Yes, Sir, Senator: A Bootlegger’s Palace Becomes a Brewer’s Paradise

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By Paul Durica ( from issue 009 )

Over eighty years after repeal, Prohibition and the trade in illegal alcohol its adoption promoted remains closely associated with the city of Chicago. What other city has as one of its most globally-known former residents a bootlegger and gangster, Al Capone? In what other place can tourists take an Untouchables tour led by the likes of Shoulders and Johnny Three Knives? Every bar of a certain age claims with pride to have survived the 1920s as a speakeasy although few can offer up any evidence to support this belief. As Northwestern University’s Bill Savage, who teaches a class on “The City That Drinks,” has observed, the successful speakeasies never got caught, while those who made the papers on account of a raid quickly shuttered. As I’ve written about in Mash Tun, a lot of the illegal industry involved homebrewers with so-called “beer flats” dotting the city. There is one verifiable speakeasy that not only survived Prohibition but managed to capitalize on its illicit fame to become one of Chicago’s most beloved and long-lived restaurants: Barney’s Market Club.

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Rotund and gregarious Barney Kessel enters the public record in a scene straight out of the Jimmy Stewart film Call Northside 777. In 1928, Barney’s restaurant (also an illegal bar, as the newspapers make clear) was held up, and one of the three robbers, Hyman Greenberg, was shot and killed by a police officer, Lt. John Kelley, who’d popped in for a backroom beer. Greenberg, 23, had worked for a printing press not far from Barney’s and had worn “smoked glasses” to conceal his identity. He was a member of one of the numerous immigrant communities residing near the restaurant on the city’s west side not far from Jane Addams and Ellen Gates Starr’s Hull House settlement. Not long after the botched robbery, Barney would find himself on the wrong side of the law, arrested for operating a speakeasy and sentenced to sixty days in the Ogle County Jail.

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Exhibiting the charm used on the connected and powerful throughout his career, Barney managed to escape his cell for twenty of those days, a minor scandal that resulted in the county sheriff being fined for failure to enforce prohibition laws and that suggested, as did the Greenberg shooting, that the relationship between local law enforcement and bootleggers wasn’t always antagonistic. Despite the arrest and brief imprisonment, Barney managed to open a second, larger restaurant in the late 1930s, right in the center of Chicago’s wholesale market district.

 

Barney’s Market Club is the restaurant most Chicagoans remember. It specialized in steak, lobster, and smelt. Bowls of radishes and green onions greeted visitors as they sat down at their tables, one of them, the so-called “Holy Corner,” reserved for men of the cloth. Eddie the harmonica player entertained as he wandered among the tables, some inside, some out, for Barney’s claimed to be city’s first sidewalk café. Overseeing it all, Barney, a white apron tied tight around his ever-expanding center, barked out, “Put him on the payroll” or “Yes, sir, Senator,” to the delight of patrons. Politicians, like priests, frequented the Market Club, and the story goes that Barney, never able to keep straight who held what office, referred to them all as “Senator.” Whether the story is truer than the numerous ones about Chicago speakeasies is difficult to tell, but as a marketing strategy, it worked: Barney’s Market Club quickly established itself as one of Chicago’s most colorful restaurants. Barney got in trouble with the law again in the middle of World War II for selling more steaks than his ration points allowed, but, as was the case in his bootlegger days, this infraction made him only more popular with the public. A diet of his own steaks and lobster eventually caught up with him, and Barney died of a heart attack in 1951. His son-in-law took over the business and employees at the Market Club continued to call everyone “Senator” until its closing in 1996.

 

While Barney Kessel managed to not only survive but also thrive in the aftermath of Prohibition, the same could not be said of Chicago’s brewing industry. In 1900, sixty breweries operated in the city. The passage of the 18th Amendment and the Volstead Act that brought about Prohibition ended the existence of all but a handful. Those that survived succumbed, one by one, as national brands such as Miller and Anheuser-Busch took over the market. Then, starting in the late 1980s, craft breweries, Goose Island chief among them, started to appear. Today Chicago has over 150 craft breweries, with more opening each month.
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One of them, Haymarket Pub and Brewery, occupies the old Barney’s Market Club with 11 of its own award-winning craft beers and 13 guests drafts on tap. “We searched around town for over a year looking for a spot that was both a good location and also steeped in Chicago’s rich history,” says brewmaster and co-owner Pete Crowley. “When we walked into Barney’s old space in the Haymarket Square, we knew instantly we had found it.” The brewery may take its name from a different part of Chicago’s past but, through Barney’s Market Club, connects back to Prohibition. Haymarket makes one grateful, with each sip of its Speakerswagon Pilsner or Mathias Imperial IPA, that those unenlightened times are behind us and that we can all still feel like Senators.

 

 

 

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C.H.A.O.S. Diaspora: When Homebrewers Go Pro, Pt 4

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By Calvin Fredrickson

C.H.A.O.S. brew club is a homebrew collective located in Chicago’s Near West Side. Established in 2011, C.H.A.O.S provides brewing resources to budding homebrewers, from equipment, to cellaring space, to camaraderie. But if you’re just looking for a good time without a serious commitment to brewing, do not miss their seasonal parties, which are open to the public through a trial membership. A dazzling array of food – prepared by C.H.A.O.S. homebrewers –is served alongside adventurous homebrew with a deftness to make an epicurean blush.

Many homebrewers dream of taking their stovetop batches to a commercial scale. The following homebrewers did just that. Some were present at C.H.A.O.S. from its inception, or close to it, while others had only a brief involvement with the club. One thing is certain of these homebrewers: their shared goal of working in the beer industry was impacted by their time at C.H.A.O.S. These homebrewers found a way to go pro. We hope their stories inspire you like they inspired us.


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Eric Olson
Occupation before going pro: Bartender and beer-buyer
Current industry gig: Production manager, Marz Community Brewing Co.

How and when did you catch the homebrewing bug?

Mike Marszewski, the owner of Maria’s Packaged Goods and Community Bar, introduced me to homebrewing. He helped me brew my first homebrew in my apartment which is now occupied by Marz’s brewhouse. This was the summer of 2011.

C.H.A.O.S. members range from casual to obsessive homebrewers. Where did you fall on that spectrum?

Relative to the rest of the brewers, I’d say I fell somewhere in the middle. At any given point I had at most 2 carboys in the fermentation room or “ferm-room,” as members call it. My homebrewing was split between beers I brewed at the C.H.A.O.S. club house and those I brewed at home.

Did you have an epiphany homebrew where you said, “Man, I could sell this. I should make a go of it”? 

The beer I impressed myself the most with was an American brown ale that I had added some rhubarb and strawberries to. It was early spring when I brewed it, so I was able to utilize some fresh rhubarb from my mother’s garden in Rockford, IL. It had a wonderful tartness from the fruit backed by a robust, toasty malt bill. The beer really mimicked the experience of eating fresh strawberry rhubarb pie.

So, how did you “go pro?”

Well, I’m glad you put that question in air quotes. I’ve been in the process of becoming a pro the last year and a half working at Marz. No one simply goes pro overnight. That said, the way I stepped out of the world of homebrewing and into the world of commercial brewing started out with talks Ed Marszewski and I had. We already had this deep affection for craft beers, drinking and serving them at Maria’s. After about a year or so of nonchalantly talking about starting a brewery, a small little storefront in Bridgeport opened up (my old apartment in the back). We decided this would be as good a place as any to make our liquid dreams a reality.

What does your role at Marz entail?

Managing production at Marz entails scheduling our production and staff. Working with ingredient and equipment suppliers to ensure the brewery has the materials to brew and package our beers. Being such a small brewery we all wear a lot of different hats, so on any given day you might also see me graining out a mash tun, cleaning kegs, or labeling bottles, etc.

What’s the latest at Marz, and which of your beers are you jazzed about?

We recently packaged a sour version of our Bridgeporter. It packs nearly a pound of fruit per gallon, including elderberries, cherries, and blackberries. Fruited sour up front, porter on the finish. <Doing my best jazz hands>.

Any advice for homebrewers or beer freaks lookin’ to go pro?

The biggest piece of advice I have is learn from your local commercial brewers as much as possible. If you live near Chicago or another major craft beer hub, you are surrounded by many brewers with a plethora of knowledge. Brewers learn and improve they’re craft by making mistakes (which you don’t have to make!) So ask around your local breweries to volunteer or just hang out learn. Take notes, ask questions, and always pay attention to what the brewers are doing. This will pay major dividends when it comes to troubleshooting your own brewery.  In addition, homebrew clubs like C.H.A.O.S. are hotbeds for brewing know-how. I was amazed at how much I learned about brewing sitting on the clubhouse couch (RIP old friend) hungover on a Sunday afternoon.

 

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Tim Lange
Occupation before going pro: Senior IT systems consultant
Current industry gig: Head brewer, Marz Community Brewing Co.  

How and when did you catch the homebrewing bug?   

Just after college, my roommate’s girlfriend gave him a homebrewing kit and basic hardware, but it sat around our apartment unopened and unused for long enough that it became common property. I read Charlie Papazian’s book, got inspired and fermented a few barely drinkable beers in a closet. Friend and colleague Tremaine Atkinson (CH distillery) was a homebrewer years before this. After hearing about my semi-successful extract batches, he brought over his mash/boil kettle and a Blichmann wort chiller for my first all-grain brew.  We had a stuck sparge but made a great beer!

C.H.A.O.S. members range from casual to obsessive homebrewers. Where did you fall on that spectrum?

After my first few batches, brewing became a full-blown obsession pretty quickly. I built a temp controller out of Radioshack parts and turned a 14′ deep freezer into a fermentation chamber—this drastically changed the quality of my homebrews into something I was proud to share. Building a kegerator also helped develop my palate and understand how beers change over time as they lager and stale in kegs.  The last major step up was getting a 20-gallon Blichmann brew system that effectively doubled my output and allowed for split batches.  I was making two kegs in less time than I previously made one, and could experiment with different yeasts and dry hops in each keg.

Did you have an epiphany homebrew where you said, “Man, I could sell this. I should make a go of it”? 

My day-to-day life was lacking creativity, and brewing filled that void. I have the technical side at my job, but “creativity” is limited to problem solving. Beer satisfies both. Selling beer was always a fantasy, and it probably is for many homebrewers. But meeting Ed and getting involved with Marz actually made it possible. Trying to get into Marz forced me to work harder at brewing and evaluate each beer much more critically. I was testing my recipes against the Marz guys hoping they’d want to brew them.

So, how did you “go pro?”

I joined Square Kegs homebrew club, and later, C.H.A.O.S., to get feedback from peers and talk beer on a technical level. Square Kegs lead to entering a couple competitions and winning a couple awards. My girlfriend found an article about Ed starting Marz during this time, so I started sending lots of emails and commuting to Maria’s bar to get some facetime and share my beers with the crew.  My last award was at an event Ed hosted, and he finally caved to my persistence and gave me a chance at Marz.

What does your role at Marz entail?  

We brew three days a week right now and I brew the Saturday batch. During the week, after my day job, I spend some evenings creating or tweaking existing recipes. I also do a lot of research related to processes, equipment, or supplies. We’re fortunate to have a lot of awesome, experienced friends in the industry to guide us in making some decisions, so I spend time connecting with and learning from them. I owe a lot of people a lot of beers. There’s so much to learn as a new brewery. We’re also working on building our new production brewery and taproom.

What’s the latest at Marz, and which of your beers are you jazzed about?

Starting out, we initially made some compromises for our recipes in the name of consistency and quality.  We had to prove to ourselves and consumers that we could make good beer and repeat it.  We generally used one yeast for a lot of our beers, for example, so we could eliminate a massive fermentation variable in our recipes and focus on malt and hop adjustments with each new batch.  We’ve learned a lot in a year and half and we’re applying this experience to help us make better and more interesting beers today.  We’re at an exciting transitional time in a lot of ways.  Last year we started filling barrels with various wild beers with great results. I can’t wait to work more with these types of beers in our new facility later this year. Most of my favorite beers are mixed cultures aged in wood. .

Any advice for homebrewers or beer freaks lookin’ to go pro?

