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

Mash Tun Journal Issue 009 Release: 4/16/16 at Maria’s, 3-7pm • Free ( 21 and over) 960 W 31st Street Chicago Il 60608 Get Free copies of Mash Tun Journal, Issue 009. Complementary Korean-Polish fare at 4pm (grilling starts at 3pm). Mash Tun Journal Issue 009 is here. Get your sweet heinies to Maria’s on 4/16/16 from 3-7pm for the release of issue 009. Attendees will receive a free copy of the journal, tasty Mash Tun-curated suds, and grilled Ko-Po fare for your belly. Maria’s will be featuring beer by brewers who are profiled in the latest issue, offering pours at the bar for purchase and complimentary samples + Ko-Po grub on the patio. Maria’s will also be exhibiting work by Ryan Duggan, our featured artist in the new issue. Issue 009 tells the story of C.H.A.O.S. Brew Club’s diaspora, profiling homebrewers who made their liquid dreams a reality. C.H.A.O.S. vets include folks from Begyle, Louis Glunz Beer Inc., Arclight, Begyle, Goose Island, Breakroom, Horse Thief Hollow, Vice District, and Marz. Raise a glass with us to their achievements. Join us for complementary Korean-Polish fare at 4pm (grilling starts at 3pm). Enjoy some special suds from our special C.H.A.O.S. Diaspora Draft list (beer for purchase): Begyle J-Bird Pale Ale Goose Island 2015 Bourbon County Stout Marz Bubbly Barrel-Aged Duchess de Bridgeport Urban Legend The King’s Tree Coffee Stout With Beer tasting samples from: Arclight Moe’s IPA Vice District Far From Ordinary Session English Ale Issue 009 features work by Calvin Fredrickson, Edmar, Zak Rotello, Doug Veliky, Alex Bach, Clarence Boddicker, Paul Durica, Tim Lange, Chris Quinn, and Mike Smith.

