in collaboration with The Whistler – is a gin botanical and raspberry puree-infused saison, and tastes like an invitation to spring. Lately, Hopewell has been hosting pop-ups with area restaurants like Parson’s, Green Street Smoked Meats, and Dimo’s Pizza. Indeed, the Hopewell folks have made fast friends with Logan Square/Avondale businesses and residents alike – stop in for a beer and count yourself among them.

 

Revolution

 

In 2010, Revolution’s brewpub invigorated the food and beverage scene in Logan Square, attracting droves of thirsty patrons to a once quiet strip of Milwaukee Ave.

Located steps from the California Blue Line, the brewpub sees a lot of foot traffic – it’s a packed house most nights after 5 p.m. If you’re solo, grab a seat at the bar, order a Workingman Mild, and thank your lucky stars the reuben sandwich is back on the menu. And by Jove, don’t forget to order it, either.

 

You won’t find a barrel aged beer as consistently good and affordable as theirs, made possible, in part, by the opening of their production facility in 2012, located near the Belmont Blue Line stop. Connected to Rev’s production facility is a sizeable taproom, where you can ogle their prodigious barrel aging program and take pictures in front of a gigantic American flag. Ask for a Straight Jacket Barleywine. It may 1. turn your ears red, or 2. make you feel photogenic. Probably both. The two-year-aged version, V.S.O.J. – Very Special Old Straight Jacket – is a drinking experience bordering the sublime.

 

Of all their beers, Revolution’s hoppy ones have won the hearts of drinkers. But if you’re jonesing for yeast-driven, lower-ABV beers, Rev’s brewpub is the ticket, which still champions English beers – draught and cask – in a way few others in the region have. The sustained success of their Logan Square Brewpub and growth of their Avondale production facility and taproom has made Revolution a role model to new school Chicago breweries. Pay your dues.

 

Begyle

 

Despite their penchant for dad jokes and pop punk, Begyle packs their North Center taproom on a nightly basis. Maybe it’s the green chairs. Accent chairs, so hot right now. Since opening their taproom, located off the Irving Park Brown Line, Begyle’s production has been focused on supplying kegs to the taproom’s insatiable appetite – a demand that limited the availability of six-packs in the off-premise market. That constraint was eased recently with the help of Midwest Mobile Canning and contract-brewing partner Great Central Brewing Co, allowing Begyle to launch four brands as year-round, six-pack 12-ounce cans: Begyle Blonde Ale, Crash Landed American Pale Wheat Ale, Free Bird APA, and Hophazardly IPA.

 

The Begyle crew is the sweetest you’ll come across. Co-founder Kevin Cary is no exception – he’s basically a young Santa in flannel. One of their most beloved beers, Imperial Flannel Pajamas Coffee Stout, drinks like a lazy Saturday afternoon. Begyle’s hop-heavy year-rounders will hit the mark for hopheads, but that’s not all Begyle’s known for – their malt-forward offerings like Tough Guy Brown Ale and Neighborly Stout make Begyle’s beer menu a well-rounded one. Ipsento’s cold brewed is served via nitro pour for those in need of caffeination. If you find yourself without socks, Begyle with happily sell you a pair of branded argyle ones. Wait a minute. Argyle… Begyle…

 

Dryhop

 

Though the space inside this Lakeview East gastropub/brewery is snug – the brewers and bartenders know that better than anyone – the cozy confines of Dryhop do not hinder the high quality experience of their beers and food. People in the area looking for a tropical IPA and delicious, juicy burger could do no better than Dryhop. Grab a seat at the bar and you might catch brewer Brant Dubovick drinking a shift beer (or two or three). Take the Brown Line to Belmont Ave.

 

Dryhop’s walls are adorned with artwork that is showcased on a rotating basis, and usually pertains to booze of some sort. Featured artists include locals Andrew Wright and Tara Zanzig, among others. In the warmer months, patio seating invites guests to pound a few Shark Meets Hipster IPA while watching the vibrant Broadway Ave traffic whizz by. Fans of dry, American-focused beer will hang their hat at Dryhop.