Ask yourself why you want to go pro. There are many constraints, considerations, and timelines that don’t generally exist with homebrewing. Brew a lot to see if the passion sticks or fizzles before wasting anyone’s time in a brewery. Also, be very critical of your beers and aspire to brew as well as the leaders in the industry. That’s what people want to drink and how you’ll be measured. And dump shitty beer!

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C.H.A.O.S. Diaspora: When Homebrewers Go Pro, Pt 3

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By Calvin Fredrickson

C.H.A.O.S. brew club is a homebrew collective located in Chicago’s Near West Side. Established in 2011, C.H.A.O.S provides brewing resources to budding homebrewers, from equipment, to cellaring space, to camaraderie. But if you’re just looking for a good time without a serious commitment to brewing, do not miss their seasonal parties, which are open to the public through a trial membership. A dazzling array of food – prepared by C.H.A.O.S. homebrewers –is served alongside adventurous homebrew with a deftness to make an epicurean blush.

Many homebrewers dream of taking their stovetop batches to a commercial scale. The following homebrewers did just that. Some were present at C.H.A.O.S. from its inception, or close to it, while others had only a brief involvement with the club. One thing is certain of these homebrewers: their shared goal of working in the beer industry was impacted by their time at C.H.A.O.S. These homebrewers found a way to go pro. We hope their stories inspire you like they inspired us.
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David Williams
Occupation before going pro: Technical consultant (I still do this, too).
Current industry gig: Head brewer, Horse Thief Hollow

How and when did you catch the homebrewing bug?  

I started brewing after a move from Philly to Chicago early-2006.  I saw an episode of Good Eats with Alton Brown, and it looked like something that was interesting and fun. I lived in Naperville, IL at the time, and the closest homebrew shop was The Brewers Coop located inside Two Brothers Brewing. I visited the shop and bought my first homebrewing setup from Jim Ebel. I started brewing on my own for a while and later with friends.

C.H.A.O.S. members range from casual to obsessive homebrewers. Where did you fall on that spectrum?

When I first started, it was very casual. I made the same amber beer featured on Good Eats. It wasn’t bad, but it wasn’t great. I was really into Belgian beers around the time I first started homebrewing. It wasn’t until my third batch that I decided to make a Belgian-style Beer. Belgian-style beers are good to brew early on in the hobby – they’re very forgiving as far as pitch quantity and fermentation temperature goes. That third batch opened my eyes to what kind of beer could be made in my kitchen. From there, it became an obsession.

Did you have an epiphany homebrew where you said, “Man, I could sell this. I should make a go of it”?

I didn’t start out with any ambition to turn into a professional brewer.  It’s something that just sort of fell into place, and it’s something I do as a passion of love, because it’s certainly not something you get into for a huge paycheck. With that in mind, the notion of “Man, I could sell this” was never something I considered. It was more of “Man, this tastes good. I can’t wait to share it with my other homebrewing friends and family.”

So, how did you “go pro?”

I met Neil, the owner of Horse Thief Hollow, when he was first starting to plan out the brewpub – it was very early on in the process when it was a little more than an idea. I literally hear hundreds of people tell me “Hey, I’m opening a brewery.” So, I didn’t think much of it. He came to a C.H.A.O.S. event and tried some of my beer. We hung out at that event and later on went to other craft beer establishments, and over time, we became friends. Once he had purchased a building, Neil invited me to check out a rough space that would later become the brewpub for Horse Thief. I brewed some homebrew beers for an informal construction party. After that party, Neil asked me to help set up the brewery, and later he asked me to be the brewer for Horse Thief Hollow.

What does your role at Horse Thief Hollow entail?

I am the head brewer at our 90-seat brewpub in Chicago’s Beverly neighborhood. We have a full kitchen and brew all of our beer on-site. As head brewer, I am in charge of production on a five-barrel brewhouse where we fill either five- or 10-barrel fermenters. I run all the typical operations of a small brewery, from brewing to cellar duties.

What’s the latest at Horse Thief, and which of your beers are you jazzed about?

We recently brewed Cheval Deux, a biere de darde with sweet potatoes. It’s typically a Fall seasonal, but we re-brewed it a few weeks ago to enter into the World Beer Cup happening this year in my hometown, Philadelphia. We did pretty well with this beer in the last WBC, winning a silver medal in the field beer category. We’ve got our fingers crossed for similar luck this year.

Any advice for homebrewers or beer freaks lookin’ to go pro?

I feel like brewing is in a renaissance period right now. There’s never been a better time to get into the industry. But you should only get into it if you have the right motivations. Being a shift brewer or even head brewer isn’t going to send you home with your pockets stuffed full of money. You’re gonna work hard, long, exhausting hours. You’ll most likely be paid crap, and at the end of the day, you’re basically a glorified janitor. If you’re okay with that and truly have a love for making beer and all the creativity that goes into it, then there isn’t a better gig around. The brewing community and people you will meet are some of the best people you’ll have the privilege to meet. The community, having a creative outlet, and being able to make something with your own hands is what makes it all worthwhile.

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Jason Krasowski
Occupation before going pro: Sign manufacturer
Current industry gig: Brewer, Begyle Brewing

How and when did you catch the homebrewing bug?

I spent a lot of years around homebrewers, watching and helping, but I have to thank my father-in-law for pushing me to start really doing it myself three-four years ago by signing me up for the American Homebrewers Association and giving me a copy of How To Brew. The hands-on process and creation of an end product that others could enjoy got me.

C.H.A.O.S. members range from casual to obsessive homebrewers. Where did you fall on that spectrum?

Somewhere in the middle. I was brewing twice a month when I first joined the club, and C.H.A.O.S. was my first all-grain brewing, so I really got super obsessive about hitting all my numbers (OG, FG) and making good yeast starters. But when I was there, I was always trying to listen, learn and ask questions from the other members. I think that was and is my favorite part. Everyone was super helpful. At first, I was a little intimidated by the process, but felt more at ease because of the friendliness of the other members. It was a relaxed environment and I took every opportunity I could to learn from others.

Did you have an epiphany homebrew where you said, “Man, I could sell this. I should make a go of it”? 

It wasn’t some recipe that set me on the path – it was realizing that I enjoyed the non-sexy details of the brewing process, like cleaning and cellar work. At almost 40 years old, I didn’t think I could have the career in beer that I wanted, that maybe the time had passed, but the craft community was inspiring and welcoming. I used to listen to brewing podcasts all day while I worked at the sign shop and just think about beer, but now I don’t need to do that. I just get up and go to work. I’m living it now, that’s the part I still pinch myself about.

So, how did you “go pro?”

My first step was to take the Concise Course [in Brewing Technology] at Siebel Institute so I had some tangible knowledge about what I was trying to do, and to show my potential employer I was serious about this career change. From there, it was looking at probrewer.com and waiting for the right opportunity. I went on a few interviews before I got the job at Begyle, and now I thank God those other ones didn’t work out because I definitely feel like what I do now is a perfect fit.

What does your role at Begyle entail?

Our head brewer, Liz French, our cellarman/cider maker, Paul Cade, and I do everything that has to get done to get great beer into your hands. Our brewery isn’t very automated, so from dumping grain and doughing-in to building case boxes, we do whatever is needed. But mostly, we clean…a lot.

What’s the latest at Begyle, and which of your beers are you jazzed about?

Oh, man! That’s a tough question to answer! We’re lucky that our bosses are very supportive and trusting with putting the power of development in our hands, so we’ve been able to do some cool new things, like the Irish Red we have on tap now, or the barleywine in the fermenter. And we’ve been able to tweak older recipes to make them exactly the way we want them, like our double IPA, Quagmire. I liked the beer before, but after just a few small adjustments, it’s so juicy and drinkable to me, it’s scary!

Any advice for homebrewers or beer freaks lookin’ to go pro?

Here’s what I’ve learned….
Taking a class from Siebel or somewhere that is industry-related is a big help, and looks great on a resume. It sets you apart from the competition, and let’s us know you’re serious about being in the business. So much about working at a brewery has to do with personality. You are really selling yourself, and whether or not they can see themselves working with you for what can be long, tough days. So remember, attitude is important!

As far as resume goes, nobody cares how many check-ins you have on Untappd or breweries you’ve visited. Seriously. We all drink beer, that’s why we’re here. How does what you are doing now relate to the multitasking you would be doing in a brewery? Someone told me once, “I can teach anyone to make beer, what I can’t teach is how to be a hard worker.” It’s very true.

 

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C.H.A.O.S. Diaspora: When Homebrewers Go Pro, Part 2

C.H.A.O.S. Diaspora: When Homebrewers Go Pro

By Calvin Fredrickson

 

C.H.A.O.S. brew club is a homebrew collective located in Chicago’s Near West Side. Established in 2011, C.H.A.O.S provides brewing resources to budding homebrewers, from equipment, to cellaring space, to camaraderie. But if you’re just looking for a good time without a serious commitment to brewing, do not miss their seasonal parties, which are open to the public through a trial membership. A dazzling array of food – prepared by C.H.A.O.S. homebrewers –is served alongside adventurous homebrew with a deftness to make an epicurean blush. Their annual Cerveza de Mayo is May 7th, 2016. See chaosbrewclub.net for more info.

 

Many homebrewers dream of taking their stovetop batches to a commercial scale. The following homebrewers did just that. Some were present at C.H.A.O.S. from its inception, or close to it, while others had only a brief involvement with the club. One thing is certain of these homebrewers: their shared goal of working in the beer industry was impacted by their time at C.H.A.O.S. These homebrewers found a way to go pro. We hope their stories inspire you like they inspired us.

 

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Edward Nash
Occupation before going pro: Product manager
Current industry gig: Co-owner and head brewer, Arclight Brewing Co.

How and when did you catch the homebrewing bug?

My father used to homebrew in the late 70’s. That was my first exposure to fermentation. Later, I had a girlfriend that said I should get a hobby. She suggested homebrewing, and I happened to be a garage sale where they had a homebrew kit never opened for $5, so I bought it. I bought an extract kit to familiarize myself with the brewing process, and then went straight into all-grain brewing. I read everything I could get my hands on and started brewing about twice a week. I also traveled a lot and would visit as many breweries as I could for future reference. I came across C.H.A.O.S., who would hold public events where you could serve your homebrew, which was awesome, so I joined them. That just fueled my desire to open a brewery.

C.H.A.O.S. members range from casual to obsessive homebrewers. Where did you fall on that spectrum?

Hard to put a label on it…but I was brewing twice a week…so…

Did you have an epiphany homebrew where you said, “Man, I could sell this. I should make a go of it”? 

Not really…I just tried to brew the best beer I could, actually I felt I could brew better beer going pro because I had access to better technology for controlling the brewing process you do not normally have as a homebrewer.

So, how did you “go pro?”

Made a decision to go for it, found a partner, and we started the process of opening a brewery.

What does your role at Arclight entail?

 I’m the co-owner and head brewer. My job entails everything in the brewing process, and I am assisted by my assistant brewer. As co-owner, I split the duties of ownership with my partner. I generally handle everything in the back of the house while he handles the front of the house, such as the taproom.

What’s the latest at Arclight, and which of your beers are you jazzed about?

We have a sour program here and we do mostly fruited American sours. Our cellar has 30 oak barrels aging cherry, mango, strawberry, strawberry-rhubarb, and raspberry sours currently. We also have an Imperial Golden Java Milk Stout that is really popular. Additionally, we make sodas in-house, which we use to create shandies that are very popular. They have been a great gateway into craft beer for a lot of people.

Any advice for homebrewers or beer freaks lookin’ to go pro?

Going pro is more than just upgrading your homebrew system and selling beer. There is so much added to the process that a lot of people do not realize. Dealing with contractors, federal and state agencies, suppliers, dealing with employees – the list goes on. In reality, actual brewing is a small part of owning a brewery, if that is the route you want to take. If you just want to be a pro brewer and brew at a brewery, be prepared to be flexible. Every system is different and you have to learn to deal with its advantages and shortcomings. Read anything and everything you can on brewing and don’t be afraid to try and fail. Not everything you make will be awesome, but it will make you a better brewer.

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Reed Schwenger
Occupation before going pro: Food service industry
Current industry gig: Brewer, Goose Island Beer Co.

How and when did you catch the homebrewing bug?