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

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

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

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

The Anti-Craft of Letherbee Distillers

  The Anti-Craft of Letherbee Distillers Interviewed by Calvin Fredrickson Brewers use the phrase “craft beer” to connote authenticity and quality. In recent years, other uses for the craft tag have been popularized. Craft coffee. Craft pizza. Craft cocktails. But you seem to resist that tag, and you’ve gone on record as calling Letherbee “anti-craft spirit craft spirit.” What do you mean by that? “Anti-craft” is definitely a reaction to the spirits industry specifically. The world of craft spirits has quickly become so formulaic and standardized that “craft” has essentially become a meaningless buzzword. There’s a cookie-cutter effect ingrained in the business model of most new distilleries that does not conjure innovation or craftsmanship nearly as much as it fosters marketing plans, ROI, investor relations, brand building, etc. Big business (corporate) methods and philosophies are prioritized over craftsmanship and it’s all disguised as “craft” to get the enthusiastic consumers to buy. It’s a race to scale up as quickly as possible to attract a buyout or further capital investment. You have to also understand that the spirits world has less integrity than the beer world. We not only have to deal with brand reps and bartenders whose opinions are bought and sold, we also have to deal with marketing companies that simply source bulk spirits and sell it in shamefully misleading ways to convince the consumer that it’s being made at a distillery like mine. Can you imagine a local brewery buying bulk beer from A-B [Anheuser-Busch], then packaging it in their own bombers, and selling it as though it was a special craft beer? The brewers would be outraged! Violence would ensue! But in my world this is considered sound business. I think you’re starting to get the picture… I often ask myself, “Where are all the honest weirdos?” So, I envy the beer scene. How else have you seen craft movement appropriated? For good or for ill? Or are you Indifferent? I see it everywhere.  “Craft” seems to have found it’s way into pop culture. It’s ubiquitous, so I find myself indifferent.  But don’t get me wrong – I’m very grateful that it’s a movement.  I just hope it’s a sign that consumers have deeply become more curious and thoughtful. Constellation, A-B InBev, and other Beer Big Dogs have shown interest in successful, independent brands for their profitability and fervent fan base. Each month brings news of another buyout, joint venture, or consolidation, with the Big Dogs usually buying some part of the Little Dogs – and that’s got consumers worried. From a spirits side, how important is distillery/brand ownership to your average spirit or cocktail enthusiast? It’s building more and more. But the spirits fans have been slower to respond to craft spirits because most people drink whiskey, and most craft whiskey is not as good as the big brands. Look, your whiskey might be crafty as fuck, but it’s a crafty turd aged for a short time in small barrels and you are lucky people are so generous to support you by spending far too much money on your well-marketed turd. Imagine how slow the craft beer movement would have been if nobody could make better beer than A-B! The spirits world did not have the same quality vacuum that beer has had. So, new start-ups catching up to the value and quality of America’s Bourbon industry is no small feat. It will take a generation’s time and lots of capital. Keep your eye on Whiskey Acres in Dekalb, IL. If anyone has a chance, they do. Does distillery independence matter to you? Absolutely. The value that’s slowly been built into my brand is partly due to the fact that I don’t have to answer to anybody. Not one person. I’m sure you, at Spiteful Brewing, understand this. Our ideas don’t get watered down by other people who have input in the process. And we certainly don’t have investors to consider when we want to make horrible decisions! Another concern for beer enthusiasts is origin of liquid: “was this made by the brewery themselves, on their premises?” As a result, contract-brewed beer has long bore a stigma for critical drinkers, often on principle, a stigma with little regard for the liquid itself. Do you sympathize with that unease over contract scenarios?  I personally don’t like all the contracting stuff. But I envy the gypsy brewers. They live the dream, don’t they? I prefer the Spiteful model. It’s the same as the Letherbee model. It’s obviously much more authentic to build a little tiny production space in the basement of a shitty factory building. And this authenticity is the hot knife that cuts through the shit-butter of “craft” marketing. But does origin matter so long as the liquid’s good and the marketing is honest? Marketing honesty is the most important thing to me. Making delicious product is becoming easier and easier. Some asshole can make delicious beer but I won’t drink it more than once if he/she is an asshole. The rest of the story has to add up. I have much fewer reservations about drinking someone’s branded MGP [Midwest Grain Products Ingredients, formerly LDI] whiskey when they’re completely honest that it’s MGP-sourced. Tell me there isn’t dishonest marketing in the world of spirits! There’s actually more deception than honesty. It’s disgusting. People are sick. It trickles all the way down the supply chain, and the brand reps and bartenders that get their pockets lined are happy to perpetuate the deception. They’re all too shortsighted to understand that this behavior actually degrades their reputations and future possibilities as individuals. Craft beer consumers are more critical than ever, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Drinkers want to know what, if any, ulterior interests exist, and they are quick to abandon ship if they sense inauthenticity. Since craft beer consumers have so many options, brand loyalty takes a different form than, say, a macro beer drinker who drinks one brand for life. Craft beer drinkers drink hundreds of brands in a year and may feel affinity…

Mash Tun x Insiders Roundtable: 
Issue 008 Release + Live Radio Show

December 10th •  7-11pm • Free! •  21+ Co-Prosperity Sphere • 3219 S Morgan St Join Mash Tun and the Beer Temple’s Insider’s Roundtable for the release of issue 8 of Mash Tun Journal. We will be hosting a bottle share and producing a live studio broadcast and taping of the Insider’s Roundtable show. Special guests include brewers featured in the brand spanking new issue # 8  of Mash Tun Journal. We will supply some of the beers made by the brewers and breweries featured. It’s a bottle share! Bring some! And please wear your ugly holiday sweater. This is a Mash Tun Society event. Please RSVP at ed@mashtunjournal.org. So we can make sure we have enough vittles..

