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….

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…

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

  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.     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.     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…

Brewers on the Cusp of Blowing up

By Won Kim In a city heralded for its food and beverage scene, it can be overwhelming trying to keep up with what’s new and exciting. Billion dollar acquisitions seem to be happening with a frequency that would make horny rabbits seem sluggish. Amid all the openings and business deals happening, it should be noted that there is still a burgeoning and exciting underground brewing (I couldn’t help it, there will be some puns – unintentional, but effective). Luckily for us, Chicago is large enough for the minor leaguers who are passionate about their craft and ready to showcase their carbonated adult beverages to the ever-growing craft beer world. Every single seasoned brewer started as a homebrewer, the same way any good chef cooked, or any good artist started with drawing most of his or her life. This is the process to turn any true passion, whatever the creative platform, into a career. I have had the pleasure of working with some of the best homebrewers that this city has to offer. Individuals, groups, and married couples that work hard at their jobs to be able to fund their passion for creating unique and experimental beers. Long gone are the days when you and your buddies would buy a homebrew kit from Jewel and brew that first batch of a pissy pils. You called yourself a brewer and thought that you’d be able to do it for a living until you realized that you would have to multiply the amount of beer produced by a million.   I have thrown and organized many beer events in Chicago in the last 6 years with a focus on showcasing homebrewers ready for the majors. From having to drink a ton of sample beers for dinners and parties, to assembling massive public bottle shares, I can safely say that I have had my fair share of beers. Self-appointed beer deity Greg Koch described my beer events as “beer raves.” I took to that title and eventually went on to work with him, Randy Mosher, and Jason Ebel in a homebrew competition called Iron Brew. This was at the height of my curated beer events. Industry-heavy heads actually recognized what was going on and offered homebrewing participants to brew commercially with them as a prize. The best part was that out of the 20 homebrewers, almost all of them would move on to work full time at a brewery. With that in mind, I would like to focus on a few of the brewers I have worked, drank, and blacked out with.   Kimbell Brewing These are the OGs that would start me on my Brew HaHa adventures, when they were two of the four members of homebrew collective Lowdive. Matt Kanable and Andrew Lautner would eventually go on to start Kimbell Brewing. These are the guys that took a chance on me and helped organize a private beer dinner showcasing their beer and my food. This eventually led to doing a much more toned-down version of the Brew HaHa at our friend Mike Anderson’s backyard in Humboldt Park, where Tooch [Adam Mattucci] and I would handle food and they would provide the suds. Their beer was something special. From the meticulous marketing of their brand, to the recipes of the beer, you could tell Kimbell’s was “pro” brew. It wasn’t about getting smashed and drunk dialing your ex. It was about balance, trying to get the most out of the ingredients, and maintaining consistency.     Matt and Drew also know how to take constructive criticism, which allows them to excel in whatever style they choose to brew. My particular favorites from them as of late have been their sours. These beers are wild, tart, and fruity without being too sweet or overly acidic, which a lot of wild-fermented ales tend to be. They schedule brew days and consider beer to be sacred without being pretentious about what it is and what it “means” to them. I love these guys because they know how to appreciate beer, don’t make a big fuss about what it is, and make great shit.     Twisted Hippo Karl and Marilee may be some of the sweetest and raunchiest people I know. I met these two at a seafood dinner thing at Whole Foods, where I was filling in as the cook to test out some recipes to customers. Their friend, Gonzalo, was bragging about their beer rig at home and raved about their homebrew. The picture I saw showed a 16-tap system in a bedroom with a bunk bed over a chest cooler that housed all the beer. I thought it was fake or an Onion article picture, and I told them that I must see it in person. They were so cordial and open to having a stranger over just to share beer and hang out. That kind of openness and genuine kindness is hard to come by these days, so much so that it almost makes you suspicious.     It was love at first site: I visited them at their home in Albany Park and left annihilated, which wouldn’t be the last time I’d leave there not remembering a damn thing. Karl and Marilee have hosted homebrew parties, fried chicken nights, and even let me brew a beer with them. I didn’t do a goddamn thing – I was too hungover, and eventually passed out while they did all the work. I particularly loved their Beeting Heart Kölsch, which was one of the first commercial beers I tried from them commercially (long story). It’s smooth, mildly sweet, and has an earthiness and bright red color that only beets can bring. These guys have been on a hell of a journey to get their beer out there and have worked so damn hard only to have to start over again. Yet, they still do everything with a goddamn smile because they know and truly believe that this journey will all lead to achieving the…