I caught the homebrewing bug after I worked at a craft beer/farm-to-table restaurant in River North. At the time I was 20, was seriously interested, and was eager to learn more. Being 20, I was very “up in the air” with what I wanted to do with my life. I didn’t really have much direction, and never felt I fit in any one specific career. However, I did know that I was extremely passionate about all of the aspects that came with the beer industry. I was always, in a way, “a jack of all trades, master of none.” The beer world had everything I was looking for: Farm-to-table, grain-to-glass, artistic attitude, and a mysterious type of take on the beverage realm. People would say, “Whoa, that’s the brewer…(and in a way)…that guy makes magic in a pot!” and I wanted to be that guy. Furthermore, the brewing industry was, and still is, so hugely multifaceted in community. When it comes to beer geeks, we can talk about beer all day and night; we speak our own language.

C.H.A.O.S. members range from casual to obsessive homebrewers. Where did you fall on that spectrum?

The community basis of this industry is what keeps us going. Brewing beer isn’t the most beautiful job, but the community that surrounds it is. This is the reason I wanted to be a part of C.H.A.O.S., as they’re such a great club with so many fingers in Chicago. At the time I became a member, I had a lot of my own equipment already, I always had something going either in fermentation or in maturation. C.H.A.O.S. was something that would have been good as I needed a place outside of my condo on the 16th floor, a community of people I could speak, chill, and learn with. Although I never brewed there, I have spoken, chilled, and learned with them. They’re great people. You mentioned spectrum, I was on the obsessive end of it, and there are people from C.H.A.O.S. who fall into everything from casual to obsessive.

Did you have an epiphany homebrew where you said, “Man, I could sell this. I should make a go of it”?

I think I was brewing beer one time, and in the background on T.V. was How It’s Made. I was staring at the abyss of the show and had a boil over. For some reason, this was the time I thought about going pro seriously. I loved automation, systems, operations, working with people, and making what seems like nothing into something people can physically put their tongue on and taste. Including this, the feedback, and learning from one another is especially fun.

So, how did you “go pro”?

While working as a bartender at numerous establishments, I was always trying to get off work and use as many connections to get my foot in the door. I knew it wouldn’t be easy, but remembered the importance of working for free when you love something. I knew that if I was seriously committed to building a career out of this, I should gain formal education. I attended Siebel institute of Technology for their Concise Course in Brewing Technology, and in 2015 I was part of their Master Brewers Program in both Chicago and at Doemens in Bavaria. After graduating, and all that money spent, I learned a hell of a lot, but was also able to prove that if I was willing to foot the bill for school and be successful there, I must be passionate, trainable, and hardworking.

What does your role at Goose Island entail?

Currently, I have been at our barrel-aging warehouse working with Bourbon County Stout, BCS variants, and our Sour Sisters as well. It’s hard work, but it’s definitely fun. We work with a great team of people, and we’re always learning. The moment I was able to catch my breath, I had to have the C.H.A.O.S. guys come in and see the place. We gave them free reign on the facility, and had a great time getting to know each other better. Goose Island is making some big changes, and we shutting down the brewery for the month of March as we install new equipment. We’re still here with lots of catch-up work, and a bit of travel for many of the brewers. When we get back on track, I’ll be heading over to the brewery on Fulton. I’ll miss the barrels for sure, but they’ll always be nearby.

What’s the latest at Goose, and which of your beers are you jazzed about?

For beer, I’m very jazzed about or 2015 Halia release. It’s really a great beer that showcases the variability of the barrel-aging program. The differences that we see from one year’s vintage to the next is so similar, but so different. 2014 was very peachy, where 2015 shines with the oak. The wood and fruit really worked well with one another in the cask. I’m definitely looking forward to our new equipment, and I’m eager to work with it.

Any advice for homebrewers or beer freaks lookin’ to “go pro”?

My advice for home brewers, and/or beer geeks going pro, is to brew beer. You may be able to read and talk about beer…you may know all of the mistakes possible, but you have to get your hands dirty, and you have to take reasonable risks. Join a club like C.H.A.O.S.! After all, it’s just beer, it isn’t brain surgery, so most of all, have fun.

 

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Eric Padilla
Occupation before going pro: Database application developer
Current industry gig: Former head brewer, Breakroom Brewery

How and when did you catch the homebrewing bug?

I started homebrewing just over four years ago with a couple of my friends. We wanted to learn how to make beer since we had been craft beer fans for a while, so we put together some money and we purchased equipment and recipe kits to get us started. Our first beer was a pale ale kit that we got with our equipment bundle.

C.H.A.O.S. members range from casual to obsessive homebrewers. Where did you fall on that spectrum?

I guess I would say obsessive. When we started homebrewing we were making a batch just about every other week. We had to purchase more kegs and fermenters soon after we started in order to keep up the pace. This helped us learn a lot about brewing in a short amount of time, and allowed us to see our beers steadily improve with each batch.

Did you have an epiphany homebrew where you said, “Man, I could sell this. I should make a go of it”? 

Not really, but I did notice that more and more people were liking my beer the more I brewed. I put a lot of time and effort into learning as much about brewing in order to make beer that actually tasted good. It was very rewarding to share a glass of a beer that I made with friends and have them enjoy it. I would get asked frequently about becoming a pro brewer, but at the time I had no idea what it took to actually start a brewery. I wasn’t until later when I started meeting pro brewers that I actually got to see what was involved in making beer on a large scale.

So, how did you “go pro?”

My first pro brewing gig was at Horse Thief Hollow brewpub in Beverly about three years ago. My friend, Dave Williams, invited me to come brew with him when he started as head brewer there, so I would head there after work to assist him. I was very lucky to have this opportunity because I learned a tremendous amount about running a new brewery. Without that experience I would not have been able to hit the ground running to get Breakroom Brewery started in the short time we had. This past year was great learning experience for me, and I am truly grateful for the opportunity to expand as a brewer and to be able to get direct feedback on the beer that I brewed. While I am currently pursuing a new path, I wish the best for the Breakroom group and their new partnerships.

What does your role at Breakroom entail?

As the head brewer I pretty much got to do all aspects of running the brewery – from developing recipes, ordering ingredients, brewing, cellaring, cleaning, record keeping, etc. There is a lot of manual work involved and some days can be long, but it is all worth it once you take a sip of your latest brew.

What’s the latest at Breakroom, and which of your beers are you jazzed about?

I recently made a Mosaic-hopped pale ale Mosa that I split in half to ferment with two different yeast strains. One half was pitched with American yeast and dry-hopped with Amarillo hops, while the other got a Belgian Trappist strain and was dry-hopped with Cascade. I’m a big fan of these hops, and doing this split batch shows how the type of yeast used can complement them in different ways. The clean profile of the American yeast lets the hops shine through, while the esters from the Belgian strain meld with the hops to create something unique.

Any advice for homebrewers or beer freaks lookin’ to go pro?

Keep brewing, and learn as much about brewing as you can. Read as much brewing material as possible or take formal classes. Then try to intern or volunteer at a local brewery. If you feel brewing is something you’re passionate about, then make the leap and apply for a position at a brewery that can get your foot in the door.

 

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C.H.A.O.S. Diaspora: When Homebrewers Go Pro, Part 1

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By Calvin Fredrickson


C.H.A.O.S. brew club is a homebrew collective located in Chicago’s Near West Side. Established in 2011, C.H.A.O.S provides brewing resources to budding homebrewers, from equipment, to cellaring space, to camaraderie. But if you’re just looking for a good time without a serious commitment to brewing, do not miss their seasonal parties, which are open to the public through a trial membership. A dazzling array of food – prepared by C.H.A.O.S. homebrewers –is served alongside adventurous homebrew with a deftness to make an epicurean blush. Their annual Cerveza de Mayo is May 7th, 2016. See chaosbrewclub.net for more info.

Many homebrewers dream of taking their stovetop batches to a commercial scale. The following homebrewers did just that. Some were present at C.H.A.O.S. from its inception, or close to it, while others had only a brief involvement with the club. One thing is certain of these homebrewers: their shared goal of working in the beer industry was impacted by their time at C.H.A.O.S. These homebrewers found a way to go pro. We hope their stories inspire you like they inspired us. Our first installment features Christopher Murphy and Curtis J. Tarver II + Quintin L. Cole

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Christopher Murphy
Occupation before going pro: Web/graphic designer
Currently: Senior web/graphic designer, Louis Glunz Beer Inc.

How and when did you catch the homebrewing bug?

My wife and I got a Coopers homebrew kit for our wedding. We made a bad lager from extract. Not too long after we met co-founders Iggy Ignaczak and David Williams and joined C.H.A.O.S., we started doing all-grain batches. From there, our excitement just took off. We were also pretty engaged in the Brew Ha Ha events as well, on both sides of the table.

C.H.A.O.S. members range from casual to obsessive homebrewers. Where did you fall on that spectrum?

These days I’m casually obsessive. I have a two-year-old son, with a daughter on the way, so I haven’t had time to brew as much as I once did. When I get the chance, I am obsessive about it, researching classic styles, dialing in water profiles and geeking out about the finer details of homebrewing.

Did you have an epiphany homebrew where you said, “Man, I could sell this. I should make a go of it”? 

I never really sought out a “beer career” – I was fortunate that it found me. I quit a job I was miserable at, and the position at Glunz came about at the same time.

So, how did you “go pro?”

My wife, Jessica of GirlsLikeBeerToo.net, was asked to blog the visit of the Hirter Bier’s brewery staff at Temperance in association with the Hirter Überbrew homebrew competition, and I tagged along as photographer as I often do. There, we met Jennifer, the marketing manager at Glunz. A few weeks later, she was looking for a designer. I had just quit my previous job and was looking for something new and it all worked out.

What does your role at Glunz entail?

I do a broad range of things at Glunz. Currently, I am working on a major update to glunzbeers.com. I also work on the catalogs and do some product photography in a pinch. There was also an opportunity to work on some co-branded beers with Anchor. I put together art for S.O.B. Ale for Shaw’s Oyster Bar, and Green Door Lager for Green Door Tavern. The work here has been very fulfilling.

Which of Glunz’s portfolio’s beers are you jazzed about?

Lindemans is going to be regularly releasing their Kriek Cuvée René. This is a more traditional lambic and not the super sweetened kriek most people are familiar with. While I love local craft, these days I get excited about niche and forgotten import styles of beer. A good example is Pinkus Münster Alt, which is not your typical dark altbier; it’s more like a cross between helles lager and saison. It has the nice bready malt base with a lovely floral and spicy fragrance and overtones.

Any advice for homebrewers or beer freaks lookin’ to go pro?

Get involved with the community however that may be: blogging, volunteering for bottling, events, design and art. The Chicago beer community is tight and networking is everything. At the very least you’ll meet a good bunch of people with a passion for beer and drink the best beer.

 

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Curtis J. Tarver II + Quintin L. Cole 
Occupations before going pro: Lawyer (Curtis) and physical therapist (Quintin)
Current industry gig: Co-owners, Vice District Brewing Co.

How and when did you catch the homebrewing bug?

We both learned early on in 2011 when we met (during the blizzard of 2011) that we enjoyed drinking beer but also we wanted to start homebrewing. So, it was five years ago now that we jumped all in and we haven’t turned back.

C.H.A.O.S. members range from casual to obsessive homebrewers. Where did you fall on that spectrum?

We were obsessive. We brewed two to three times per week. Q traveled a lot for work so he’d mostly have to brew on weekends. He’d brew all weekend. Curtis’ job is based in Chicago, so he would brew throughout the week.

Did you have an epiphany homebrew where you said, “Man, I could sell this. I should make a go of it”? 

No, we didn’t have an epiphany. We had people who enjoyed our beer. We just wanted to make beer for the creative aspect – not to sell. The epiphany was really our wives kicking us out of the basement.

So, how did you “go pro?” 

With full-time jobs, wives, and children (Curtis has two little ones under three), the option to volunteer here or there wasn’t realistic. The only option for us was to start our own thing. We know each other – we know our respective commitment and drive. So, rather than asking others to gamble on us with their business, we asked friends and family to gamble on us with our own business.

What does your role at Vice District entail?

We have a head brewer, Amanda Bates, who is phenomenal. Our role at the brewery is really assisting her as needed. We can’t brew as obsessively as we did while homebrewing because now we have to run essentially two businesses and two locations (our second location in Homewood, IL will be open this summer).