Touchable: Eliot Ness’s Slide from Booze Buster to Booze Hound

  Touchable: Eliot Ness’s Slide from Booze Buster to Booze Hound By Paul Durica –  from Mash Tun Journal # 7 The Republicans are coming to Cleveland, Ohio, population 390,000. In July 2016 the city plans to host the Republican National Convention even though it and the county are decidedly Democratic. In 2012 President Barack Obama won 69.4% of the vote in Cuyahoga County, and Cleveland is the city that gave American politics frequent presidential candidate and famous vegan Dennis Kucinich. Cleveland rose alongside manufacturing and declined with it, shedding people and wealth at a staggering rate in the second half of the twentieth century. It’s a dirty old town, racially divided, with mediocre sports teams, a river known for having caught fire, and the shallowest, brownest Great Lake. In other words, it’s not Dallas, but the Republicans hope that holding the convention there will result in winning Ohio and its eighteen electoral votes come the November election. The Democrats have never held their national convention in Cleveland. For the Republicans it’ll be the second time around.   In 1936 the Grand Old Party was in a similarly giddy mood. They’d leave Cleveland having nominated for president the governor of Kansas, Alf Landon, a candidate who’d manage in November to win all of eight electoral votes against the incumbent Franklin Delano Roosevelt. In 1936 it made sense to hold the convention in Cleveland. At the time the city was playing host to the Great Lakes Exposition, the equivalent of a World’s Fair. It boasted a population of over 900,000, making it the sixth largest city in the country, and had a popular Republican mayor, Harold Burton. The rising local star in the party was not Mayor Burton but his handpicked, thirty-two-year-old Director for Public Safety, a former prohibition agent and Chicago native, Eliot Ness. Co-written with sports writer Oscar Fraley, Ness’s The Untouchables (1957) has significantly shaped the way Americans imagine the prohibition era, whether or not they’ve read the book or seen the subsequent television and film adaptations. Ness and his team of incorruptible prohibition agents are the jazz age equivalent of the Earp brothers and Doc Holliday and, like them, more legend than fact. The success of the first television show, which ran from 1959-1963, ensured that Ness in the form of Robert Stack would appear on lunchboxes, board games, and comic books. Historians of the twenties, like Laurence Bergreen, have gone to great lengths to undo the legend, accusing Ness of exaggerating his role in bringing Al Capone to justice through daring raids on illegal breweries, but Fraley should be blamed for many of the book’s fictional elements. Preserved in the archives at the Western Reserve Historical Society are the single-spaced, typewritten pages in which Ness tells his story in his own words. The manuscript’s decidedly more modest than the book, television show, and movie that would grow out of it, and Fraley largely ignored it in favor of the stories told to him in person by Ness, late at night, at a hotel in New York. Ness was, Fraley would recall, drunk at the time.   Ness’s time as a prohibition agent is enough to merit an article in Mash Tun. There’s also the beer named for him, an amber lager, produced by the Great Lakes Brewing Company in Cleveland. The latter is indicative of how the two cities most associated with Ness regard him. In the film version of The Untouchables (1989), Ness is an outsider who can’t fathom how deeply corrupt Chicago is. In truth, his family lived in the Roseland neighborhood in that city; his father, a Norwegian immigrant, owned a bakery in what had been railroad car magnate George Pullman’s factory town. Ness attended Fenger High School and the University of Chicago, where he studied criminology, and would get his position in the Prohibition Bureau through a familial connection. He was a Chicagoan, much more so than the Brooklyn-born Capone, but that city has many heroes and you won’t find a single beer or bridge or really anything named in Ness’s memory there. Ness came to Cleveland after the repeal of prohibition and a failed attempt at becoming a FBI agent. At the press conference where Mayor Burton announced his new Director for Public Safety, Ness claimed that “every crime has a cure” and set out to prove it. As Safety Director, a position that combined the powers of the police and fire commissioners, Ness modernized both agencies and took a direct role in dismantling organized crime in the city. He was particularly fixated with traffic safety, and automobile deaths did decline during his tenure. A capable administrator in his early thirties, Ness began to be talked about as a potential mayoral candidate, the future of the Republican Party in Cleveland. All the while, whether due to personal weakness, professional stress, private tumult, or for pure pleasure, Ness drank.   In March 1942, on the way home from a party, he’d strike a man with his car and flee the scene. Witnesses all knew who was responsible since the license plate read NESS-1. He’d resign as Safety Director shortly afterward and take a job in Washington, DC, where he oversaw a campaign to eradicate venereal disease among members of the armed forces. In 1947 he ran for Mayor of Cleveland as a Republican and, like Alf Landon before him, lost handily to a popular Democratic incumbent. After that followed a string of administrative jobs with various companies, one of which brought him to Coudersport, Pennsylvania, where he became well-known in the bars and where he died at the age of fifty-four a month before the publication of the book that made him famous.   A former prohibition agent with a beer named in his memory whose life was undone by drink—there’s a lesson there, I guess. The Ness found in that typewritten manuscript, the Ness who drank, is a far more human and interesting figure than the unerring, untainted one portrayed by…