 

Corridor

 

As the sister restaurant to Dryhop, this West Lakeview brewery is decidedly more rustic, with an emphasis on farmhouse ales and “hop forward American trailblazers.” Lately, this Southport Corridor brewery, located near the Southport Brown Line stop, has been leaning toward beers in the latter category, American beer. With the return of brewer Roger Cuzelis, formerly of Forbidden Root, and Corridor before that, expect to see more hazy, hoppy goodness from Corridor.

 

Sitting on their sidewalk patio in warmer months, Cubs fans can be seen walking in packs to Wrigley Field. Southport Ave: where you can overpay for ice cream, be nearly run over by Land Rovers, and push a stroller with a 32-ounce crowler in the cupholder. Corridor is a source of joy on this bougie strip of Southport, offering fancy pizza and delicious beers to all comers.

 

Band of Bohemia

 

Refined food with tasty, culinary minded beers. As the first Michelin starred brewpub in the U.S., Band of Bohemia has proven that beer has asserted its role in the world of fine dining. If you’re traveling by train, take the Brown Line to Damen. Co-founder Michael Carrol’s history as a bread baker at Alinea and brewer at Half Acre lend a Chicago-heavy credibility to Band of Bohemia’s brewing side. Their food program is no slouch either, boasting staff with experience at numerous other Michelin-starred restaurants.

 

For an elegant evening of beer and food, book a reservation at Ravenswood’s Band of Bohemia. A glance at their menu reveals beers brewed with a sense of whimsy, like their Maitake Wheat – brewed with roasted maitake mushrooms – and Parsnip and White Pepper Rye ale. Heady stuff! Brewpubs like Band of Bohemia are moving the needle forward for imaginative brewers and drinkers.

 

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Mash Tun Party at HCBC in Brooklyn June 20, 2019

  Join us Thursday, June 20th from 5-10pm at the Kings County Brewing Collective for the New York release party of issue #13 of Mash Tun Journal. This issue features Guest Editor Miguel Rivas The Beertrekker, whose photographs featured in the Journal will be on display in the Kings County Brewers Collective taproom. Goundlings Pizza Co. will be here in the Taproom slinging meatball sammys 6-9pm! The Journal is supported by Marz Community Brewing, who coincidentally will be brewing a collaboration brew with Kings County Brewers Collective and will also be hanging out at the release party sharing a few of their beers. Come by and say hi, and let us know what you would like to see happen in the next edition of the journal which is now freely distributed at breweries, bottle shops, taprooms and bars across the country. Mash Tun features contributions by: Kurt Boomer, Jacob Ciocci, Cain Czopek, Franklyn, Nick Gingold, Ben Macri, Michael Maloney, Jack Muldowney, Dan Murphy, Daniel Pische, Miguel Rivas, and Doug Veliky.

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Why Can’t I Taste Beer Online Yet?