What’s the latest at Vice District, and which of your beers are you jazzed about?

The latest is our expansion project. We are super excited about the ability to get beer into cans and kegs and out into the market. The response to the taproom has been outstanding and we hope to carry that forward. The beer we are most stoked about right now is called Far from Ordinary, which is an English Best Bitter.

Any advice for homebrewers or beer freaks lookin’ to go pro?

Do it for the right reasons, for the creative process and the ability to share good beer with good people. If you are chasing money, this isn’t the right space.

 

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The Growler Standoff

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The Growler Standoff with Zak Rotello and Chris Quinn

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The Growler Standoff: Free the Growler

By Zak Rotello

If you’re already a Mash Tun reader, I highly doubt I need to school you on growlers. But for the uninitiated: growlers began as lidded metal pails that customers (or possibly their kids) would fill up with draught beer at the local saloon. Taverns have been filling growlers since the late 1800s when the term was coined, and in modern times, breweries have used them as a convenient way to get their beer in the hands of consumers without dealing with the complex maze of labeling, licensing, and packaging issues that come with bottles and cans. Modern growlers run the gamut from the ever-popular 64-ounce glass jug, to handmade ceramic works of art, to high tech CO2-pressurized, double-walled, stainless steel vessels.

 

Admittedly, they’re an imperfect container for beer (see Chris Quinn’s counterpoint), but still a useful one. They’re great for our environment, since there’s almost zero packaging waste and they’re reusable. They’re great for enjoying draught beers that may not be available in bottled or can packages. They’re not so great for extended storage due to oxidation and/or carbonation loss. But still, I’d much rather have a 4 day old growler of double IPA, than a bottle that’s been sitting on the store shelf for 90+ days. And if brewers truly thought they were such a horrible container for their beer, they wouldn’t be selling them.

 

Stay with me, this gets a little technical…

 

In April 2014, in response to many requests from their retailers and publicans, the Illinois Craft Brewer’s Guild issued a press release stating, “Filling growlers is a well-established right or special privilege in Illinois that brewers have in order to guarantee and protect the integrity and freshness of their product.” The guild cited a section in the Illinois liquor code that prohibits retailers from “repackaging”, or refilling original containers. Of course, that clause exists for good reason – no one likes the idea of unscrupulous bartenders refilling the Van Winkle bottle with Very Old Barton when no one’s looking. Brewers also expressed their concern over quality. If someone brought in a dirty growler, would a bar still fill it with beer and potentially give their brand a bad reputation?

 

Brewers’ concerns about cleanliness and sanitation are understandable, but that concern should probably be aimed at pub glassware first and foremost. Considering the vast majority of draft beer is served over the bar at restaurants and bars in Illinois, it’s uncertain why the brewers’ concern about draught quality only surfaced when bars & restaurants started asking about growlers. Furthermore, the code they cited doesn’t refer to growlers.

 

A growler is not an original container any more than a pint glass, or a tulip, or a pitcher – kegs are the original container for draught beer. Growlers are purchased separately from the cost of the liquid inside – you might bring your own growler to the pub, or you might need to buy a new one on-site. And if bars weren’t allowed to “repackage” draught beer into another non-original container, there’d be no legal way to enjoy a pint at your local pub.

 

Ok, you still reading? Stay with me….

 

So I searched and searched, and I still haven’t seen anything in the Illinois liquor code or brewer’s licenses that gives brewers any special rights or privileges pertaining to growlers. What I did find, is that per federal TTB definition, filling growlers is considered a draft beer service function, which is entirely different from packaging or bottling. It could be argued that anyone who fills a growler in this state, including breweries, are allowing their customers to leave with an open, unsealed container – something you really don’t want a cop to find in your car. And that’s where we’re at in Illinois. We have this unnecessary standoff over why it’s ok to put beer in this glass, but not that glass.

 

Bored yet? I promise we’re almost done.

 

It’s time we modernized our growler laws to reflect the current market. Other states have made serious errors in writing these laws. Florida consumers were restricted to filling 32oz and 128oz growlers, but the standard 64oz growler was illegal. In California, until very recently, consumers had to have a specific brewer’s growler, meaning you had to make sure you had the right branded growler with you, depending on where you stopped to fill up. Even now there’s a patchwork of interpretations of the law in Chicago – Brewery X will fill this, Brewery Y won’t fill that.

 

Clearly, it can take many years to fix poorly written and vague laws. Right now, the slate is clean, and we have the opportunity to collaborate on a bill that ensures product quality, and skips over the errors that other states have made. Shouldn’t we all be working together to make this the best state to build a brewery, a bottle shop, or a pub? Aren’t we all trying to do the same thing, responsibly sell more fresh, local beer to our guests? At last count, 41 other states allowed growler fills at retail. Do we really want to be the last one to do this properly, just behind North Dakota? Arkansas?

 

So.

 

This is where you, the consumer, come in. If you think it’d be convenient to grab growlers of draught beer at your local, make your voice heard and help us modernize Illinois beer laws, head to FREETHEGROWLERS.COM, read the spiel, check out the links, and sign the petition. Tell your favorite brewer that you’d buy more of their beer if you could get it closer to where you live. Ask them to work with the storeowners and bar managers that sell their beer. It’s time that we ended the growler showdown. Let freedom ring.

If brewers can fill growlers in a sanitary way, other businesses can too.

 

Zak is the beer dictator at Olympic Tavern in Rockford, IL Follow his hairbrained bliss on Instagram at @zakrotello and @olympictavern.

 

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TheGrowlerStandoff Chris Quinn Portrait_By_Calvin_Fredrickson2

 

The Growler Standoff: Nix the Growler

By Chris Quinn

 

First and foremost, I would like to say that I have a good deal of respect for Zak, and I feel his reasons for wanting a change in the growlers laws in Illinois are legitimate. That said, unlike almost every beer retailer I know in the state, I am not a fan of growler sales. This isn’t to say that I am a fan of growlers at breweries but not at bottle shops and bars. I don’t like them, period. However, I do feel that growlers play an important role for many breweries here in Illinois, which I will get into later.

 

To me, the primary reasons I hear for growler sales to be legalized for licensed retailers can be summed up as, “If they can do it, then I should be able to as well” and “Growlers could represent a significant source of extra sales (read: money) for me.” I agree with both of these points. I think it isn’t fair that taprooms have growlers and retailers can’t, and I also agree that they could potentially lead to increased sales, or at least higher-margin sales. So, then, why exactly don’t I like growlers? Because they are bad for the beer.

 

Quite simply, of all the ways one commonly drinks beer, a growler is at the very bottom of the list, right alongside those tabletop self-serve beer towers you occasionally find at sports bars. So right off the bat I think we are fighting for an inferior type of packaged beer. And before we get any further, I think it needs to be made clear that growlers are not a form of draft beer, they are a form of packaged beer and should be compared against other forms of packaged beer.

 

It doesn’t take much more than a common-sense look at the system for filling growlers to see why it’s always better to get a beer from a bottle or can if you are getting beer to go, all of which revolve around the fact that breweries spend a ton of money, time, and energy on their packaging lines. I would argue that the packaging of beer is the most crucial part of the process – whether a beer is going into a keg, bottle, or can. This is because it’s during packaging that so much can go wrong – much of which can quickly and drastically decrease the quality of even the best beer in the world.

 

Craft breweries literally spend millions of dollars on their packaging lines to ensure that their beer gets to you in pristine condition. To think this can be matched by some bartender sticking a piece of vinyl tube over the faucet of a system designed from the ground up to serve beer for immediate consumption, and opening it up to dump into a glass jug is silly. Draft beer is meant to be consumed within minutes of being served. Not 24 hours. Minutes. After that, the carbonation will rapidly start to leave the beer. Shortly after, it will begin to take on oxidized flavors and quickly bear little resemblance to what the brewer originally intended. People say that a growler is fine as long as you drink it the day you bought it. I’ll concede that point – the beer will taste fine. Not great, but fine.

 

Want to get an idea for how a growler tastes? Open up five bottles or cans of beer, pour them all into glasses, then take one to drink and set the other four back in the fridge. By the time you are on the fourth and fifth beer, there will be noticeable differences in the carbonation of the beer. “Who cares,” you say? I do! And you should too. Why settle for a less than ideal experience when you can just open up a new bottle or can each time? Those vessels have been counter-pressure filled specifically to hold their carbonation until opened. This is not the case with growlers.

 

And this isn’t even beginning to get into the area of cleanliness. Beer is pretty much a sugary dream come true for many wild bacteria, yeast, and molds that can’t wait to infect your beer. Then there’s the fact that the last beer in your growler was a cinnamon chili stout, and now there’s a pilsner going into it. A quick rinse under the sink isn’t going to remove either of these things. To remove these flavors a thorough washing is required, ideally followed by a quick sanitization to make sure there’s nothing bad left in your growler. If this doesn’t happen, will it ruin your beer? Most likely not – although vinegar-producing acetobacter, which is pretty much everywhere and on everything (including dirty draft lines), can turn a beer sour within a few days. But the risks of contaminating the beer in your growler are orders of magnitude higher than they are for bottled or canned beer. If you tell someone you got an infected bottle of Goose Island Bourbon County Stout, it’s a national story. If you tell someone your growler of BCS was infected, they wait for you to get to the point of your story.

 

So, what would a “good” growler system involve? Above starting with clean vessels, I think having a counter-pressure filler is a must (if your customers expect to use their growlers like they would any other packaged beer). The problems with counter-pressure growler fillers is that by design, they fill beer under pressure – and almost all growlers are not pressure-rated in any way. This means if you filled normal growlers on this system, eventually they will fail (i.e. explode.) This is seriously dangerous, especially when you consider the fact that people are most likely going to be handling these growlers at the time they explode. Even pressure-rated growlers can conceivably fail after prolonged use. To me, the answer is to only fill metallic growlers – which are pricey and put an extra burden on consumers and retailers.

 

Another problem with counter-pressure fillers is that just as draft systems are designed for pouring beer for immediate consumption, counter-pressure fillers are designed for packaged beer – meaning you really need to have separate lines to fill growlers versus draft beers. So it’s not exactly like everything you have on tap is necessarily available for sale in a growler. So do bars have duplicate lines and duplicate costs for each beer they serve? I don’t see that happening.

 

So why are growlers a good thing for some Illinois breweries? Because they are highly profitable. The revenue generated by a small brewery’s taprooms, where they are able to sell their brews for 25 times the cost it took to make, is at times essential to their survival. If their ability to have exclusive rights to fill growlers with their beer helps them survive through the early years, then let’s not take that away from them.

 

We are in a time where there are more choices of bottled and canned craft beer than there has ever been, and I think you would be hard pressed to find any brewer who would rather have their beer served out of a growler than having the same beer out of a bottle or can from a professional packaging line. On top of it all, there are small breweries out there that need the extra margin that comes from direct sales in their tap rooms. So we’re fighting to serve worse beer, while at the same time hurting some of our smallest local brewers. Why do we want this so bad again?

 

Chris owns The Beer Temple and hosts a weekly radio broadcast on Lumpen Radio called The Insiders Roundtable, which was once delayed by a Villanova men’s basketball game. 3/24/2016: Never forget.

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April 16, 2016: Mash Tun Journal Issue 009 Release Party

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Mash Tun Journal Issue 009 Release:

4/16/16 at Maria’s, 3-7pm • Free ( 21 and over)
960 W 31st Street Chicago Il 60608

Get Free copies of Mash Tun Journal, Issue 009.
Complementary Korean-Polish fare at 4pm (grilling starts at 3pm).

Mash Tun Journal Issue 009 is here. Get your sweet heinies to Maria’s on 4/16/16 from 3-7pm for the release of issue 009. Attendees will receive a free copy of the journal, tasty Mash Tun-curated suds, and grilled Ko-Po fare for your belly. Maria’s will be featuring beer by brewers who are profiled in the latest issue, offering pours at the bar for purchase and complimentary samples + Ko-Po grub on the patio. Maria’s will also be exhibiting work by Ryan Duggan, our featured artist in the new issue.

Issue 009 tells the story of C.H.A.O.S. Brew Club’s diaspora, profiling homebrewers who made their liquid dreams a reality. C.H.A.O.S. vets include folks from Begyle, Louis Glunz Beer Inc., Arclight, Begyle, Goose Island, Breakroom, Horse Thief Hollow, Vice District, and Marz. Raise a glass with us to their achievements.