In Conversation with Evin O’Riordan of London’s The Kernel Brewery

  In Conversation with Evin O’Riordan of London’s The Kernel Brewery By Jamie Trecker from Mash Tun Journal #5   Just across the Thames, in the borough of Southwark, sits Bermondsey, a working-class neighborhood with roots that date back to King Edward III. Bermondsey has been a place of firsts: this was the home of Britain’s first railway, and the arches that litter Spa Road stand as a testament to one of this nation’s greatest achievements. Wild man “Wee” Willie Harris hailed from the town, giving it a credit in the pre-history of rock and roll. And today, it is the incubator for a number of emerging London breweries, all of which are concentrated in the industrial parks and arches that litter the area. Brew By Numbers is here, Partizan is close by – and then, there’s the Kernel, the greatest of them all.   Why here? “We have a lot of arches,” says Evin O’Riordan, matter-of-factly. O’Riordan, the head brewer and founder of the Kernel, often comes off as deadpan, but that quiet demeanor masks the fierce intelligence and shrewd integrity that has helped put the Kernel atop of the so-called “New Wave” breweries in London. He is widely respected by his colleagues (Jasper Cuppaidge at the Camden calls him, admiringly: “artisan with a capital ‘A’”) and slavishly imitated by others. His no-frills packaging and unwillingness to hard-sell his beer may be mystifying to some, but he doesn’t care about what people think. What he cares about is beer, and making it better every time.   O’Riordan sat down for this unusual long-format interview with Mash Tun, conducted by Jamie Trecker. This interview has been edited for length and clarity but not for content. MT: Evin, thanks for talking to us. Frist off, you had a very unusual path to becoming a brewer, at least for us in the States. I understand you worked at a cheese shop, Neal’s Yard, and are basically entirely self-taught.   EOR: Yeah. I don’t know, I wonder does anybody start off being a brewer? I think we all start off as something much more amorphous than that. But, yeah, I turned to brewing about seven years ago now. You are correct that I was, I suppose, working for Neal’s Yard at the time, and they sent me to New York to help one of their customers open a cheese shop there. That’s pretty much where my eyes were open to the possibilities in beer that I had not seen before. MT: What was so different about New York? London, and England in general, obviously have a huge brewing tradition. EOR: It does have a huge brewing tradition and even then there were still plenty of amazing beers being made. I suppose it’s interesting if you compare New York to London. I wouldn’t be able to say the same thing now; there is no way I could have made it this far without being aware of the possibilities of beer, because of what’s happened here in London in the last few years–I think a lot of that potential and interest in beer was around then. There are different mentalities in the two countries, in terms of how they engage with things like beer and pubs, and the way people communicate their enthusiasm. I mean, it wasn’t only the beers in NY that amazed me, although they did. But what was perhaps even more engaging was peoples’ relationships with the beer. If you want to go for a drink with a friend here, you generally go to the closest pub, whatever’s handiest. Whereas the guys I met in NY took me out for a beer, and they’d say we’re going to this pub over there for these x, y and z reasons (because this brewer is going to be there, he is going to have this beer on, etc). There was much more care put into what was being drunk. One of the joys of drinking in England and Ireland (where I’m from) is they say that the camaraderie of drinking with friends comes first and the beer is secondary. Perhaps that should always be beer’s role: to kind of lubricate the social interaction. The focus in a beer bar I was exposed to in NY was very much the beer as the reason people were coming together, so the response to the beer was much more engaged and enthusiastic. The traditional English image was people who have a regular pint or a regular pub. They didn’t have the same ideas of challenging people, or having something different, or even having bartenders that would explain the differences between things. In New York, it just blew my mind that you could have all these different beers and somebody would explain them to you, and you could then even try a few things before you decided what you want. None of that was happening with drinking in England at that point in time. MT: So you came back from New York, but did you make a conscious decision that brewing was something that you wanted to get into? Is it that you wanted to bring some of this culture back to England, and maybe changing some of the things over here in doing that?   EOR: I think you are exactly right, but it sometimes is hard to look back. Things seem a bit more concrete once they’ve happened. I’m sure at the time it was an idea, perhaps a pretty vague one. And now that the brewery has been going for a few years, it kind of makes that initial decision seem much more important. If it never happened, then would I have done something else, I guess. There was a certain aspect of wanting to change English drinking culture, or at least incorporate aspects of the American drinking culture into it. This was very similar to something I already knew. What happened was that Whole Foods, your American grocery store, was setting up a cheese room…