Winter Warmer: The Danish Art of Hygge in the Baltic Porter

By Jenny Pfäfflin of Cicerone Certification Program There’s a Danish way of living called hygge, a hard-to-translate-into-English concept the Danes adhere to in the colder, darker months (though, it can be a year-round philosophy). In its essence, it means “coziness” – winter hygge can be expressed through candlelit dinners, climbing under wool blankets, twilight coffee dates, pine-scented potpourri, and Netflix binges. But hygge is also emotional – it’s a time to gather with family and friends, to put aside work talk and politics and just be with each other. It should come as no surprise, then, that one of the indigenous beer styles to the Nordic region is liquid hygge. In the 18th century, the British started to export their porters, who had made them with a higher alcohol content for the trip across the Baltic Sea. Known as the Baltic porter in the relatively modern establishment of beer style nomenclature, Baltic porters were also made under the names Russian stout or imperial stout, as they became the beer of favor by St. Petersburg royals. It all really depended on how the brewery decided to market its beer. Soon, instead of importing the beers from England, entrepreneurs set up breweries along the Baltic Sea. These new breweries adapted to regional ingredients and processes, and in turn, made a version of these strong, rich beers that evolved from its English roots. Baltic porters made in Scandinavia differ from those made in the Baltic regions. And even then, some Baltic porters are top-fermented, while others are bottom-fermented, probably as a result of adapting to the trends of the time, when lager breweries in Northern Europe were gaining in numbers and using one house yeast resulted in a more simplified and economical production of beer. No matter what brewers in Nordic and Baltic countries called it, the Baltic porter is unlike what we’ve become accustomed to as imperial stouts in the United States. Domestic versions of Imperial Stouts are characteristically American—barrel-chested and full of bravado, usually ringing in over 10% ABV, roasty, and heavily hopped. But there’s still a warmth to Baltic porters, as they’re usually stronger and fruitier than most porters and stouts. Minimally hopped, dark fruits like plums and cherries fill the aroma of these porters, along with licorice, chocolate, and toffee. Malty sweetness is showcased in the taste, held in check by low bitterness, and restrained coffee roast or slight smokiness. Full-bodied but not heavy, the slight glow of alcohol warms you up as it all comes together as hygge in its liquid form, the perfect accompaniment for snuggling into a snowy night. Notable Baltic Porters: Sinebrychoff Porter, Finland Carnegie Stark Porter, Sweden Żywiec Porter, Poland Smuttynose Baltic Porter, U.S. Jack’s Abby Framinghammer, U.S. Les Trois Mousquetaires G.C. Porter Baltique, Canada

