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

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…

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…

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…

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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