Dos and Don’ts: A Beer Buyer’s Decree to Consumers

By Clarence Boddicker Everyone approaches the world of craft beer differently. Most come at it from the customer’s point of view, and in last issue, we saw an interesting look from the perspective of the brewer.   How about a glance at beer from the off-premise world? I manage a beer store in suburban Chicago, and I thought it might be informative to throw some light on my world.   The best way to show you the day-to-day of my world is to help inform those coming into any store about what one should do, and more importantly, not do when beer shopping.   Do: Establish a relationship with your beer person. We are a local store and want to take care of our regulars. We will do nice things for people who are nice to us. Be friendly. Ok, friendly might be too far. I would settle for neighborly. Just acknowledge that we saw each other in aisles, say hello and go about our day. That buys a lot of equity with me. But not as much as a plate of brownies would.   Don’t: Have a hissy fit if we don’t have the hot release of the week. There will never be enough beer for everyone. You need to come to grips with that. I told you we didn’t have a specific beer, I didn’t give you a terminal diagnosis. Don’t stomp your feet, roll your eyes and groan at the sky. Please don’t act like a petulant child. I don’t want to be put in a position where I wished that I did give you a terminal diagnosis. Somehow, that ends up making me look bad.   Do: Engage us. We want to help you with your weirdly random but still very precise questions. We don’t want every interaction to be reduced to monosyllabic grunts and pointing, we happily leave those exchanges to the gentlemen in the liquor department. I always perk up when someone is attending a theme party and needs an incredibly specific beer. It keeps us sharp and on our toes, and I appreciate that.   Don’t: Be rude. Real basic stuff here. If I’m helping someone else and you walk right into our conversation and start talking at me, the quality of service you will receive will reflect that. It is just as easy to, hypothetically, tell you we are sold out of the beer in question and turn around sell it to someone polite the minute you walk away. Less is always more, and that includes your presence.   Do: Show me pictures. Of the beer label, please, not of your embarrassing birthmark. “Yeah, I guess it does kind of look like Nevada…” The new technology is a great time saver for all parties involved. It gets trying when he/she come in, and says, “I had this beer in a bar last night, I can’t remember what it was, but it starts with a “J.” Later on, when you tell me it was Bell’s Oberon, I grimly realize I will never get a moment of that time back. You have a camera in your pocket, use it.   Don’t: Expect me to read minds. This scenario happens a few times every week. A customer will walk up and say “Yeah, I want to try something I haven’t had before,” and then look expectantly and impatiently at me for 30 seconds. Fortunately, that is about of time it takes me to wrap my head in a turban and offer suggestions. How on God’s green earth do you expect me to summon the powers to ascertain which beers you might have had recently without you verbalizing it? Imagine, after looking at the menu, asking a waiter at a restaurant that same question? His mouth would eventually go dry from all the time spent spitting in your food. How about flushing out that question in your mind a little bit first? And, trust me, if I could read minds, I sure as hell wouldn’t be standing here talking to you. And for what’s its worth, I do look pretty good in a turban.   Do: Ask how we are doing, or even overextend the social barriers of our interaction and say, “Thanks,” or “Have a good day.” We might be the help, but we still like to be treated with respect. This one gentleman once asked a question, quickly interrupted me, stated he was looking for something else and quickly walked away. He came over a few moments later and apologized to me for being rude. That was well over 3 years ago and I still vividly remember him doing that. He didn’t have to, but it was nice that he did. We deal with so many people, and well over 90% of them are great. However, we only remember the great interactions and the bad ones. Act like a good person, and you will be remembered as one.   Bonus insight for the Industry Side:   Do: Express gratitude. This is a business, and I get that. Everyone wants space in the cooler, a prime spot on the shelf or an end cap. It helps sales, I get that. But I am more likely to give that real estate to someone who takes a moment to let me know they appreciate the things we do for them. Nothing draws my ire more than the new sales rep who storms in and starts to tell me that I need to carry more of his/her product. If you start by thanking me for helping your brand, I will listen, because that means you value our relationship. I like that, beer managers enjoy the sensation of being validated. I always remember the people who show simple, common courtesy. Any other approach will cause my eyes to gloss over and make me wish you were pinned under something heavy with many ill-tempered fire ants nearby. I will ask you to leave, but not before I have you take…