Sustainable Beer on Chicago’s South Side: Whiner Beer Company

By Calvin Fredrickson   Located in Chicago’s Back of the Yards neighborhood, Whiner Beer Co. is housed within a “vertical farm” called The Plant, an almost too-good-to-be-true bastion of environmentally minded business. Folks, it’s the real deal, and its ideology represents a watershed moment in Whiner founder and brewmaster Brian Taylor’s career. More on that later. With 15 years of brewing experience to his name, Taylor had technical know-how in spades. What he needed was a creative partner, someone who could evoke the playful, tongue-in-cheek personality of Whiner’s European-inspired beers. Enter Ria Neri, local hospitality veteran and artist, who embraced Taylor’s vision for Whiner by expressing mutual influences – ranging from 70s French comics to armadillos – through the brewery’s branding and beer labels.   By packaging their beer in cans, much of it barrel-aged, Whiner is looking to convey a highbrow-meets-lowbrow aesthetic. Wary of taking themselves too seriously, Taylor and Neri explain that the brewery’s name is a lighthearted allusion to the wine industry. One gets the sense that Whiner is tipping its hat to the world of wine with a twinkle in its eye. As of October, Whiner was still awaiting word from the TTB, and Taylor was chomping at the bit. “We’re basically ready to go,” he said. Indeed they are.   Daylight spills from broad windows onto the brewery’s concrete floor and walls, playing off brushed steel fermenters. The buzz and cracks of final customizations echo throughout the brewery, dust hanging in the air. Glowing white Xs punctuate the brewery and cellar ceilings. Taylor joked that people take more pictures of those lights than they do anything else. In their defense, the lights are rad. But Whiner’s story and vision outshine the brewery’s cosmetic appeal. What follows is an overview of Whiner’s stainless and wood cellars, their souring and blending processes, and their role at The Plant.   The Stainless Whiner’s 30-barrel, three-vessel brewhouse will accommodate step mashing, a brewing process typical of some of the French- and Belgian-style beers Whiner will produce. Two 60-barrel fermentation tanks dwarf two 15-barrel counterparts, vessels that will serve fermentation, blending, and yeast propagation processes. “Everything serves a really good purpose where it sits,” Taylor said, a credit, in part, to Corcoran Fabrication & Design, whom Taylor often contracted for work during his days as head cellarman at Goose Island.   For Whiner, stainless plays an important role in producing consistent beers. Taking a cue from beers of years past – Sofie, anyone? – Taylor will be blending four parts clean, stainless-fermented beer with one part wine barrel-aged sour, resulting in a tart, balanced beer. While stainless is a necessary side of Whiner’s fermentation, wine barrels hold mystique for Taylor and Neri in a way that stainless does not. In fact, the first two barrels Whiner received were promptly named after their proud stewards ­­– scrawled in sharpie on one, “Brian.” On the other, “Ria.” The Wood “I think I bought the barrels before anything,” Taylor said. “I had wine barrels in here and nothing else.” The best barrels are Cabernet Sauvignon, he said, which lend to initial fills bold wine flavors and aromas, though Pinot noir barrels are good, too. These barrels also present a relatively inexpensive vessel for long-term aging, something that is impractical in expensive stainless steel tanks. Wine barrels, being porous, allow for slow oxygen ingress, which is an excellent environment for microbial activity. Taylor will be encouraging that activity by pitching strains of Brettanomyces yeast into Lactobacillus-inoculated wort. Doing so will develop intense fruity and sometimes farm-like aromas, along with lemony, yogurt-like tanginess from the soured wort.   Whiner’s love for oak is no joke – with 40 barrels in the cellar and counting, Taylor muses of having a foudre or two soon, which can hold close to 400 gallons of liquid. “On a microbiology side, I like the wine barrels, because it’s more about growth; whereas with bourbon barrels, it’s about bourbon character and oak.” Federal and state approval holdups have kept Taylor from filling his barrels just yet, but when he does fill them, lush vinous notes will mingle with the deep oak aromas that have already permeated the cellar.   Souring Process Several techniques exist for souring beer, including hot- and cold-side introductions of Lactobacillus. One type of hot-side Lactobacillus addition is kettle souring, which usually involves an eventual boil, arresting additional bacterial fermentation in the wort upon reaching a desired pH. Another hot-side Lactobacillus addition involves soaking mesh bags filled with malt – in Whiner’s case, pilsner malt – in 110º wort for 24 hours, a technique Taylor honed while working alongside Jared Jankowski at Goose Island. “Everyone says it doesn’t work, but it worked twice as well for us,” Taylor said. Instead of killing the Lactobacillus bacteria with a boil, Taylor sends the inoculated wort to barrels, where it ferments and develops additional lactic character for the period of about a month.   Measuring total acidity – a technique Taylor learned at Boulevard – and blending, Taylor said, will promote greater control of flavor and acid profiles in the finished product. “We want to make sure the sourness of the beer isn’t overly sour or not sour enough,” he said. Once Whiner’s stainless- and wood-fermented Le Tub Wild Saison – one of Whiner’s flagships – is blended in the brite tank, Taylor will pitch Brettanomyces claussenii, a fruit-forward yeast strain that will create additional complexity and tamp down potential Pediococcus activity in the bottle. Pediococcus, like Lactobacillus, is a bacteria strain that creates lactic acid in beer, albeit one that can work more slowly and create off flavors. Recalling his experience processing Juliet wine barrels at Goose Island, Taylor estimated one in ten barrels had to be dumped. Those barrels had become “sick” or “ropy,” resulting in slimy, gelatinous beer, the result of Pediococcus. “It’s dangerous as hell,” Taylor said.   Sulphur sticks, potassium metabisulfite, and citric acid are among the more common treatments for barrel maintenance – and they’re all methods Taylor eschews…