    by Jacob Ciocci   Last summer I tasted a beer whose name I did not learn, but that I thought was delicious. To me it tasted like an Orange Julius, but in beer form. It was not gross or too “gimmicky,” and it didn’t make you sick the way an Orange Julius makes you sick—it wasn’t like they added orange juice and sugar and milk into the beer. It’s just that that’s what the beer reminded me of. I thought it was the only beer of its kind, an experimental one-off.   Later in the fall I moved to Chicago, and found myself inside a beer store. I walked into a room filled with many brightly-colored four-packs of beers I had never heard of. Most of them seemed to be made near Chicago, aka “local,” and most of the artwork on the labels featured some derivation or combination of the following visual tropes: Heavy Metal or Punk Graphix, Super Hero/Comic Book/Monster Graphix, or Psychedelic Graphix. The aesthetic of these beer cans paired perfectly with a consumer vibe I had been noticing since moving here: nostalgia for a childhood rooted in video games, action figures, and superhero comic books, combined with nostalgia for an adolescence dominated by underground rock music, all catered towards the contemporary professional, salaried adult with enough extra money to spend on artisanal food and beer. To put it another way: there are lots of bars in Chicago themed like video game arcades, with lots of long lists of beer names written in chalk behind the bar, that all sound like video games or comic book character names. Also of note: at the Whole Foods here there is an arcade with free old school games and beer shelves made out of old skateboards.   It struck me that all three of these stages of consumer obsession: comic books, underground music, and now beer, all have one thing in common: at their heyday, at the peak of their frenzy, it was/is hard to learn about these things: you had/have to go to the store and ask questions like a NOOB to get answers. If you were a dumb suburban kid (me) and literally knew NO cool people, the only way to find out about this secret world was to ask The Person Behind the Desk. This was embarrassing at first, and probably stayed awkward for many months until you earned The Person Behind the Desk’s respect. There was also a heavy Boy vibe in these kinds of stores. (Is that why they are called “Cloudy Boyz” and not “Cloudy People?”)   I remember that eventually, if you kept hanging out in these stores you got to know what day the shipments arrived, and you began to get on lists to get your stuff. Maybe if you started to feel really safe, you would share YOUR comics or YOUR music with The Person Behind the Desk (that never happened).   Back to the Beer Store: I asked the Beer Salesman if they had any “Cloudy Boyz.” The Person Behind the Desk launched into a very lengthy and opinionated explanation of a style of beer I had never heard of: a relatively new style which many people were unsuccessfully imitating, one with a lot of hype and often not a lot of substance. While The Person Behind the Desk was explaining this complex story to me, I started to drift off and found myself tapping into a very specific feeling from my past. It’s a special feeling I have only ever gotten in two different places in my life: in the comic book store in the early 90s and in the record store in the mid-late 90s. I thought it was a feeling that died in the early 2000s, due to the Internet’s stranglehold on information. It’s a magical quasi-spiritual feeling related to being in an actual store talking to a knowledgeable gatekeeper, trying to understand a new craze that one is late to learning about. In my case, throughout my life this “lateness” somehow always fueled my obsession rather than thwarted it. I got this same feeling when I became obsessed with Todd McFarlane, Jim Lee and Rob Liefield Comics when I was twelve. This era of superhero comics was reaching unprecedented levels of hype, popularity, and collectability before crashing hard. I also got this feeling a few years later when I moved to Chapel Hill and would go to the local record store asking for “any indie rock.” Same situation: a scene that was changed forever by the hype, aka when little kids come into the record store with their parents asking for “local music” you know the scene is dead.   So is there something specific about the Cloudy Boy that makes it especially like comic books or underground music? Not really. Real beer enthusiasts are probably really sick of Cloudy Boyz and could probably point me to other styles of beer that mimic comics and beer in a more intellectually interesting way. But for the outsider: I do think the Cloudy Boy represents simultaneously the peak of the craze and the cheapening of the medium, in much the same way McFarlane peaked and then cheapened comics, or the way the catchphrase “Indie Rock” peaked and then cheapened underground music. This is where I start to get excited: it’s when things get interesting. What is going to happen next? Will the bubble burst? Do any of these people actually have talent? Or is it just all in our heads? In three years, will I taste a Cloudy Boy and spit it out while screaming “I was brainwashed!!!” ??????   The technology that builds and reinforces our desire for these liquid objects in 2019 is of course the internet. The Cloudy Boy uses the Internet’s Power to leverage this Insanity to new levels. By the time it hits the big stores the Cloudy Boy is no longer fresh, so you have to find it on the right…

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Craft Beer and the Coming Recession