Join us for complementary Korean-Polish fare at 4pm (grilling starts at 3pm).

Enjoy some special suds from our special C.H.A.O.S. Diaspora Draft list (beer for purchase):
Begyle J-Bird Pale Ale
Goose Island 2015 Bourbon County Stout
Marz Bubbly Barrel-Aged Duchess de Bridgeport
Urban Legend The King’s Tree Coffee Stout

With Beer tasting samples from:
Arclight Moe’s IPA
Vice District Far From Ordinary Session English Ale

Issue 009 features work by Calvin Fredrickson, Edmar, Zak Rotello, Doug Veliky, Alex Bach, Clarence Boddicker, Paul Durica, Tim Lange, Chris Quinn, and Mike Smith.

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Brew This: Marz Community Brewing’s Bubbly Creek Berliner Weiss

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By Al Robertson

 

So you want to brew some sour beer? Brewing sour or wild ale at home can seem daunting and dangerous to homebrewers and pro brewers alike. When I first ventured into making sour beers at home, I approached them with much trepidation, due to fears of contaminating my equipment and unfamiliarity with the sour brewing process. The first sour beer I brewed was a Berliner weiss, for which I acquired the necessary bacteria from a grain-inoculated starter. The result was surprisingly tasty and relatively easy to replicate at the homebrew scale.

 

When I joined Marz Community Brewing some years later, we decided to have a Berliner weiss as one of our regularly brewed offerings. I was assigned the task of developing the process for creating a Berliner weiss in a production environment while maintaining the quality and consistency of my homebrewed test batches. This proved to be an extremely challenging endeavor because the process I used as a homebrewer was too difficult and time consuming to recreate on a production level. Because Berliner weiss is so low in alcohol, malt presence, and hop character, it is impossible to mask any flaws or inconsistencies. It is truly one of the most difficult styles to produce, despite the simplicity of the recipe.

 

To overcome our initial production inconsistencies, I took one of my grain-inoculated starters to Lance Shaner at Omega Yeast Labs. He was able to identify and isolate the souring bacteria responsible for my successful homebrew Berliners, which was then used for producing the Bubbly Creek Berliner Weiss at Marz. The bacteria are a Lactobacillus plantarum species. As far as I know, no other commercial beer yeast laboratories offer a plantarum species to the public. This strain is well suited for a production environment because it is able to sour beer at room temperature relatively quickly. Other commercially available Lactobacillus strains require extended aging or fermentation temperatures as high as 120°F to produce the results we are seeing in a matter of 36 hours at much lower temperatures.

 

 

The Bubbly Creek Berliner Weiss

 

50% Pilsner Malt

50% White Wheat

 

0.5oz Whole Leaf Czech Saaz

1 unit OYL-605 Omega Lactobacillus blend

1 package of Safale US-05

 

OG 1.034

FG 1.010

pH 3.2

 

Heat water to 160°F and combine in the mash tun with the grains and whole leaf hops at a ratio of 1.3L water per pound of grain. Mash for 60 minutes and sparge with 170°F water. Collect the desired amount of wort and boil for 45 minutes. Chill to 80°F and pitch the Lactobacillus blend. Let the wort sour for three days in the fermenter and then add a package of Safale US-05. The beer will be ready to bottle in one week. Carbonate to 3.2-3.4 volumes CO2.

 

If desired, add whole fruit and/or your favorite Brettanomyces strain after primary fermentation for added complexity.

 

 

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A Conversation with Rick Chapman and Head Brewer Ryan Brooks of Coronado Brewing Company

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Interviewed by Ed Marszewski

 

Rick and Ron Chapman opened Coronado Brewing Company almost 20 years ago on the island of Coronado, across the bay from San Diego. The brewery started as a small neighborhood brewpub around the same time as Ballast Point, Stone, and AleSmith. Together, those breweries formed the San Diego Brewers Guild, and over time Coronado and the guild birthed the “West Coast” beer styles that we have come to love and adore.

 

At the moment, Coronado isn’t as well known to Midwestern beer drinkers as Stone or Ballast Point, but in late-2015 they entered a distribution contract with Wirtz Beverage and have just started rolling out the barrels here in Chicagoland. In 2014, the brewery won best Mid-Sized Brewery and Brewer at the World Beer Cup, taking a prize with their Islander IPA. And if the liquid continues to taste as good as the ones we’ve tried, we expect them to do well here in the beer capital of the Midwest.

 

We hooked up with Rick Chapman and Head Brewer Ryan Brooks at Mash Tun HQ a few days before they were heading to FoBAB and asked them to tell their story.

 

Edmar: How did you start your brewery?

 

Rick Chapman: My brother Ron and I opened the brewery 20 years ago. It had always been a dream of ours to have a brewery. And 20 years ago we put together a business plan, bought the property almost 150 yards from the home we grew up in, and plucked down a little brewpub.

 

Edmar: So you started off with a brewpub that had a restaurant, a taproom, and a small brewing facility. What was the size of your system back then?

 

Rick: It’s a 10-barrel system and it’s still there. We’ve become a brewpub on steroids. We bought the building next door and we put in 13 20-barrel fermenters. We put out 6,000 barrels a year from there until we built our production facility about three and a half years ago.

 

Edmar: So three and a half years ago you opened a production brewery and started making beer to send to other markets?

 

Rick: We started getting into the distribution game in Southern California mostly, but then some other markets outside. Pennsylvania was the first out-of-state market we came to out, about nine year ago.

 

Edmar: Ron, were you one of the brewers back when you first started?

 

Rick: No, we asked one of our baristas, Sean Dewitt, if he wanted to be a partner. He became one of our head brewers. 20 years later, he’s become our director of brewing operations. So, he’s our head brewer but he doesn’t brew any longer – he brews with Ryan’s team.

 

Edmar: Ryan, when did you start at Coronado?

 

Ryan: I worked at a brewing facility about an hour north of San Diego for a few years, and I wanted to get to San Diego where the big dogs were. I interviewed at Stone in the morning and at Coronado in the afternoon, and 15 minutes after I left, Sean, the Director of Operations said, “Hey, you want to start on Tuesday?” That was almost four years ago.

 

Rick: Did Stone call you back?

 

Ryan: After two weeks – and I’d started at Coronado already, so it didn’t matter.

 

Edmar: You were based in California, and you got involved in brewing because…?

 

Ryan: I was cheap. I was playing in a punk rock band touring the world and I liked good beer. But I couldn’t afford a lot of it so I started home brewing.

 

Edmar: That’s a common story. I know many musicians here in Chicago that were homebrewing, and then some of them actually went on to open up nanobreweries or work for breweries. It was pretty fun to go get bootleg brews for $5 a bottle in somebody’s apartment on the West Side.

 

Ryan: It was fun.

 

Edmar: The Coronado portfolio of beers is pretty diverse today. But I bet almost 20 years ago, when you first opened up the brewpub, you had to have your standards: amber ale, golden ale, porter, pale ale, maybe an oatmeal stout. When did you get involved with the West Coast IPA freak out phase?

 

Rick: It was happening when we opened. Stone started doing IPAs. AleSmith did some IPAs. And we were part of that. It was the San Diego Brewers Guild that kept us all together. So everybody experimented and tried different things, and through that process we defined the West Coast IPA.

 

Edmar: When do you think that the dominance of the IPA hit the country? Do you recall when, all of a sudden, you couldn’t make enough IPA?

 

Rick: Probably only about five or six years ago.

 

Edmar: The one thing I hear about San Diego is that it’s just about as easy to grab a fresh craft beer as it is to get a Corona or some other macro beer.

 

Rick: I’ve been on the sales side for years, so that’s where I’ve seen the difference. In the last three or four years you have a lot more access to the buyers, especially the big chains and the big restaurants. Before, we were just pounding on doors and trying to get people to talk to us.

 

Edmar: Glad to hear that people in these corporate chains understand the value that craft beer has in the marketplace. Do you think the acceptance of craft beer in chain stores has been driving the expansion of craft beer volume sales?

 

Rick: That’s a piece of it. On premise, off premise. Working with each other to build brands. But, yes, the expansion of craft beer in chain stores is helping a lot to build brands.

 

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Edmar: Your company is expanding, you have two facilities and a tasting room, and you also make trips to Europe to purchase your hops directly from growers. Do you think that the large macro brewers like the AB InBev and SABMiller conglomerate will make it more difficult for independent breweries like yours? Some have argued that the big breweries are going to make it harder for the craft breweries to purchase the raw materials it takes to make their brews. Do you think any of this is something that you have to think about in the near future?

 

Ryan: Absolutely.

 

Rick: We think about it. I’ve never heard that directly from any of the big guys. So in what I’ve seen from the outside they pretty much let you run the way you want to. They don’t know how to run a craft brewery. We’re entwined in our culture and our communities. But when they do take over your company you have a lot more resources. It’s like Ballast Point. They are growing at 140%. How do you finance that? Go public or …take the other door.

 

Edmar: It’s pretty amazing what happened with Ballast Point and their purchase by Constellation Brands. In light of that, and the purchase of half of Lagunitas by Heineken, do you think there are going to be problems with commodity pricing or shortages because of the growth of the craft beer segment?

 

Ryan: I’m nervous about it. I’ve seen hops going from $4-6 per pound to $15-20 per pound in the past few years. So that’s just something to keep in the back of your mind. It takes time to grow these products, you can’t just say overnight, “Hey, I’m gonna grow more barley and open up these malting facilities.”

 

Edmar: Even on the packaging side, you have companies like Crown Packaging, who are restricting the availability of their cans. They are not opening up any new accounts for people who want to do canning. In general, there seems to be kind of a disruptive moment in the overall macro beer industry, which has seen a period of decline over the past decade. Beer as a total volume of sales of alcoholic beverages has gone down, and of course the craft beer industry has taken over a portion of Big Beer’s overall sales. So it is really a very interesting phenomenon to see how rapidly craft beer is growing, and how some of the larger companies have been absorbed by the Big Beer Borg. Did you ever think that craft beer would become such a raging phenomenon?

 

Rick: Yes, I did. You’ve seen how the market has grown steadily 11-15% over the last ten years. Before the dip. So, yeah, it’s been happening and now there are just more and more breweries. There are also a lot of options in access to financing. The venture capitalists are getting into it, the banks are soliciting us, it’s kinda the same issues we had with the chains. You couldn’t get their attention at all a few years back, but now they’re at every conference, they’re calling us multiple times a week. I saw it coming. And maybe it’s come a little faster than I would have anticipated, but it’s definitely here, and it’s here to stay.

 

Edmar: Yeah, I think so, too. I believe we are entering a larger cultural shift marked by a rejection of mass-produced, monocultural products, especially beer. So I think the craft beer culture and business is going to grow. What do you guys want to have happen in Chicago? You’ve just released a new beer…

 

Ryan: Stingray IPA is a big badass double IPA, not a lot of malt flavors, tons of hops, it’s got Citra, Mosaic, Simcoe, Southern Cross, all the cool sexy hops.

 

Edmar: The dream hops combo potion. So the Stingray IPA is hot shit? What other brews do you make that people would dig out here?

 

Ryan: We’re doing cans pretty soon, too. Those are coming out hopefully in March. We’re going to package the beer we won the award with – the Islander IPA. We’re also doing our Orange Avenue Wit, and a pale ale. I hope in the future we can do a light lager, just so we can crush a lot of beers on the beach.

 

Rick: We like making balanced beers, so the majority of our portfolio, like the Orange Avenue Wit, the Mermaid’s Red amber ale – even our Islander isn’t a big hop bomb – it’s flavorful.

 

Edmar: It’s important to have balanced, clean beers that you can enjoy on any occasion. Do you think that with the coming shortage of Citra, Mosaic hops, etc., that you are going to see a lot of different breweries making these different lighter beers as well?

 

Rick: Belgian style beers don’t require a lot of hops.

 

Edmar: Do you guys foresee yourselves opening up new facilities outside of California?

 

Rick: Eventually. Europe. And an East Coast presence. Maybe five years down the line – we have a lot going on in our home market with room for growth.