Mash Tun’s Top 5s for 2015

We drank some good beers in 2015. Here are a few selections from four Mash Tun cholos. Some of the beers were released in 2015. Some weren’t. Forget a gym membership. Track down these beers. Calvin Fredrickson’s Picks: The Commons Brewery – Urban Farmhouse Ale: When I visited Commons this past summer, their menu was loaded with tons of low-ABV, flavorful, and expressive beers. Urban Farmhouse Ale was a standout. My girlfriend and I enjoyed a couple bottles while camping along the Oregon coast. de Garde Brewing – The Boysen: Boysenberry funktown. Yogurt and berry goodness. Moderate acidity, tannic, and boasts a beautiful color. It’s beer’s purple drank. Anderson Valley Brewing Co. – The Kimmie, The Yink, & The Holy Gose: Gose hit its stride in 2015. This one carried the banner. Kimmie was my go-to. I brought it to BBQs, bought it at divey concert halls, and drank it at home. I don’t understand Anderson Valley’s nomenclature. I do understand this beer. Very well. Half Acre Beer Co. – Pony: It’s local, it’s hoppy, and it’s always fresh. I drank buckets of this stuff in 2015. I expect 2016 will be no different. Pivo, I love you, but… Spiteful Brewing – Vote of No Confidence: Dankness and tropical fruit with a creamy mouthfeel. Dangerously drinkable. This beer fueled some good times. –––––––––– Doug Veliky’s Picks BrickStone Brewery – American Pale Ale:  Some call it the Zombie killer [3 Floyds Zombie Dust]. There are definitely similarities, but this one has more malt backbone, and, most importantly, it lasts on the shelf for more than 30 minutes (for now). Oskar Blues Brewery – Death by Coconut: This is the type of beer that could convert casual beer drinkers into enthusiasts, if only they could get their hands on it. Very approachable at 6% ABV, with big coconut and rich chocolate flavor. Spiteful Brewing – Barrel Aged Malevolence Chocolate Caliente: Spiteful has always been on the map of Chicago’s enthusiasts who seek out the freshest beer possible. Their FoBAB winner in the category of Speciality Strong Porter/Stout puts them on the radar nationwide with this well-integrated, big-bodied, spiced chocolate stout.   Desthil Brewing – Dosvidanya: Like a Russian nesting doll, each layer stacks perfectly into this Russian imperial stout, aged in bourbon barrels. Be prepared for a big fudge brownie, covered in rich chocolate sauce. Moody Tongue – Steeped Emperor’s Lemon Saison: Pair this complex, flavorful Moody Tongue saison with your next meal featuring chicken or fish to really enhance the dining experience. Bright grassy and lemon flavors, mild cracked pepper, and bready malts. ––––––––– Chris Quinn’s Picks   Marz Community Brewing – Jungle Boogie: One of the most original beers I had all year, Jungle Boogie seamlessly intertwines the juicy, dripping flavors of exotic U.S. hops with rooibos tea. de Garde Brewing – Hose: A trip to de Garde Brewing earlier this year was an eye-opening look at the cutting edge of American wild ales. A 100% spontaneous fermentation brewery, de Garde somehow manages to brew a clean, lactic gose. It takes them a year to produce and they sell it for $6 per 750ml….I still don’t know how this beer is possible. Penrose Brewing – Wild X with Cherries: Perhaps the best American wild beer I tasted all year, Penrose took the already stellar Wild X and turned it into something magical. Scratch Brewing – Spring Tonic: My introduction to Scratch came by way of this beer. Technically a gruit, spring tonic is a vibrant, light, and refreshingly quenching beer. It’s a perfect introduction to one of the more innovative and ambitious breweries in the country. August Schell Brewing Co. – Starkeller Peach: Yes, you read that correctly. August Schell, the brewer of Grain Belt lager, decided to start a sour program. And they killed it. I’m as confused as you are.   –––––––– EdMar’s Picks: I decided to review my favorite beers of the 2015 by thinking about how they pair with video gaming, the frequency of their ingestion, and expressing yearnings for those whales that come only once a year. I also picked one of my favorite beers by the brewery I work at. And I used lyrics written by Morrissey of The Smiths to describe these selections. Spiteful Brewing – Alley Time: Punctured bicycle On a hillside desolate Will Nature make a man of me yet? When in this charming car This charming man Why pamper life’s complexities When the leather runs smooth on the passenger seat?  (The Smiths, “This Charming Man”) Almanac Beer Co. – Barbary Coast When it comes down to virtue and truth No one can hold a candle to you And I dim next to you No one can hold a candle to you When it comes down to old-fashioned virtue (Morrissey, “No One Can Hold a Candle to You”) Perennial Artisan Ales – Barrel-Aged Abraxas Haven’t had a dream In a long time See, the life I’ve had Can make a good man Turn bad So for once in my life Let me get what I want Lord knows It would be the first time (The Smiths, “Please, Please, Please Let Me Get What I Want”) Marz Community Brewing – Jungle Boogie You shut your mouth How can you say I go about things the wrong way ? I am human and I need to be loved Just like everybody else does (The Smiths – “The Boy With the Thorn in His Side”) Maine Beer Co – Lunch And if a double-decker bus Crashes into us To die by your side Is such a heavenly way to die And if a ten ton truck Kills the both of us To die by your side Well, the pleasure, the privilege is mine (The Smiths – “There is a Light That Never Goes Out”) Bonus Track!  3 Floyds – Broo Doo Dear hero imprisoned With all the new crimes that you are perfecting Oh, I can’t help quoting you Because everything that you said rings true And now in…