Interview with Beejay Oslon of Pipeworks Brewery

Pipeworks Brewing Company started as a crowd sourced nano brewery in a non descript building on Western Avenue right by the Western Blue Line Stop. Many people the world over are enamored with their big and bold beers sold mostly in bomber bottles. The brewery developed a cult following for drinkers and became the defacto brewing school for aspiring Chicago brewers as well. In the past few years if you wanted to start your own brewery with your own money, chances are you went to Pipeworks and if you were lucky, learned how to use their Psychobrew system. If you were smart you took notes on how to turn your art form into a business. And Pipeworks is the best case study in the Art of Beer Business. They just opened their new expansion facility on the west side of Chicago allowing them to immediately triple their annual output of beer and allow for further growth. And their line of 16oz canned beers has become a hit with drinkers in Chicago, New York and soon the world. Within the next few years this new expansion operation is on track to become one of the biggest breweries in Illinois next to Lagunitas, Revolution and Half Acre. I checked in with Beejay Oslon, to ask him a few questions on their new production facility and where they are headed next. -Edmar   High Life or PBR? – PBR Can you please tell us what were the greatest challenges you encountered on the road to opening the new facility? – There have been a lot of challenges in opening the new facility. A project of this scale requires depending on a lot of different people, ranging from architects to contractors, various tradesmen, fabricators, trucking companies, and suppliers to name a few. Choreographing so many moving parts was a constant challenge, especially when any one part falling through caused a ripple effect with other players. We heard you might dedicate the original brewery to making mostly sours, can you make this an official announcement? And if so what styles will you be doing? – I don’t want to make any promises regarding the original facility yet, but it is definitely our intention to start working with sours at that location eventually. Styles will range from the berlinners we’ve been working on to more traditional Belgian styles like flemish reds and lambic influenced beers, and of course we wouldn’t be Pipeworks if we didn’t make some weird ass sours that defy categorization. For now the focus is on getting the new production facility running smoothly before we begin working on any new projects. What’s the general plan for the new space, what brews can we expect and in what frequency? – In general, the plan with the new space is to keep doing what we’ve always done, by continuing to make intriguing flavorful beers. We will continue to showcase our higher ABV and more experimental beers in the bomber format, though now with larger batches which will hopefully cut down on the perceived rarity while allowing us to drop our prices on many products. The addition of the canning line has allowed us to make more sessionable beers, as well as make significant price drops on fan favorites like Ninja Vs. Unicorn. When we first interviewed you guys in Mash Tun Journal  a few years ago you mentioned your business model was a Chicago Specific model. Has that changed since you are on the path to brew a ton of beer? Right now on average, each week, we are doing one 90bbl batch of a canned beer as well as a 30bbl batch of bottled beer. So we aren’t currently coming out with as many different brands each week as we did at the original facility. That being said we are already in the process of adding more fermenters which will allow us to simultaneously release more brands as we continue to grow. – Our focus will always be on satiating the Chicago market, however we have laid the groundwork for a brewery capable of the possibility of outgrowing our home market. With that in mind, we have begun exploring other markets such as New York and Europe. I think it’s important to begin building those relationships now rather than waiting till we’ve already saturated our home market. You don’t want to run into a situation where you have a warehouse full of beer with no one to drink it. Again we are not trying to cheat our long time fans out of beer here at home. We are building these alternative markets up slowly and organically exactly the way started here in Chicago. What the best advice you can give to the breweries that are following in your footsteps and the and breweries in planning? Is the much ballyhooed craft beer bubble gonna burst? – For anyone considering getting into this business, the most important thing is quality of product. It doesn’t matter how cool your labels are or how cool you look on instagram if you are putting out a shitty product. Fundamental brewing science is infinitely more important than coming up with some off the wall molecular gastronomy inspired ancient ale. That might sound strange coming from the owner of a brewery like Pipeworks, but with as many new breweries that are opening we are seeing more and more fundamentally flawed product on the shelves. The best thing you can do as a hopeful brewery owner is get some real world brewing experience before risking your life’s savings. Either you will gain the knowledge you need to make a superior product or you will realize that maybe the brewing industry isn’t really for you after all. Either way you’ll be making a gain. I don’t think that we will see a craft beer bubble burst any time soon, however that doesn’t mean that we won’t see some of the newcomers closing their doors.