  Craft Beer and the Coming Recession by Daniel Pische In recent years, there has been no shortage of articles and interviews on the continued expansion of the craft beer industry. While the market continues to expand, an area of increasing attention has been the struggles of well-established brands such as Green Flash and Smuttynose. As more breweries open and the number of closures begin to edge higher each year, I can’t escape this question: what happens when the current competitive environment intersects with an economic recession? As a reference point, let’s take a look at the current period of economic expansion that began after the end of the Great Recession. The Great Recession lasted from December 2007 through June 2009, and was followed by a period of economic expansion that has extended to present day. At the end of 2010, the first full year of recovery following the recession, an estimated 1,759 breweries were in operation in the United States. By the end of 2018, there are an estimated 7,000 breweries operating, a near 300% increase from 2010. I pose this macroview of the economy as perspective for the next question. What happens when the next recession hits and the associated economic pressures are placed back on consumers? As of February 2019, the current period of economic expansion is entering its 116th month. The longest period of economic expansion to date is 120 months. This is not to say that the next recession heralds doom for the craft beer industry, rather that it would amplify challenges already present. Between the ever-growing number of breweries and increased capacity at many prominent of producers, competition comes from the bottom, the sides, and the top. The bottom represents new, up-and-coming breweries who are looking to carve out their footprint. The sides represents the out-of-market breweries whose increasing capacity will require them to expand into new markets. Finally, the top represents larger breweries already in market with greater production capacity and capital. Regardless of how strong the economy or a specific industry is, any business owner can confirm that even if times are good, they are never easy. As we enter 2019, I believe there are measures that can be taken now to help the business for whatever challenges lay ahead. Finding your Place Amongst Parity: We live in a golden age when it comes to the availability of excellent beer. Prior to moving to Miami in late 2016, I use to live down the street from the Beer Temple in Chicago, IL. My work takes me back to Chicago regularly, and every time I stop in at the Beer Temple, I am amazed at the selection of beers just sitting on the shelves. For me, coming back to Chicago and visiting bottle shops is like stepping out of a 2016 timewarp. Just a few short years ago, I remember seeing Facebook posts about new bottle releases and then jetting out of my office to try and beat out the enterprising entrepreneurs following the trucks around the city. Today, those beers and many that are better can be found on shelves, with not a truck chaser in sight. I believe the simple reason for this is the volume of quality beers seeing distribution. Coupled with the limited offerings available as brewery only releases, there is no shortage of quality offerings in most communities. This parity is a major factor in the squeeze being felt by breweries across the country. In this landscape, where does your brewery fit in? As more breweries open and the number of available beers available increases, I believe this question becomes even more important. While some breweries focus primarily on specialty offerings, you have to ask where a $40 barrel aged sour or stout fits, when people are more mindful of their spending. As nationally-distributed breweries can offer a comparable product at half the price, what impact does that have on a more price-conscious customer base? If customers focus more on price point, does the brewery have the ability to adjust offerings to accommodate those changes? In a crowded marketplace, I believe narrowly-focused breweries are at risk. When breweries such as Hill Farmstead and Side Project have determined that selling pilsners and hazy IPAs is necessary, that is something to take note of. Focus on the Customer Experience: When it comes to limited beer releases, lines are a reality, but hours-long lines are a choice. In a landscape of increasing competition and market parity, customers will inevitably come around to this fact. In 2018, there was no shortage of stories about beer releases with overnight lines, with some even receiving local news coverage. What happens when consumers begin to ask why this sale was not conducted in a manner more respectful of their time? Justly or unjustly, breweries who are fortunate enough to have to deal with considerable demand for their limited releases will be judged on how they manage the sale process. While I often believe this criticism to be misplaced, it remains nonetheless, and must be managed accordingly. In reviewing the ways that bottle releases were run in 2018, I would like to highlight two breweries who did excellent job in terms of the experience they brought to their events and regular releases. In-demand breweries are in a difficult position, as they have to both manage their production of product as well as the expectations of the market. For this review, I will consider a pair of breweries who have done an excellent job of managing releases on a local level, as well as a market level. Voodoo Brewing (Meadville, PA) has built a nationally recognized brewery in Western Pennsylvania. Combining their production facility in Meadville with satellites spread throughout the state, Voodoo has built a loyal following, as well as national attention for their Barrel Room Collection. I find their management of the Barrel Room Collection to be beautifully simple. With seemingly no advance notice, Voodoo will release bottles periodically throughout the year, with pickup options…

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Mash Tun #13 Release Party in Chicago

  Join us Sunday, April 7th from 1-4pm at the Marz taproom and kitchen for the release of issue #13 of Mash Tun Journal. It is guest edited along with Miguel Rivas, the Beer Trekker. This issue features guides to some breweries and beer bars around the world as well as artist Jacob Ciocci’s essay about the hazy beer craze, “Why Can’t I taste Beer Online yet?”. Jacob will be present during the release party to share his research into the hazy, juicy beer trend. He has recently taken the position of Reverse Cloudy Boy Engineer at Marz, and will be unveiling his dry-hopped orange juice and hop smoothie concoctions that he has R&D-ed with our brewers. Mash Tun features contributions by: Kurt Boomer, Jacob Ciocci, Cain Czopek, Franklyn, Nick Gingold, Ben Macri, Michael Maloney, Jack Muldowney, Dan Murphy, Daniel Pische, Miguel Rivas, and Doug Veliky. Cover photo by the Beer Trekker, Miguel Rivas. The release party takes place during the Marz  Sunday Brunch Series: Microdose