What It’s Worth: Rare Bourbon County Stout

What It’s Worth: Rare Bourbon County Stout By Chris Quinn   What is a beer worth? This is a question that gets raised increasingly more often as craft beer continues its meteoric growth. Is it simply the sum of its parts, no more than the combined costs of the raw materials, packaging, labor, plus a little something, you know, for the effort? Or is it something that, when done well, should stand shoulder-to-shoulder with the finest fermented beverages from Piedmont and Bordeaux? In short, we don’t know.   So, as we [Beer Temple Insiders Roundtable] look for the answer to this question, we believe it is important to first inform ourselves on how beer arrives at its commodity pricing before we begin to divorce from it and enter a pricing model that takes intangible things (rarity, exclusivity, brand recognition) into account.   For the subject of our experiment, we chose Goose Island’s Rare Bourbon County Stout, which was recently re-released with much anticipation after a five-year hiatus. Derived from 35-year old Heaven Hill bourbon barrels, Rare brings much trepidation with its $60 price tag for a single 16.9-ounce bottle. What went into pricing this beer, or for that matter, any beer?   We received insight from experts in many fields to arrive at the numbers below. Some were hard numbers, some were very educated estimates, and some were pieced together through context clues. What we have is by no means the exact cost but our best estimate, which we wholeheartedly stand behind. We have decided not to include “soft costs” such as advertising and marketing campaigns, which, in addition to being impossible to accurately determine, is separate from what the beer actually is and cost to make. You can easily spend tens of millions of dollars on some of the cheapest beers in the world, as any time spent in front of the TV on a Sunday afternoon will quickly prove.   The chart below is not only an attempt to determine what the costs of a craft beer are, but what values talent, knowledge, and expertise have as well. Craft beer has long differentiated itself from other alcoholic beverages not only through flavor but also through a guiding ethos of community. In keeping with this tradition, and the unspoken trust between producer, purveyor, and consumer that goes along with it, we felt that the findings of this experiment should be shared with all beer lovers so that we can all learn from it, and hopefully come a few steps closer to finding our own answer to the question “What is a beer worth?”   A note about opportunity cost: As a public company, AB InBev has a responsibility to its shareholders. Whether that is maximizing profits, maximizing shareholder value, setting up the company for future growth, or anything else, AB InBev needs to do what is in the best interest of their company.  Even if brewing Rare is not the most profitable use of all of AB InBev’s resources, they have made the decision that it is in the best interest of the company and therefore we have decided that opportunity costs should not come into pay when evaluating Rare. Overall Costs Packaging: $8.72 Rent: $0.24 Utilities: $0.12 Liquid: $1.30 Warehouse improvements, storage tanks, transportation: $0.05 Labor: $0.70 5% Misc.: $0.56 Total: $11.69     Packaging: Glass bottle:              $0.50 Label:                         $0.05 Crown cap:                $0.02 Box:                            $8.00 Total:                           $8.57   Liquid: Barley/Hops:             $0.49 Yeast:                         $0.20 Barrel:                         $0.59 Water:                                    $0.02 Total:                           $1.30  

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