Best Looking Brands in Beer Part 3: Grimm Artisanal Ales

  A few years ago, we tried to hook up with some mysterious brewer-artists that were serving their beers at exhibitions at alternative galleries in Chicago. We were hosting a series of Art of Beer events and thought they were perfect for the shows—but we never managed to connect. Four years later, we find out that the cats we were looking for were Joe and Lauren Grimm, the owners of Grimm Artisanal Ales.   What inspired you to start making beer?   Twelve years ago, you’d find us fermenting ginger beer, mead, pickles, and kimchi in our apartment kitchen. It was simple: We were interested in the transformation of materials by bacteria, yeast, and time.   Once we were hooked on Orval, Fantôme, and Jolly Pumpkin, beers with significant yeast and bacteria profiles, that was all we wanted to make. We only started producing IPA when we figured out how to make yeast esters play with hop character in a meaningful way.   We’re motivated by the challenge—we’re discovering how deep the rabbit hole goes, and there seems to be no bottom. Joe and I are constantly in search of new techniques and flavors in the beers we make.  Being truly great will require a lifetime of dedicated research and experimentation.     I assume you guys started as gypsy brewers instead of diving into the shit of opening your own brewery because of the cost and risk. Would you recommend going this route to others?   It’s always hard. We initially wanted to open our own production brewery with our own brewing equipment, but it was impossible without a sales record. Gypsy brewing ended up being the right move for us, but that doesn’t mean that it’s right for everyone. Now, we’re moving toward opening our own facility, specifically designed around our idiosyncratic practices.   It’s true that we didn’t have to deal with the upfront financial investment, but it’s not necessarily easier to operate the way we do. Folks often think that it’s easier than brewery ownership, but it’s just different. The risks are there, but different. The biggest risk in gypsy brewing is the power differential between the gypsy brewer and the partner brewer. They have you by the short hairs. Are you going to be able to assert yourself to get YOUR ideas into the bottle?   That’s why we’re constantly working on our relationships with our partner breweries. We have to be able to trust the people we work with day in and day out, and, in turn, they need to trust us to allow us into their breweries and give us the opportunity to experiment the way we do. Some people seem to have a fantasy of running a gypsy brewing business as, like, a hobby. If you treat it as anything less that a full time rigorous commitment you will suck at it and probably fail.   Three to four years ago it was brutal looking for space and time at breweries to contract brew beer. Has it been easier to find tank space and brewing time due to the growth in the number of breweries that have started?   It’s definitely been easier for us to find capacity more recently, but I think that it’s actually due to the relationships and reputation that we’ve built. There are more breweries around these days, but capacity still seems pretty tight. If a brewery is sitting with empty fermenters, ask yourself why. Is that somebody you really want to work with? How do you come up with concepts for your beers?   That’s a hard question to answer. It’s an ongoing process that began way back when we were first learning about fermentation 12 years ago. As we’ve developed identities as a brewers, we’ve developed a sense of style, a beer aesthetic. Each beer is a part of the Grimm project as a whole, and our ideas about our beer are constantly in flux. Every time we brew, we make small adjustments to our technique and ingredients, tweaks based on research and experimentation.   I see a Providence school of psychedelic hallucinogenic artwork in your beer labels. What is your process for naming, designing, and creating the artwork on your packaging?   You’re not wrong about the Providence connection; Joe and I both lived there in the aftermath of the Fort Thunder-era and that visual style was influential.   We always begin the process with a beer name. We’ll go back and forth playing off of one another’s ideas. For instance, the name Tesseract started out with a general idea of crystals, which led to tessera, the small pieces of tile that make up a mosaic, tessellations, and finally Tesseract, which came from A Wrinkle in Time.   Once we’ve decided on a name, the label design begins. One of our oldest friends, artist Gretta Johnson, is an integral part of our team.  The labels that originate in her drawings tend to have a hand drawn, gestural aesthetic (for example, Purple Prose and Future Perfect). The ones that I design from scratch tend to be more graphic and minimal (for example Magnetic Compass, Vacay). Because we’ve known each other for ten-plus years, our working process is pretty fluid. Most of the time, we just have a series of text messages to develop ideas for imagery.   Even though the final label is a computer file that I’ve worked through in Illustrator, the images usually begin as a drawing with pen and paper that Gretta or myself will draw. I think that’s one reason why our labels stand out so much. You can see the hand in each one, rather than just computer graphics. Can you tell me more of about the community of artists, brewers, and distributors that helped form Grimm along with you guys?   Joe and I are the only employees of Grimm, but we depend on a lot of other people to get our beer out there. Lately, we’ve been brewing a lot of beer at Flagship, on…

Know Thyself: An Essay on Lazy Beer Marketing.