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Interview with Lance Shaner of Omega Yeast Lab

Interview with Lance Shaner of Omega Yeast Lab By Tim Lange Beer can be made with as little as 4 ingredients including yeast, and the understanding and control of yeast and fermentation variables largely control the outcome and quality of any beer.   Yeast options and labs have grown with the rest of the craft beer industry, which means more brewers have access to a wide variety of fresh, healthy liquid yeasts from their regional suppliers.  At my brewery I worked with Omega Yeast Labs (OYL) to isolate bacteria from grains and test them to develop a new quick souring bacterium that’s been a significant element of our production, and now this bacterium is widely used across the industry today.  The open source nature of the people in craft beer allows cultures like these  to spread quickly and influence new beers.  The Midwest has especially been influenced by the work of Lance Shaner and his team at OYL, and I talked with him about their history and bright future here in Chicago. TIM: What’s the origin story for Omega? LANCE: It comes down to one discussion while I was an attorney. Before I was doing this I was a patent attorney at Marshall, Gerstein & Borun LLP here in Chicago and one of our colleagues at the firm, Andy, was one of the partners at 1090 brewing. We were at our annual associates Christmas lunch and I was chatting with Andy about his brewery and how that was coming along. They were still in planning and one of the things he mentioned was yeast and ordering from Wyeast with expensive overnight shipping. Yeast is a perishable product so it’s generally shipped next-day air. It clicked that second and I can trace all of this back to that one conversation and I thought this is something that needs to be done around here. No one else was doing it. That day I went home and told my wife I starting a yeast lab. She was skeptical for a while, but I started thinking about it and planning it. This was December 2012. One of my colleagues at the firm, Mark Schwartz ended up being my business partner. He was more entrepreneurial and business savvy than I was, so I was running everything by him at work. One day he stopped by my office and asked if I wanted a business partner. It was daunting to start something like this completely alone so it sounded good to me and we worked together from there on planning and finding a small space that ended up next to a costume warehouse and Lake Effect Brewing. I began doing small scale experiments at home, I’m a microbiologist by training and home brewed for years. We were operational by July 2013, so it came together really fast from initial conception to actually launching.   Lake Effect brewing was in the same building as us, so we had a customer there. 1090 started working with us right away. From there you know brewers are, they start talking to each other, and they did our marketing for us. T: And you were very present on social media doing Milk The Funk posts and commenting on things in front of a huge passionate group of pro and home brewers L: Sure, that came a little later and lead to good news and more notoriety that helped us grow. T: How different were the actual day to day operations and production projections for Omega compared to your business plan? Usually the business plan doesn’t play out as expected. L: Yeah, [laughing] it may sound ridiculous, but we never actually had a full written out business plan! T: You knew it was a pointless exercise? L: Yeah, ugghh, I don’t know.   I was in the right frame of mind at the time. I was actually looking to do something else, for other opportunities when I had that conversation [with Andy] so I was primed to do something else at that point. I loved the people I worked with, but I was getting bored with law work and then this happened. I ran with it. In some respects, we’re still doing things pretty similar to how we started. Without going into details, we’ve certainly tweaked things. Looking at what was out there and what was affordable at the beginning, things ended up working out very well. Our system is very flexible and if we have enough capacity we can turn around a 1bbl pitch into a 240bbl pitch from order to shipping. We could still to this day use more capacity. Now we have big tanks that can help us pool some orders, but it’s all based on the same principles of our original system just on a larger scale. The rate of growth of this industry and the fact that there’s nobody else within hundreds of miles doing what we’re doing, it was in my head that if we can do it right and execute it would just work [laughing]. That might have been wildly naïve, but like I said, I was in the right frame of mind and the right time in my life and career to take the risk. T: So going back before you were a patent attorney, what was your background as a microbiologist and how did these things come together before you started Omega? L: I was a microbiology undergrad from the University of Illinois in Champaign and while I was there they had a home brew club called BUZZ, Boneyard Union of Zymerlogical Zealots or something like that. It’s an official University sanctioned club and I was a member of that when I was 19 or 20. You can buy all the ingredients to make beer even if you aren’t 21. Grains, yeast, and hops aren’t inherently illegal on their own, so I joined and that’s when I was bitten by the home brewing bug. Looking back we did so many stupid things home brewers do; this…