Glen Ellyn’s Craft Beer Evangelist, Dave Hawley

    As owner of The Beer Cellar, a bottle shop in Glen Ellyn, IL, Dave Hawley is providing west suburban drinkers a modest but well-curated selection or craft beers. His insights into the beer industry are marked by the enthusiasm of a beer geek and the smarts of an entrepreneur. His beard is mighty. His heady, shiny. Dave Hawley, everyone.   Chicago’s beer scene is blowing up. Thoughts on its development and direction?   It’s good and bad. In my opinion, the access to great beer has never been better. It’s not hard to find great taprooms, breweries, and bottle shops all over the city. Some great breweries in Chicago start out with very limited production capabilities, who are now growing and able to produce more beer and in more formats. It’s encouraging to see breweries like Pipeworks­, who started out small and won lots of awards, be able to channel that into sustained growth.   On the flip side, because beer is hot right now, some sub-par breweries and taprooms have opened up and will exist for a while. Some people have tried to take their love for homebrewing and parlay that into running a brewery, and those two things are very different.   Overall, I think the Chicago beer scene is heading in the right direction. It has been fun to watch friends create some of the best beer in the country!   The suburbs are getting wacky, too. Bring us up to speed on suburban craft beer and what Chicagoans should know about it.   There are plenty of good reasons for Chicagoans to come out to the burbs! We have awesome breweries like Penrose (Geneva), Solemn Oath (Naperville), and BuckleDown (Lyons), that not only make great beer, they have nice taprooms, too, where you can spend a few hours enjoying beer in a cool environment. Penrose has impressed me since the beginning, but the beers they’ve been brewing lately like Deminimus Mandarina are some of the most tasty I’ve had lately. We have some excellent craft beer bars, too, like Bigby’s Pour House (Addison) and Warren’s Ale House (Wheaton). Out here you are no longer forced to shop at big box stores for craft beer. The Beer Cellar (Glen Ellyn) was the first craft-beer-only bottle shop to open in the suburbs. The Beer Cellar is dedicated to providing the freshest selection of craft beer to the burbs.   Any advice for Chicago-area breweries looking to grow their brand?   Be outgoing and continually look for opportunities to participate in festivals and talk to people about your beer. Working in a retail environment, I’ve found that people love to try new things and support local brands. So many customers want to experience what Chicago and the suburbs have to offer, and will decide to buy a local brand simply because of its proximity to them. I often do tastings in the shop, and if an enthusiastic rep, brewer, or brand ambassador spends the evening pouring samples and talking to customers, they also walk away with new fans. Getting out there, meeting your customers, and telling your story is so important.   What about out-of-market breweries about to enter market?   To piggyback on the last question, having a face and a name attached to your brewery is so important. In today’s craft beer market, I am personally getting calls, emails, and visits from dozens of breweries every week, asking me to sell their products. There are so many breweries and it’s easy to get lost in the shuffle, so when a brewery makes an effort to send a rep to talk to me in person, it makes a huge difference. Again, the willingness to have face-to-face interactions and spend time building relationships is key. Remember that it’s your job to sell your beer – don’t just depend on the distributor.   You’re about to hop on the Metra from Glen Ellyn – in fact, there’s a stop located across from your shop. You grab three beers for the road. Which ones, and why?   First of all, this is a great question, because I do indeed stock single beers in the cooler for this very purpose. I would grab: Oskar Blues Mama’s Little Yella Pils. It’s 19.2 ounces, so it’s perfect for a train ride from Glen Ellyn to Lombard (I mean, Chicago). Half Acre Daisy Cutter Pale Ale. This 5.2% pale ale is the quintessential Chicago pale ale. Any Mikerphone or Slapshot beer that comes in a Big Ass Can. Seriously, these guys are making awesome beer, and their cans give you 24 ounces of liquid bliss.

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