  Know Thyself: An Essay on Lazy Beer Marketing. Matt Tanaka   There’s a lot of lazy marketing in the beer world, and it’s holding good breweries back. It’s not really anyone’s fault, it’s the result of a bad idea that’s been repeated for years: all a brewery needs to do to survive is make great beer, and that if the marketing is “good” and polished, then the beer must be bad. Unfortunately, in today’s new-brewery-every-day marketplace, that simply isn’t true.   That recurring notion stems from the misconception that marketing is just the act of making something shiny when it shouldn’t be. That it’s the swindler’s art of making stuff up to sell a product. That’s bad marketing. The truth is, real marketing — good marketing — is something much deeper than that. It’s the well-communicated story of the culture and identity of a brewery. And, whether it’s packaging design, social media content, the words on the website, or the way the reps present their story at an event, every part of what a brewery does should be focused on communicating that identity.   The following “case studies” feature breweries with marketing problems, all of which stem from the fact they aren’t doing a great job of communicating who they are to beer drinkers. Because I’m not a masochist, none of these breweries are real, but as the honorable Julia Louis-Dreyfus once said in an interview about her documentary series, Veep: “Everyone loves the show because they all think it’s about the other guy.” So, before you get mad at me: these are all about the other guy. You’re doing great.   Case Study #1: Super Brad Brewery   The Problem Super Brad Brewery is a brewpub in a small southern town known for its constant experimentation. After a recent shift to a wider distribution, they’ve found themselves needing to act more like the packaging brewery they’ve become, without abandoning their tiny-batch, change-on-a-dime brewpub origins. While waiting for a solution to magically fall into place, their social media accounts continue to treat the brewery like a bar in a small town.   The Fix A simple change in the way they approach social media would help to shift their image from being a bar that brews beer to that of an established brewery. To put it simply, these guys really suck at social media. If I see them post one more photo of the shitty band that’s playing at their taproom that week, or a poorly lit shot of a greasy looking burger on BOGO night, I’m going to lose my marbles. These things are uninspiring, unoriginal, and kind of miss the point of social media in the first place. It’s not about throwing tiny advertisements and announcements at people; it’s about providing a window into the culture of your brewery, then inviting people to join you in that culture. It’s a way for someone who has never visited your brewery to get a taste of the personality of the people that make that beer. It’s about extending the experience beyond your taproom.   The folks at Super Brad are super goofy, with a weird sense of humor and a penchant for pranks. This is reflected in the beer they brew — it’s weird and experimental and is really hard to pigeonhole into any one style, or region. Their social media should reflect this by documenting the actual scenes of life at the brewery. That time John bought a Nerf gun and that escalated into a weeklong, all-brewery dart war? Instagram that. That time Sarah wanted to see if she could brew a peanut butter porter using peanuts that she grew at home? Take some photos of the experiments and post them in an album on Facebook with a story about the process. Show off the culture of your brewery instead of trying to pull people into the brewpub.     Case Study #2: Heelflip Brewing Company   The Problem Heelflip Brewing Company is a production brewery and taproom in San Diego with a strong skateboarding theme. They have beers with names like, Double Kickflip IIPA, Boardslide Bitter and Frontside Fakie Narflip 360 BaitHook to Fakie Benihana Stout. Whenever they talk about the brewery, this is what they focus on. So much so that the beer is always treated as secondary. As a result, they’re not known for the beer they brew, even though they keep winning awards for it. It’s all summed up in their tagline: “Heelflip Brewing: Beer For Skateboarders.”   The Fix  “Beer For Skateboarders” is really only half of the story. They like skateboarding, yes, but what they’re really good at is making killer beer. There’s a much stronger tie to the theme that they’ve devoted themselves to under the surface, and it’s one that shifts the focus to what’s important: the beer. Most of what they brew is low in alcohol, a decision they made because they wanted to drink sessionable beers that let them extend their skate… sessions. To let that idea speak a little louder, they could use a tagline closer to this: “Heelflip Brewing: Session Beers For Longer Sessions.” The change is subtle but important. It shifts the focus of the brand from the skateboarding to the beer. Instead of saying “We started our brewery because we like skating,” the tagline could read: “We started our brewery to make great beer, and we like to make the kind of beer that we can drink while skateboarding.”   Case Study #3: Melange Brewing Company   The Problem Their IPA, Shondorf’s Second Staff has phenomenal graphics — a bad ass illustration of a wizard hovering above a cave where a troll wearing a “Shondorf” name tag pours hops into a steamy cauldron. Awesome. But when it sits on a shelf next to their Space Dust Oyster Stout with its classic video game-inspired graphics, or their The DM Is Always Right DIPA with what appears to be the artwork of the brewmaster’s five-year-old scribbled on a bar napkin… I get confused. And then…