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Mobile Canning or Bust

Interview with Joel McGinnis of Midwest Mobile Canning by Reuben Kincaid   The age of the bomber has seen it’s zenith. With hundreds of breweries and thousands of different skus available for sale, smaller breweries are having a harder time selling their beer in bomber format. In order to get their beer into store shelves it’s become necessary to put it in 12-16 ounce bottles or cans. Buying a canning machine can set you back between $50-250K and its not easy to invest or save that much money If yer only kicking out a few thousand barrels of beer a year.   To help growing breweries compete in the marketplace better mobile canning companies have sprouted up all around the country. I spoke to Joel McGinnis of Midwest Mobile Canning to check in on the state of the canning biz.   Tell us a little about you and the founders of the business.  What inspired you to be involved with the craft brewing industry? I spent several years in the retail industry both at the store level and corporate level. My father Terry was also in the retail industry at the corporate level. He was getting ready to retire but wanted something to keep him busy during retirement. We came across an article in a newspaper about the need for cans in the craft brewing industry. Most breweries are using their available capital on brewing equipment, tanks etc. and therefore do not have the extra resources to purchase a canning line. That’s when we decided that this is the perfect opportunity to fill that void. What was business like when you first started? What kind of barriers are there to entry and how did your business model change? Business was tough when we started approximately five years ago. We were not real familiar with the craft brewing industry, the process of brewing and of course the whole distribution process. For me, that was the biggest challenge. Running a business in an industry that you are not familiar with can be tough. We worked with some of our counterparts in different areas of the country that had a year or so under their belts. We learned a lot in the first six months. As we learned we started bringing on new accounts and shortly thereafter a second canning line was on order. Small breweries usually cannot afford a 4 head canning machine. And many of them are selling large format bottles or draft.  I am assuming those limitations helped you detect that there was a need for mobile canning in the marketplace for small brewers. What are some of the other reasons brewers call you for their services? Other than the cost of a canning line itself being an issue, breweries come to us with special requests. Whether it be fundraising events, weddings that need special cans for that special day, even ice fishing derbies here in the north need cans. Wherever there is a need for a one time run for an event they like to call on us and we can make it happen. We have a can supplier that can do one time runs on special labeled cans and breweries like that. What are the benefits of canning vs bottling beer? Cans have many benefits over bottles. Cans do not allow light in. Light is bad for beer which lessens the shelf life. Cans are 100% recyclable and they can also go places glass cannot go. Many parks, beaches, hotel pools, concert venues and sporting events do not allow glass. Distributors love cans. They are easy to stack, move, and store in their facilities. Can you describe the process of mobile canning? Give us a typical walk through on what happens before during and after your canning days. Canning a beer has to start out with a plan. We talk with the breweries and find out what their goal is and what they want in the end. We usually meet with them and do a site survey to make sure we have enough space to fit equipment. Once we decide that everything will work and we know what the brewery wants, we start the process of working on can designs and get the cans ordered. Cans are shipped to the facility approximately 2-3 days prior to the canning date. On the canning date we arrive, unload all equipment off the truck into the brewery, hook up all water, air, CO2 and eventually product. We require the brewery to have three helpers, one feed cans into the machine and two to put packteck handles on and put into cardboard flats as the cans are filled. Once all beer is canned, we clean the machine and pack up and the bewery handles all distribution to the retailers or distributors. Do you have any predictions for craft brewing in 2018? Some people see that the market is leveling off. Will this effect your business? At this point we are not seeing the market leveling off. I’m receiving calls everyday from either existing breweries that have not canned yet or startup breweries putting plans in place to put their product in cans. I do know that consumers love to buy local and being able to get their local brews in cans is a win for everyone.

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