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….

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…

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

By Al Robertson   So you want to brew some sour beer? Brewing sour or wild ale at home can seem daunting and dangerous to homebrewers and pro brewers alike. When I first ventured into making sour beers at home, I approached them with much trepidation, due to fears of contaminating my equipment and unfamiliarity with the sour brewing process. The first sour beer I brewed was a Berliner weiss, for which I acquired the necessary bacteria from a grain-inoculated starter. The result was surprisingly tasty and relatively easy to replicate at the homebrew scale.   When I joined Marz Community Brewing some years later, we decided to have a Berliner weiss as one of our regularly brewed offerings. I was assigned the task of developing the process for creating a Berliner weiss in a production environment while maintaining the quality and consistency of my homebrewed test batches. This proved to be an extremely challenging endeavor because the process I used as a homebrewer was too difficult and time consuming to recreate on a production level. Because Berliner weiss is so low in alcohol, malt presence, and hop character, it is impossible to mask any flaws or inconsistencies. It is truly one of the most difficult styles to produce, despite the simplicity of the recipe.   To overcome our initial production inconsistencies, I took one of my grain-inoculated starters to Lance Shaner at Omega Yeast Labs. He was able to identify and isolate the souring bacteria responsible for my successful homebrew Berliners, which was then used for producing the Bubbly Creek Berliner Weiss at Marz. The bacteria are a Lactobacillus plantarum species. As far as I know, no other commercial beer yeast laboratories offer a plantarum species to the public. This strain is well suited for a production environment because it is able to sour beer at room temperature relatively quickly. Other commercially available Lactobacillus strains require extended aging or fermentation temperatures as high as 120°F to produce the results we are seeing in a matter of 36 hours at much lower temperatures.     The Bubbly Creek Berliner Weiss   50% Pilsner Malt 50% White Wheat   0.5oz Whole Leaf Czech Saaz 1 unit OYL-605 Omega Lactobacillus blend 1 package of Safale US-05   OG 1.034 FG 1.010 pH 3.2   Heat water to 160°F and combine in the mash tun with the grains and whole leaf hops at a ratio of 1.3L water per pound of grain. Mash for 60 minutes and sparge with 170°F water. Collect the desired amount of wort and boil for 45 minutes. Chill to 80°F and pitch the Lactobacillus blend. Let the wort sour for three days in the fermenter and then add a package of Safale US-05. The beer will be ready to bottle in one week. Carbonate to 3.2-3.4 volumes CO2.   If desired, add whole fruit and/or your favorite Brettanomyces strain after primary fermentation for added complexity.    

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

  Interviewed by Ed Marszewski   Rick and Ron Chapman opened Coronado Brewing Company almost 20 years ago on the island of Coronado, across the bay from San Diego. The brewery started as a small neighborhood brewpub around the same time as Ballast Point, Stone, and AleSmith. Together, those breweries formed the San Diego Brewers Guild, and over time Coronado and the guild birthed the “West Coast” beer styles that we have come to love and adore.   At the moment, Coronado isn’t as well known to Midwestern beer drinkers as Stone or Ballast Point, but in late-2015 they entered a distribution contract with Wirtz Beverage and have just started rolling out the barrels here in Chicagoland. In 2014, the brewery won best Mid-Sized Brewery and Brewer at the World Beer Cup, taking a prize with their Islander IPA. And if the liquid continues to taste as good as the ones we’ve tried, we expect them to do well here in the beer capital of the Midwest.   We hooked up with Rick Chapman and Head Brewer Ryan Brooks at Mash Tun HQ a few days before they were heading to FoBAB and asked them to tell their story.   Edmar: How did you start your brewery?   Rick Chapman: My brother Ron and I opened the brewery 20 years ago. It had always been a dream of ours to have a brewery. And 20 years ago we put together a business plan, bought the property almost 150 yards from the home we grew up in, and plucked down a little brewpub.   Edmar: So you started off with a brewpub that had a restaurant, a taproom, and a small brewing facility. What was the size of your system back then?   Rick: It’s a 10-barrel system and it’s still there. We’ve become a brewpub on steroids. We bought the building next door and we put in 13 20-barrel fermenters. We put out 6,000 barrels a year from there until we built our production facility about three and a half years ago.   Edmar: So three and a half years ago you opened a production brewery and started making beer to send to other markets?   Rick: We started getting into the distribution game in Southern California mostly, but then some other markets outside. Pennsylvania was the first out-of-state market we came to out, about nine year ago.   Edmar: Ron, were you one of the brewers back when you first started?   Rick: No, we asked one of our baristas, Sean Dewitt, if he wanted to be a partner. He became one of our head brewers. 20 years later, he’s become our director of brewing operations. So, he’s our head brewer but he doesn’t brew any longer – he brews with Ryan’s team.   Edmar: Ryan, when did you start at Coronado?   Ryan: I worked at a brewing facility about an hour north of San Diego for a few years, and I wanted to get to San Diego where the big dogs were. I interviewed at Stone in the morning and at Coronado in the afternoon, and 15 minutes after I left, Sean, the Director of Operations said, “Hey, you want to start on Tuesday?” That was almost four years ago.   Rick: Did Stone call you back?   Ryan: After two weeks – and I’d started at Coronado already, so it didn’t matter.   Edmar: You were based in California, and you got involved in brewing because…?   Ryan: I was cheap. I was playing in a punk rock band touring the world and I liked good beer. But I couldn’t afford a lot of it so I started home brewing.   Edmar: That’s a common story. I know many musicians here in Chicago that were homebrewing, and then some of them actually went on to open up nanobreweries or work for breweries. It was pretty fun to go get bootleg brews for $5 a bottle in somebody’s apartment on the West Side.   Ryan: It was fun.   Edmar: The Coronado portfolio of beers is pretty diverse today. But I bet almost 20 years ago, when you first opened up the brewpub, you had to have your standards: amber ale, golden ale, porter, pale ale, maybe an oatmeal stout. When did you get involved with the West Coast IPA freak out phase?   Rick: It was happening when we opened. Stone started doing IPAs. AleSmith did some IPAs. And we were part of that. It was the San Diego Brewers Guild that kept us all together. So everybody experimented and tried different things, and through that process we defined the West Coast IPA.   Edmar: When do you think that the dominance of the IPA hit the country? Do you recall when, all of a sudden, you couldn’t make enough IPA?   Rick: Probably only about five or six years ago.   Edmar: The one thing I hear about San Diego is that it’s just about as easy to grab a fresh craft beer as it is to get a Corona or some other macro beer.   Rick: I’ve been on the sales side for years, so that’s where I’ve seen the difference. In the last three or four years you have a lot more access to the buyers, especially the big chains and the big restaurants. Before, we were just pounding on doors and trying to get people to talk to us.   Edmar: Glad to hear that people in these corporate chains understand the value that craft beer has in the marketplace. Do you think the acceptance of craft beer in chain stores has been driving the expansion of craft beer volume sales?   Rick: That’s a piece of it. On premise, off premise. Working with each other to build brands. But, yes, the expansion of craft beer in chain stores is helping a lot to build brands.     Edmar: Your company is expanding, you have two facilities and a tasting room, and…

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…

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…

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