Using Bankruptcy to Kill the Narrative of the “Craft Beer Bubble.”

By Jack O’Connor   Last December, San Francisco-based Magnolia Brewing filed for chapter 11 bankruptcy protection. Being a corporate bankruptcy attorney (and an optimistic beer geek), I view this positively.   You should, too. Why? Because it’s good evidence that the craft beer industry is ready to move past the tired narrative of the dreaded “Craft Beer Bubble.”   First, let’s talk about the bubble, and how it’s been speculatively applied to the current craft beer boom, for better or worse.   Then we can talk about why a bankruptcy filing in Northern California may be important to ending this narrative.   How the “Bubble” Concept is Applied to the Current Craft Beer Boom   What exactly does it mean when we talk about a “bubble,” in the craft beer industry? Why is it relevant? Should I be concerned about bubbles? What about bubbles in my bath? Are you going to keep asking rhetorical questions? BUBBLES!   The term “bubble,” seems ubiquitous these days when discussing the growth of the craft beer industry. But it’s rarely defined in a clear way. Most often, people seem to use the term “bubble,” to refer to the very broad economic concept of an economic cycle, characterized by rapid expansion in a market, which is followed by severe contraction.   The most commonly cited example of a past “bubble,” in the craft beer industry was the rise and fall of microbreweries in the late 90s and early 2000s. According to data from the Brewers Association, the total number of breweries in the U.S. grew by over 500% between 1990 and 2000, ultimately stalling out and slightly declining between 2001 and 2006. Since 2006, however, the total number of breweries in the U.S. has grown again by almost 300%, from 1,511 total breweries in 2007 to current estimates exceeding 4,300 total breweries; more than have ever existed in the country’s history.[1]   Along with the growth in number of breweries, the marketshare of craft beer has also grown significantly over this time, both in terms of total sales, and production volume relative to the overall beer market.   This rapid growth of craft beer in such a short time is constantly narrative fodder for journalists, bloggers, and forum commenters (Trolls!), speculating that we’re in the midst of another “bubble,” that’s ready to burst any day. The argument usually employs the following logic:   New breweries are opening, and current breweries are expanding, at an unsustainable rate. Since the rate of growth is unsustainable, the growth of the craft beer industry will suddenly halt, or reverse just like it did 20 years ago.   While we are certainly in the midst of a booming period of growth in craft beer, this argument ignores a number of factors in making the case that we’re in the midst of a bubble. Namely, it misses the idea that craft beer is in the midst of entering a maturity. Calling it a bubble is misleading and ultimately harmful for a couple of reasons.   First, the term “bubble,” itself is probably not the right term to describe what happened in the 90s and what people are speculating will happen now. When used by financial professionals, the concept of a bubble focuses on trade pricing for assets in a specific market that strongly deviates from the actual value of those assets (think stock prices, home values, etc.). For example, the dotcom bubble in the late 90s and early 2000s (which happens to coincide with craft beer’s last boom & bust period), was characterized by investors buying tech stocks at artificially high prices, in the belief that they could sell them at even higher prices in the future. This speculation proved untrue, causing the bubble to burst when the value of tech stocks took a nose dive.   What we saw in the 90s was probably better described as a boom-and-bust period within the craft beer industry. The number of breweries expanded rapidly, and very suddenly stopped, resulting in a shrinking of the industry generally. This distinction is important to note, because regardless of the rate of industry growth, the industry has never completely fallen off a cliff. The trend, over time has continued upward. Thus, the use of the term “bubble,” can be detrimental to the industry. It assumes a cataclysmic event in which the industry as a whole goes belly-up.   Rather than focusing on the bubble narrative, our attention should be focused on how the industry is maturing in the midst of a boom period. Expansion, financing, and acquisition rates are high right now, and likely to slow over time, meaning at the very least fewer new breweries will open on such a rapid basis. And when coupled with increased competition between existing breweries who’ve undergone significant expansions and need to sell more and more beer to stay in business, some breweries will inevitably be forced out of the marketplace.   Some won’t be able to compete on quality, others won’t be able to compete from an operational efficiency standpoint. More than a few experienced craft players have adopted this view, including Sam Calgione (Dogfish Head), Bill Covaleski (Victory), Greg Koch (Stone),[2] and Mike Stevens (Founders).[3] When recently asked, all four have indicated that they think that the industry is heading toward a “shakeout,” or “fallout,” where breweries will have to close, and the number of new brewery openings will inevitably slow. But none of them seem to think that the craft beer industry is about to experience a complete bust.   I think Van Havig of Gigantic said it best back in 2014, when interviewed for the Strange Brews podcast on NPR. “If you think that every brewery out there is going to make it . . . No,” because every industry has “bad operators,” who’ll go out of business.[4]   So even during a boom, industry turnover is natural and expected. It doesn’t mean that a magical pin is about to fall from the sky and pop…