 

Edmar: I’m actually surprised that you didn’t try to go completely bonkers 4-5 years ago. What happened?

 

Rick: As far as growth? Growth has to come naturally. You can only push so much, you have to have the pull. We’ve just grown organically and gotten better and better. That’s why we built the production facility to accommodate the growth. But we didn’t build a massive facility because we didn’t have it. You have to keep one foot on the gas and one on the brake. Sometimes the gas is going a little hard. We thought we would get 10 years out of the facility that we are in now, and we’re coming up on year four and we will mostly likely outgrow it next year. Fortunately, we’ve got the property adjacent to it, so we can double that to buy us another four or five years. And that’s maybe where that East Coast presence is going to enter into the equation for shipping and all that.

 

Edmar: One more question: Do you have any advice for the new generation of breweries that are opening up all over the universe, from nano-sized one man shows to investment groups opening 30-50-barrel systems out of the gate?

 

Rick: Do it to make great beer and the rest will follow. Don’t do it thinking you’re gonna get rich, ‘cause it takes a long time to get profitable.

 

Ryan: Quality definitely is important. I see a lot of new young brewers going out and starting businesses because their friends or their mom said they make really good beer. I think you gotta be really critical of your beer and strive for strong quality of the product.

 

Edmar: Thanks, guys!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Get Spent: How Breweries and Homebrewers Are Finding New Uses for Spent Grain

 

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By Alex Bach

 

Anyone who’s ever witnessed a beer enthusiast shamelessly sucking down the last possible drops of nectar from their glass knows beer drinkers are not inherently wasteful people; thankfully, neither are many of the breweries that create these tasty libations. To eliminate wastefulness, brewers are coming up with great ways to cut down on their carbon footprint or contribute to a model of sustainability. Brooklyn Brewery and New Belgium Brewing both utilize wind energy to power their operations. Full Sail Brewing out of Hood River, Oregon brews with 50% less water than standard breweries. California’s Sierra Nevada is 100% solar-powered, with Stone hot on their heels. So it should come as no surprise to learn that many of them find new uses for their spent grain as well.

 

What Are Spent Grains?

 

Mashing is the process of extracting fermentable sugars via hot water from dry starches (grains) to create the liquid wort, which, when fermented, becomes beer. Once the sugars are extracted, the grains play no additional role in the brewing process, and brewers are left with a bulky byproduct sitting in their kettles.

Let’s look at the numbers: Ryan O’Doherty of Half Acre estimates that each batch of beer utilizes anywhere from 1,400 to 2,400 lbs of grain per batch, depending on the style – 2,250 to 3,840 lbs of soaking wet grain after the mash-out. At 16-20 batches per week, that amounts to about 50,000 lbs of spent grain each week. Thankfully, they have a system in place to recycle that amount of still-viable product.

A 3-inch pipe takes the spent grain while it’s still hydrated through 100 feet of the brewery floor, climbing 15 feet to a conduit in the side where it is pumped into an empty trailer. Once a week, when the trailer is full, O’Doherty places a call to a local farmer they’ve partnered with and he drives up with an empty trailer, swaps it out, and brings the spent grains back to his farm to feed his cattle and pigs. The process repeats every week.

 

Kettle-to-Farm

 

What’s fantastic about Half Acre’s model is that it is not an unusual arrangement. O’Doherty, who had previously worked at Yazoo Brewing out of Nashville, had a similar arrangement with a local farmer out there who used the spent grain to feed his pigs. Those pigs would then become part of Nashville’s famed BBQ scene, and sometimes – when the brewers were lucky – they would receive samples of pulled pork and ribs “fattened” off their own grains.

Yazoo and the farmer who receives their spent grain are not the only one to make bucolic pairings. Great Lakes Brewing out of Cleveland, Ohio donates their spent grains to local farmers as well as uses it for composting. Piney River Brewing goes one step further, housing their brewery on-site at their 80-acre farm nestled in the Missouri Ozarks – which means their cattle get the freshest grains, and they don’t have to worry about storing and shipping.

 

Logan-Square

 

One Brewer’s Trash…

 

Some brewers, such as Marz Community Brewing, contribute to farming in a wholly different fashion by donating their spent grains to local composting facilities. Nancy Klehm, of Social Ecologies and Spontaneous Vegetation, is a compost professional who helps distribute compost to a variety of urban farms and gardens from Garfield Park to North Lawndale.

“Grains are a good composting agent for the moisture they retain, and the fact that they attract beneficial bacteria to help break down the grain at a faster rate,” Klehm said. Grains are not without their caveat, however. “Compost is fermentation at lower temperatures,” Klehm said, and just like any fermentation, certain conditions need to be met. Compost, much like yeast, needs proper aeration and acidity levels in order to break down properly.

While brewing grains are rich in nutrients, they need to be spread out and mixed with carbon-based fillers like sawdust, cardboard, and gypsum in order to let the compost breathe. Similarly, certain grain bills, such as those of sour beers, are very acidic and have to be blended in order to balance out the soil.

Just like O’Doherty had talked about with farmer reciprocity, it would be great to see some of those participating farms turn over some of their produce back to the breweries: homegrown berries for a sour, fresh coriander for a gose, or compost-grown hops for a local wet-hopped pale ale.

 

Surf & Turf

 

Though considerably less appetizing than the aforementioned pulled pork, these environmentally conscious uses of spent grain are another option for breweries looking to go green with their grain. Several breweries, like Avery Brewing out of Boulder, CO or Bear Republic out of Healdsburg, CA, have begun experimenting with their wastewater as a means of water treatment, filching out nitrogen runoff. Lakefront Brewery out of Milwaukee, Wisconsin was even awarded a Green Tier award from the state for their various commitments to sustainability, which includes converting 15,000 lbs of spent grain per week into super-soil, somewhere between compost and fertilizer.

 

 

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Fully-Baked

 

Baked goods are another fantastic option for the used-but-not-useless carbohydrates. Many breweries pair with a local bakery to turn their spent grains into breads, which can then be served in brewery taprooms as a supplemental treat. Hewn Bakery in Chicago uses both a brew and its spent grains to fashion delicious breads. Baked goods aren’t just for human consumption, either.

Doggie Beer Bones out of San Diego uses spent grain from local breweries like Green Flash, Societe Brewing Co., and Stone to create a line of dog treats. Their treats are made with barley, peanut butter, barley flour, eggs, and water, but contain no wheat, soy, corn, or hops, which are poisonous to dogs. (This means they have to be critical of the ingredients they use, since not every batch of spent grains will work.)

 

Homebrewer Options

 

While the above solutions are done at a much larger scale than any homebrewer could ever achieve (through definition alone), many of those options are still available. Many breweries allow homebrewers to bring in their spent grains and add them to their farm contributions. Composting is not ideal for urban homebrewers, as the sweetness of the grain makes it veritable catnip for rats and mice.

Baked options are probably the most popular choice, with homemade breads being the most common fare; when making breads, many recommend drying and grinding the grains to break down the hulls (especially if using grain bills with rice hulls). There are also numerous recipes online for creating your own granola or doggie treats. Most recipes for dog biscuits consist of variations on the following:

  • 1-2 cups of spent grain*
  • 1/4 cup flour
  • 1/4 cup peanut butter or molasses (for taste)
  • 1 egg (to bind it together)
  • Mix ingredients together in a bowl and form into biscuits
  • Place biscuits on wax paper and bake in the oven at 350ºF for about 20 minutes

*Remember not to use grains that have been exposed to hops.

 

I’m Spent

 

The territory of brewing comes with a lot of waste products; fortunately, we don’t have to be wasteful with all of them. Finding new uses for spent grain is a great way to invest in sustainability and one that might lead to some delicious returns on your investment.

 

– Alex Bach earned his MA in Fiction Writing from Johns Hopkins University and has been publishing in the US and UK. When not writing he can be found behind the brew kettle trying to hone his home brewing skills.

 

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Yes, Sir, Senator: A Bootlegger’s Palace Becomes a Brewer’s Paradise

By Paul Durica ( from issue 009 ) Over eighty years after repeal, Prohibition and the trade in illegal alcohol its adoption promoted remains closely associated with the city of Chicago. What other city has as one of its most globally-known former residents a bootlegger and gangster, Al Capone? In what other place can tourists take an Untouchables tour led by the likes of Shoulders and Johnny Three Knives? Every bar of a certain age claims with pride to have survived the 1920s as a speakeasy although few can offer up any evidence to support this belief. As Northwestern University’s Bill Savage, who teaches a class on “The City That Drinks,” has observed, the successful speakeasies never got caught, while those who made the papers on account of a raid quickly shuttered. As I’ve written about in Mash Tun, a lot of the illegal industry involved homebrewers with so-called “beer flats” dotting the city. There is one verifiable speakeasy that not only survived Prohibition but managed to capitalize on its illicit fame to become one of Chicago’s most beloved and long-lived restaurants: Barney’s Market Club. Rotund and gregarious Barney Kessel enters the public record in a scene straight out of the Jimmy Stewart film Call Northside 777. In 1928, Barney’s restaurant (also an illegal bar, as the newspapers make clear) was held up, and one of the three robbers, Hyman Greenberg, was shot and killed by a police officer, Lt. John Kelley, who’d popped in for a backroom beer. Greenberg, 23, had worked for a printing press not far from Barney’s and had worn “smoked glasses” to conceal his identity. He was a member of one of the numerous immigrant communities residing near the restaurant on the city’s west side not far from Jane Addams and Ellen Gates Starr’s Hull House settlement. Not long after the botched robbery, Barney would find himself on the wrong side of the law, arrested for operating a speakeasy and sentenced to sixty days in the Ogle County Jail. Exhibiting the charm used on the connected and powerful throughout his career, Barney managed to escape his cell for twenty of those days, a minor scandal that resulted in the county sheriff being fined for failure to enforce prohibition laws and that suggested, as did the Greenberg shooting, that the relationship between local law enforcement and bootleggers wasn’t always antagonistic. Despite the arrest and brief imprisonment, Barney managed to open a second, larger restaurant in the late 1930s, right in the center of Chicago’s wholesale market district.   Barney’s Market Club is the restaurant most Chicagoans remember. It specialized in steak, lobster, and smelt. Bowls of radishes and green onions greeted visitors as they sat down at their tables, one of them, the so-called “Holy Corner,” reserved for men of the cloth. Eddie the harmonica player entertained as he wandered among the tables, some inside, some out, for Barney’s claimed to be city’s first sidewalk café. Overseeing it all, Barney, a white apron tied tight around his ever-expanding center, barked out, “Put him on the payroll” or “Yes, sir, Senator,” to the delight of patrons. Politicians, like priests, frequented the Market Club, and the story goes that Barney, never able to keep straight who held what office, referred to them all as “Senator.” Whether the story is truer than the numerous ones about Chicago speakeasies is difficult to tell, but as a marketing strategy, it worked: Barney’s Market Club quickly established itself as one of Chicago’s most colorful restaurants. Barney got in trouble with the law again in the middle of World War II for selling more steaks than his ration points allowed, but, as was the case in his bootlegger days, this infraction made him only more popular with the public. A diet of his own steaks and lobster eventually caught up with him, and Barney died of a heart attack in 1951. His son-in-law took over the business and employees at the Market Club continued to call everyone “Senator” until its closing in 1996.   While Barney Kessel managed to not only survive but also thrive in the aftermath of Prohibition, the same could not be said of Chicago’s brewing industry. In 1900, sixty breweries operated in the city. The passage of the 18th Amendment and the Volstead Act that brought about Prohibition ended the existence of all but a handful. Those that survived succumbed, one by one, as national brands such as Miller and Anheuser-Busch took over the market. Then, starting in the late 1980s, craft breweries, Goose Island chief among them, started to appear. Today Chicago has over 150 craft breweries, with more opening each month. One of them, Haymarket Pub and Brewery, occupies the old Barney’s Market Club with 11 of its own award-winning craft beers and 13 guests drafts on tap. “We searched around town for over a year looking for a spot that was both a good location and also steeped in Chicago’s rich history,” says brewmaster and co-owner Pete Crowley. “When we walked into Barney’s old space in the Haymarket Square, we knew instantly we had found it.” The brewery may take its name from a different part of Chicago’s past but, through Barney’s Market Club, connects back to Prohibition. Haymarket makes one grateful, with each sip of its Speakerswagon Pilsner or Mathias Imperial IPA, that those unenlightened times are behind us and that we can all still feel like Senators.      