The 39th Annual Illinois Craft Beer Awards are Coming!

The first ever 39th Annual Illinois Craft Beer Awards is a party to celebrate all the amazing, fun, and insanely creative people who make the Illinois craft beer industry the vibrant scene that it is! It’s produced by your friends at Mash Tun Journal and The Beer Temple. The ICBA ceremony is like The Golden Globes or The Academy Awards but for beer industry professionals and for a good cause! Who will win the highly-coveted “Foamy” trophy and in what category? You’ll have to attend the party to find out! General admission tickets are $35 BUY THEM HERE Admission includes: Complementary Miller High Life Complementary Craft Beer and Malort! Paparazzi ! Live Music! Entertainment ! Swag! Participating breweries include: Hopewell Brewing, Maplewood, Three Floyds, Half Acre, Revolution, Lagunitas, Goose Island, Arcade Brewing, Transient Artisan Ales, Marz Community Brewing, Lake Effect, Twisted Hippo, Une Annee, Scratch, Noon Whistle, Forbidden Root, Middle Brow, Ballast Point, Whiner, Miller, Band of Bohemia, Blue Island Beer Co, Aleman, Pipeworks, Illuminated Brew Works, Hop Butcher, and others. There is very limited capacity at this event. All the proceeds from the event will go to Doctors without Borders.

Mash Tun 010 Release party

Issue 010 of Mash Tun Journal features work by Calvin Fredrickson, JJ Jetel, Mike Killion, BJ Pichman, Alex Bach, Calvin Fredrickson, Ed Marszewski, Jack O’Connor, Jenny Pfäfflin, Mike Smith, and Matt Tanaka. We are having the official release party for Mash Tun Journal 010 at Kimski’s Sword Fight event. Sword Fight: A Sausage Battle Royale Sunday, Oct 9 – 2-6 PM 960 W. 31st St, Chicago, IL. 60608 Sword Fight: A Sausage Battle Royale Sword Fight is Kimski’s inaugural sausage competition. It’s a celebration of encased meats and the people who make and eat them. We will pit three of Chicago’s premier purveyors of encased, cured and fresh meats; Publican Quality Meats, Haymarket Pub & Brewery and Bridgeport’s own Martinez Supermarket in a brat battle royale against one another with the audience ultimately deciding who the wiener is by voting for their favorite. Sword Fight also features a Sausage Toss contest and a Relish Race. The Sausage Toss (like the well-known picnic balloon toss) will use casings filled with water with different players throwing the sausages to one another, taking a step back after each catch until one player either drops or pops his sausage. The Relish Race will be a three-member Olympic-like relay event with different runners handing off a sausage baton to one another as they run a circular course around Maria’s. First team to the finish line without dropping their sausage wins. The final competition will be a Polish -sausage eating contest, presided by the Sausage Queen, Nicole Makowski of Makowski Real Sausage Co. Other treats include The Chicago Stock Yard Kilty Band and Carnival Style Sausage cutouts painted by our own Chef Won Kim. We invite you to drop by to share in the festivities for this afternoon of good-natured fun, frivolity and great food. We will be serving all three sausages as a sampler and a la carte. And of course, you’ll be able to pair your sausage with Maria’s varied and wide selection of draft beers and cocktails.  

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.      

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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