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C.H.A.O.S. Diaspora: When Homebrewers Go Pro, Pt 4

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By Calvin Fredrickson C.H.A.O.S. brew club is a homebrew collective located in Chicago’s Near West Side. Established in 2011, C.H.A.O.S provides brewing resources to budding homebrewers, from equipment, to cellaring space, to camaraderie. But if you’re just looking for a good time without a serious commitment to brewing, do not miss their seasonal parties, which are open to the public through a trial membership. A dazzling array of food – prepared by C.H.A.O.S. homebrewers –is served alongside adventurous homebrew with a deftness to make an epicurean blush. Many homebrewers dream of taking their stovetop batches to a commercial scale. The following homebrewers did just that. Some were present at C.H.A.O.S. from its inception, or close to it, while others had only a brief involvement with the club. One thing is certain of these homebrewers: their shared goal of working in the beer industry was impacted by their time at C.H.A.O.S. These homebrewers found a way to go pro. We hope their stories inspire you like they inspired us. Eric Olson Occupation before going pro: Bartender and beer-buyer Current industry gig: Production manager, Marz Community Brewing Co. How and when did you catch the homebrewing bug? Mike Marszewski, the owner of Maria’s Packaged Goods and Community Bar, introduced me to homebrewing. He helped me brew my first homebrew in my apartment which is now occupied by Marz’s brewhouse. This was the summer of 2011. C.H.A.O.S. members range from casual to obsessive homebrewers. Where did you fall on that spectrum? Relative to the rest of the brewers, I’d say I fell somewhere in the middle. At any given point I had at most 2 carboys in the fermentation room or “ferm-room,” as members call it. My homebrewing was split between beers I brewed at the C.H.A.O.S. club house and those I brewed at home. Did you have an epiphany homebrew where you said, “Man, I could sell this. I should make a go of it”?  The beer I impressed myself the most with was an American brown ale that I had added some rhubarb and strawberries to. It was early spring when I brewed it, so I was able to utilize some fresh rhubarb from my mother’s garden in Rockford, IL. It had a wonderful tartness from the fruit backed by a robust, toasty malt bill. The beer really mimicked the experience of eating fresh strawberry rhubarb pie. So, how did you “go pro?” Well, I’m glad you put that question in air quotes. I’ve been in the process of becoming a pro the last year and a half working at Marz. No one simply goes pro overnight. That said, the way I stepped out of the world of homebrewing and into the world of commercial brewing started out with talks Ed Marszewski and I had. We already had this deep affection for craft beers, drinking and serving them at Maria’s. After about a year or so of nonchalantly talking about starting a brewery, a small little storefront in Bridgeport opened up (my old apartment in the back). We decided this would be as good a place as any to make our liquid dreams a reality. What does your role at Marz entail? Managing production at Marz entails scheduling our production and staff. Working with ingredient and equipment suppliers to ensure the brewery has the materials to brew and package our beers. Being such a small brewery we all wear a lot of different hats, so on any given day you might also see me graining out a mash tun, cleaning kegs, or labeling bottles, etc. What’s the latest at Marz, and which of your beers are you jazzed about? We recently packaged a sour version of our Bridgeporter. It packs nearly a pound of fruit per gallon, including elderberries, cherries, and blackberries. Fruited sour up front, porter on the finish. <Doing my best jazz hands>. Any advice for homebrewers or beer freaks lookin’ to go pro? The biggest piece of advice I have is learn from your local commercial brewers as much as possible. If you live near Chicago or another major craft beer hub, you are surrounded by many brewers with a plethora of knowledge. Brewers learn and improve they’re craft by making mistakes (which you don’t have to make!) So ask around your local breweries to volunteer or just hang out learn. Take notes, ask questions, and always pay attention to what the brewers are doing. This will pay major dividends when it comes to troubleshooting your own brewery.  In addition, homebrew clubs like C.H.A.O.S. are hotbeds for brewing know-how. I was amazed at how much I learned about brewing sitting on the clubhouse couch (RIP old friend) hungover on a Sunday afternoon.   Tim Lange Occupation before going pro: Senior IT systems consultant Current industry gig: Head brewer, Marz Community Brewing Co.   How and when did you catch the homebrewing bug?    Just after college, my roommate’s girlfriend gave him a homebrewing kit and basic hardware, but it sat around our apartment unopened and unused for long enough that it became common property. I read Charlie Papazian’s book, got inspired and fermented a few barely drinkable beers in a closet. Friend and colleague Tremaine Atkinson (CH distillery) was a homebrewer years before this. After hearing about my semi-successful extract batches, he brought over his mash/boil kettle and a Blichmann wort chiller for my first all-grain brew.  We had a stuck sparge but made a great beer! C.H.A.O.S. members range from casual to obsessive homebrewers. Where did you fall on that spectrum? After my first few batches, brewing became a full-blown obsession pretty quickly. I built a temp controller out of Radioshack parts and turned a 14′ deep freezer into a fermentation chamber—this drastically changed the quality of my homebrews into something I was proud to share. Building a kegerator also helped develop my palate and understand how beers change over time as they lager and stale in kegs.  The last major step up was getting a 20-gallon Blichmann brew system that effectively doubled…

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C.H.A.O.S. Diaspora: When Homebrewers Go Pro, Pt 3

By Calvin Fredrickson C.H.A.O.S. brew club is a homebrew collective located in Chicago’s Near West Side. Established in 2011, C.H.A.O.S provides brewing resources to budding homebrewers, from equipment, to cellaring space, to camaraderie. But if you’re just looking for a good time without a serious commitment to brewing, do not miss their seasonal parties, which are open to the public through a trial membership. A dazzling array of food – prepared by C.H.A.O.S. homebrewers –is served alongside adventurous homebrew with a deftness to make an epicurean blush. Many homebrewers dream of taking their stovetop batches to a commercial scale. The following homebrewers did just that. Some were present at C.H.A.O.S. from its inception, or close to it, while others had only a brief involvement with the club. One thing is certain of these homebrewers: their shared goal of working in the beer industry was impacted by their time at C.H.A.O.S. These homebrewers found a way to go pro. We hope their stories inspire you like they inspired us. David Williams Occupation before going pro: Technical consultant (I still do this, too). Current industry gig: Head brewer, Horse Thief Hollow How and when did you catch the homebrewing bug?   I started brewing after a move from Philly to Chicago early-2006.  I saw an episode of Good Eats with Alton Brown, and it looked like something that was interesting and fun. I lived in Naperville, IL at the time, and the closest homebrew shop was The Brewers Coop located inside Two Brothers Brewing. I visited the shop and bought my first homebrewing setup from Jim Ebel. I started brewing on my own for a while and later with friends. C.H.A.O.S. members range from casual to obsessive homebrewers. Where did you fall on that spectrum? When I first started, it was very casual. I made the same amber beer featured on Good Eats. It wasn’t bad, but it wasn’t great. I was really into Belgian beers around the time I first started homebrewing. It wasn’t until my third batch that I decided to make a Belgian-style Beer. Belgian-style beers are good to brew early on in the hobby – they’re very forgiving as far as pitch quantity and fermentation temperature goes. That third batch opened my eyes to what kind of beer could be made in my kitchen. From there, it became an obsession. Did you have an epiphany homebrew where you said, “Man, I could sell this. I should make a go of it”? I didn’t start out with any ambition to turn into a professional brewer.  It’s something that just sort of fell into place, and it’s something I do as a passion of love, because it’s certainly not something you get into for a huge paycheck. With that in mind, the notion of “Man, I could sell this” was never something I considered. It was more of “Man, this tastes good. I can’t wait to share it with my other homebrewing friends and family.” So, how did you “go pro?” I met Neil, the owner of Horse Thief Hollow, when he was first starting to plan out the brewpub – it was very early on in the process when it was a little more than an idea. I literally hear hundreds of people tell me “Hey, I’m opening a brewery.” So, I didn’t think much of it. He came to a C.H.A.O.S. event and tried some of my beer. We hung out at that event and later on went to other craft beer establishments, and over time, we became friends. Once he had purchased a building, Neil invited me to check out a rough space that would later become the brewpub for Horse Thief. I brewed some homebrew beers for an informal construction party. After that party, Neil asked me to help set up the brewery, and later he asked me to be the brewer for Horse Thief Hollow. What does your role at Horse Thief Hollow entail? I am the head brewer at our 90-seat brewpub in Chicago’s Beverly neighborhood. We have a full kitchen and brew all of our beer on-site. As head brewer, I am in charge of production on a five-barrel brewhouse where we fill either five- or 10-barrel fermenters. I run all the typical operations of a small brewery, from brewing to cellar duties. What’s the latest at Horse Thief, and which of your beers are you jazzed about? We recently brewed Cheval Deux, a biere de darde with sweet potatoes. It’s typically a Fall seasonal, but we re-brewed it a few weeks ago to enter into the World Beer Cup happening this year in my hometown, Philadelphia. We did pretty well with this beer in the last WBC, winning a silver medal in the field beer category. We’ve got our fingers crossed for similar luck this year. Any advice for homebrewers or beer freaks lookin’ to go pro? I feel like brewing is in a renaissance period right now. There’s never been a better time to get into the industry. But you should only get into it if you have the right motivations. Being a shift brewer or even head brewer isn’t going to send you home with your pockets stuffed full of money. You’re gonna work hard, long, exhausting hours. You’ll most likely be paid crap, and at the end of the day, you’re basically a glorified janitor. If you’re okay with that and truly have a love for making beer and all the creativity that goes into it, then there isn’t a better gig around. The brewing community and people you will meet are some of the best people you’ll have the privilege to meet. The community, having a creative outlet, and being able to make something with your own hands is what makes it all worthwhile. Jason Krasowski Occupation before going pro: Sign manufacturer Current industry gig: Brewer, Begyle Brewing How and when did you catch the homebrewing bug? I spent a lot of years around homebrewers, watching and helping, but I have to thank my father-in-law for pushing me to…

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C.H.A.O.S. Diaspora: When Homebrewers Go Pro, Part 2

C.H.A.O.S. Diaspora: When Homebrewers Go Pro By Calvin Fredrickson   C.H.A.O.S. brew club is a homebrew collective located in Chicago’s Near West Side. Established in 2011, C.H.A.O.S provides brewing resources to budding homebrewers, from equipment, to cellaring space, to camaraderie. But if you’re just looking for a good time without a serious commitment to brewing, do not miss their seasonal parties, which are open to the public through a trial membership. A dazzling array of food – prepared by C.H.A.O.S. homebrewers –is served alongside adventurous homebrew with a deftness to make an epicurean blush. Their annual Cerveza de Mayo is May 7th, 2016. See chaosbrewclub.net for more info.   Many homebrewers dream of taking their stovetop batches to a commercial scale. The following homebrewers did just that. Some were present at C.H.A.O.S. from its inception, or close to it, while others had only a brief involvement with the club. One thing is certain of these homebrewers: their shared goal of working in the beer industry was impacted by their time at C.H.A.O.S. These homebrewers found a way to go pro. We hope their stories inspire you like they inspired us.     Edward Nash Occupation before going pro: Product manager Current industry gig: Co-owner and head brewer, Arclight Brewing Co. How and when did you catch the homebrewing bug? My father used to homebrew in the late 70’s. That was my first exposure to fermentation. Later, I had a girlfriend that said I should get a hobby. She suggested homebrewing, and I happened to be a garage sale where they had a homebrew kit never opened for $5, so I bought it. I bought an extract kit to familiarize myself with the brewing process, and then went straight into all-grain brewing. I read everything I could get my hands on and started brewing about twice a week. I also traveled a lot and would visit as many breweries as I could for future reference. I came across C.H.A.O.S., who would hold public events where you could serve your homebrew, which was awesome, so I joined them. That just fueled my desire to open a brewery. C.H.A.O.S. members range from casual to obsessive homebrewers. Where did you fall on that spectrum? Hard to put a label on it…but I was brewing twice a week…so… Did you have an epiphany homebrew where you said, “Man, I could sell this. I should make a go of it”?  Not really…I just tried to brew the best beer I could, actually I felt I could brew better beer going pro because I had access to better technology for controlling the brewing process you do not normally have as a homebrewer. So, how did you “go pro?” Made a decision to go for it, found a partner, and we started the process of opening a brewery. What does your role at Arclight entail?  I’m the co-owner and head brewer. My job entails everything in the brewing process, and I am assisted by my assistant brewer. As co-owner, I split the duties of ownership with my partner. I generally handle everything in the back of the house while he handles the front of the house, such as the taproom. What’s the latest at Arclight, and which of your beers are you jazzed about? We have a sour program here and we do mostly fruited American sours. Our cellar has 30 oak barrels aging cherry, mango, strawberry, strawberry-rhubarb, and raspberry sours currently. We also have an Imperial Golden Java Milk Stout that is really popular. Additionally, we make sodas in-house, which we use to create shandies that are very popular. They have been a great gateway into craft beer for a lot of people. Any advice for homebrewers or beer freaks lookin’ to go pro? Going pro is more than just upgrading your homebrew system and selling beer. There is so much added to the process that a lot of people do not realize. Dealing with contractors, federal and state agencies, suppliers, dealing with employees – the list goes on. In reality, actual brewing is a small part of owning a brewery, if that is the route you want to take. If you just want to be a pro brewer and brew at a brewery, be prepared to be flexible. Every system is different and you have to learn to deal with its advantages and shortcomings. Read anything and everything you can on brewing and don’t be afraid to try and fail. Not everything you make will be awesome, but it will make you a better brewer. Reed Schwenger Occupation before going pro: Food service industry Current industry gig: Brewer, Goose Island Beer Co. How and when did you catch the homebrewing bug? I caught the homebrewing bug after I worked at a craft beer/farm-to-table restaurant in River North. At the time I was 20, was seriously interested, and was eager to learn more. Being 20, I was very “up in the air” with what I wanted to do with my life. I didn’t really have much direction, and never felt I fit in any one specific career. However, I did know that I was extremely passionate about all of the aspects that came with the beer industry. I was always, in a way, “a jack of all trades, master of none.” The beer world had everything I was looking for: Farm-to-table, grain-to-glass, artistic attitude, and a mysterious type of take on the beverage realm. People would say, “Whoa, that’s the brewer…(and in a way)…that guy makes magic in a pot!” and I wanted to be that guy. Furthermore, the brewing industry was, and still is, so hugely multifaceted in community. When it comes to beer geeks, we can talk about beer all day and night; we speak our own language. C.H.A.O.S. members range from casual to obsessive homebrewers. Where did you fall on that spectrum? The community basis of this industry is what keeps us going. Brewing beer isn’t the most beautiful job, but the community that surrounds…

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C.H.A.O.S. Diaspora: When Homebrewers Go Pro, Part 1

By Calvin Fredrickson C.H.A.O.S. brew club is a homebrew collective located in Chicago’s Near West Side. Established in 2011, C.H.A.O.S provides brewing resources to budding homebrewers, from equipment, to cellaring space, to camaraderie. But if you’re just looking for a good time without a serious commitment to brewing, do not miss their seasonal parties, which are open to the public through a trial membership. A dazzling array of food – prepared by C.H.A.O.S. homebrewers –is served alongside adventurous homebrew with a deftness to make an epicurean blush. Their annual Cerveza de Mayo is May 7th, 2016. See chaosbrewclub.net for more info. Many homebrewers dream of taking their stovetop batches to a commercial scale. The following homebrewers did just that. Some were present at C.H.A.O.S. from its inception, or close to it, while others had only a brief involvement with the club. One thing is certain of these homebrewers: their shared goal of working in the beer industry was impacted by their time at C.H.A.O.S. These homebrewers found a way to go pro. We hope their stories inspire you like they inspired us. Our first installment features Christopher Murphy and Curtis J. Tarver II + Quintin L. Cole   Christopher Murphy Occupation before going pro: Web/graphic designer Currently: Senior web/graphic designer, Louis Glunz Beer Inc. How and when did you catch the homebrewing bug? My wife and I got a Coopers homebrew kit for our wedding. We made a bad lager from extract. Not too long after we met co-founders Iggy Ignaczak and David Williams and joined C.H.A.O.S., we started doing all-grain batches. From there, our excitement just took off. We were also pretty engaged in the Brew Ha Ha events as well, on both sides of the table. C.H.A.O.S. members range from casual to obsessive homebrewers. Where did you fall on that spectrum? These days I’m casually obsessive. I have a two-year-old son, with a daughter on the way, so I haven’t had time to brew as much as I once did. When I get the chance, I am obsessive about it, researching classic styles, dialing in water profiles and geeking out about the finer details of homebrewing. Did you have an epiphany homebrew where you said, “Man, I could sell this. I should make a go of it”?  I never really sought out a “beer career” – I was fortunate that it found me. I quit a job I was miserable at, and the position at Glunz came about at the same time. So, how did you “go pro?” My wife, Jessica of GirlsLikeBeerToo.net, was asked to blog the visit of the Hirter Bier’s brewery staff at Temperance in association with the Hirter Überbrew homebrew competition, and I tagged along as photographer as I often do. There, we met Jennifer, the marketing manager at Glunz. A few weeks later, she was looking for a designer. I had just quit my previous job and was looking for something new and it all worked out. What does your role at Glunz entail? I do a broad range of things at Glunz. Currently, I am working on a major update to glunzbeers.com. I also work on the catalogs and do some product photography in a pinch. There was also an opportunity to work on some co-branded beers with Anchor. I put together art for S.O.B. Ale for Shaw’s Oyster Bar, and Green Door Lager for Green Door Tavern. The work here has been very fulfilling. Which of Glunz’s portfolio’s beers are you jazzed about? Lindemans is going to be regularly releasing their Kriek Cuvée René. This is a more traditional lambic and not the super sweetened kriek most people are familiar with. While I love local craft, these days I get excited about niche and forgotten import styles of beer. A good example is Pinkus Münster Alt, which is not your typical dark altbier; it’s more like a cross between helles lager and saison. It has the nice bready malt base with a lovely floral and spicy fragrance and overtones. Any advice for homebrewers or beer freaks lookin’ to go pro? Get involved with the community however that may be: blogging, volunteering for bottling, events, design and art. The Chicago beer community is tight and networking is everything. At the very least you’ll meet a good bunch of people with a passion for beer and drink the best beer.   Curtis J. Tarver II + Quintin L. Cole  Occupations before going pro: Lawyer (Curtis) and physical therapist (Quintin) Current industry gig: Co-owners, Vice District Brewing Co. How and when did you catch the homebrewing bug? We both learned early on in 2011 when we met (during the blizzard of 2011) that we enjoyed drinking beer but also we wanted to start homebrewing. So, it was five years ago now that we jumped all in and we haven’t turned back. C.H.A.O.S. members range from casual to obsessive homebrewers. Where did you fall on that spectrum? We were obsessive. We brewed two to three times per week. Q traveled a lot for work so he’d mostly have to brew on weekends. He’d brew all weekend. Curtis’ job is based in Chicago, so he would brew throughout the week. Did you have an epiphany homebrew where you said, “Man, I could sell this. I should make a go of it”?  No, we didn’t have an epiphany. We had people who enjoyed our beer. We just wanted to make beer for the creative aspect – not to sell. The epiphany was really our wives kicking us out of the basement. So, how did you “go pro?”  With full-time jobs, wives, and children (Curtis has two little ones under three), the option to volunteer here or there wasn’t realistic. The only option for us was to start our own thing. We know each other – we know our respective commitment and drive. So, rather than asking others to gamble on us with their business, we asked friends and family to gamble on us with our own business….

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The Growler Standoff

The Growler Standoff with Zak Rotello and Chris Quinn _ _ _ _ _  _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _  _ _ _ _ __ _ _ _ __ _ _ __ __ _ _ _ The Growler Standoff: Free the Growler By Zak Rotello If you’re already a Mash Tun reader, I highly doubt I need to school you on growlers. But for the uninitiated: growlers began as lidded metal pails that customers (or possibly their kids) would fill up with draught beer at the local saloon. Taverns have been filling growlers since the late 1800s when the term was coined, and in modern times, breweries have used them as a convenient way to get their beer in the hands of consumers without dealing with the complex maze of labeling, licensing, and packaging issues that come with bottles and cans. Modern growlers run the gamut from the ever-popular 64-ounce glass jug, to handmade ceramic works of art, to high tech CO2-pressurized, double-walled, stainless steel vessels.   Admittedly, they’re an imperfect container for beer (see Chris Quinn’s counterpoint), but still a useful one. They’re great for our environment, since there’s almost zero packaging waste and they’re reusable. They’re great for enjoying draught beers that may not be available in bottled or can packages. They’re not so great for extended storage due to oxidation and/or carbonation loss. But still, I’d much rather have a 4 day old growler of double IPA, than a bottle that’s been sitting on the store shelf for 90+ days. And if brewers truly thought they were such a horrible container for their beer, they wouldn’t be selling them.   Stay with me, this gets a little technical…   In April 2014, in response to many requests from their retailers and publicans, the Illinois Craft Brewer’s Guild issued a press release stating, “Filling growlers is a well-established right or special privilege in Illinois that brewers have in order to guarantee and protect the integrity and freshness of their product.” The guild cited a section in the Illinois liquor code that prohibits retailers from “repackaging”, or refilling original containers. Of course, that clause exists for good reason – no one likes the idea of unscrupulous bartenders refilling the Van Winkle bottle with Very Old Barton when no one’s looking. Brewers also expressed their concern over quality. If someone brought in a dirty growler, would a bar still fill it with beer and potentially give their brand a bad reputation?   Brewers’ concerns about cleanliness and sanitation are understandable, but that concern should probably be aimed at pub glassware first and foremost. Considering the vast majority of draft beer is served over the bar at restaurants and bars in Illinois, it’s uncertain why the brewers’ concern about draught quality only surfaced when bars & restaurants started asking about growlers. Furthermore, the code they cited doesn’t refer to growlers.   A growler is not an original container any more than a pint glass, or a tulip, or a pitcher – kegs are the original container for draught beer. Growlers are purchased separately from the cost of the liquid inside – you might bring your own growler to the pub, or you might need to buy a new one on-site. And if bars weren’t allowed to “repackage” draught beer into another non-original container, there’d be no legal way to enjoy a pint at your local pub.   Ok, you still reading? Stay with me….   So I searched and searched, and I still haven’t seen anything in the Illinois liquor code or brewer’s licenses that gives brewers any special rights or privileges pertaining to growlers. What I did find, is that per federal TTB definition, filling growlers is considered a draft beer service function, which is entirely different from packaging or bottling. It could be argued that anyone who fills a growler in this state, including breweries, are allowing their customers to leave with an open, unsealed container – something you really don’t want a cop to find in your car. And that’s where we’re at in Illinois. We have this unnecessary standoff over why it’s ok to put beer in this glass, but not that glass.   Bored yet? I promise we’re almost done.   It’s time we modernized our growler laws to reflect the current market. Other states have made serious errors in writing these laws. Florida consumers were restricted to filling 32oz and 128oz growlers, but the standard 64oz growler was illegal. In California, until very recently, consumers had to have a specific brewer’s growler, meaning you had to make sure you had the right branded growler with you, depending on where you stopped to fill up. Even now there’s a patchwork of interpretations of the law in Chicago – Brewery X will fill this, Brewery Y won’t fill that.   Clearly, it can take many years to fix poorly written and vague laws. Right now, the slate is clean, and we have the opportunity to collaborate on a bill that ensures product quality, and skips over the errors that other states have made. Shouldn’t we all be working together to make this the best state to build a brewery, a bottle shop, or a pub? Aren’t we all trying to do the same thing, responsibly sell more fresh, local beer to our guests? At last count, 41 other states allowed growler fills at retail. Do we really want to be the last one to do this properly, just behind North Dakota? Arkansas?   So.   This is where you, the consumer, come in. If you think it’d be convenient to grab growlers of draught beer at your local, make your voice heard and help us modernize Illinois beer laws, head to FREETHEGROWLERS.COM, read the spiel, check out the links, and sign the petition. Tell your favorite brewer that you’d buy more of their beer if you could get it closer to where you live. Ask them to work with the storeowners and bar managers that…

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