Wednesday, April 26, 2017

commercial brewing!

I've been busy the past year and a half helping a brew pub start-up... and this Friday is our Grand Opening! I hope next time you're in Chicago, you'll get a chance to pop in and taste some of Nancy's brews! alulubrewpub.com



Monday, January 18, 2016

kicking the year off right... sound check 1-2-3


It's been awhile since my last post, but I have been busy brewing up a storm, drinking all over Belgium and Germany, laying out a new website, and much, much, more!... so my posts unfortunately have taken a temporary backseat, but they will soon return, I promise!

In the interim, I wanted to share this conversation I had earlier this month with Michael Kiser of Good Beer Hunting. If you're interested in hearing me talk about hombrewing (direct form the source!) take a listen to the podcast here.

Cheers + Happy New Year!
Nancy

Friday, August 21, 2015

Lagers... Chicago to Germany!

Guten tag! Germany or bust! My bags (and bottles) are packed! I'm headed to visit my dear friends, Csilla and Daniel who live in Ludwigshafen, right outside of Frankfurt.

Daniel grew up in Mönchengladbach. He's a big fan of football and a great beer. His favorite style is an Altbier, a copper to brownish lager with medium body and no hops or esters present. This beer style originated in Düsseldorf near his hometown.
  
On my last visit to Germany, in 2012, my friends took me to the breweries of Colonge and Düsseldorf. At that time I was not into home brewing yet, but I have always had an appreciation for great beers and trying the local brew. I loved the history of these two cities, which are separated by a river, having some very distinct and almost opposite styles. And I was amazed to find out that almost all the breweries in these two cities only brew one beer and true to one style per city. Each city stakes their claim on a style and each brewery has an interpretation of that style...  Colonge owns the Kolsch, a light and complex refreshing lager (see pic to left from my refreshing bier at Fruh) and Düsseldorf on the other side of the river claims a bit darker style... an Altbier. In each city they have many breweries but they only brew that one style and one beer per brewery. So when you go there you don't need to see a beer menu, you just ask for a beer and they will bring you their house beer. Think of it as beer tapas... you hop and hop from one brewery to another trying the subtle differences in the beer styles that each city has to offer.

But be careful when you are drinking beer in Colonge... if your glass is empty, they just bring you another without asking. They do not ask you if you want another beer, they just assume you do if your glass is less than half-full. If you want them to stop bringing you beer, you need to put your beer coaster on top of your beer glass.

When I told Daniel that my neighborhood brewery, Metropolitan Brewing, was brewing an Alt, he was surprised and excited to try it. Until recently, Altbier been a very rare beer to find commercially. So I decided to round up a collection of some Chicago brewed lagers to take with me. Metropolitan has yet to release their Oktoberfest (it will be hitting the markets very soon in Sept.!), but they were kind enough to provide me with a few bottles for the journey to Duetchland! I'm very excited to share these beers with my friend and ask him what he thinks. Maybe he will be nice enough to provide some reviews once he's had a sip! What do you think Daniel?

Nancy Brew drinking an Altbier outside at Uerige in Düsseldorf. It was a bit chilly and rainy on this Autumn day, but my company and the beer kept my spirits warm.  

Other German breweries visited:

Pfaffen Brewery - Cologne
Their food is amazapants! Pretty much a fried egg on anything gets a thumbs up from me!

Fruh - Cologne
Too easy to sit outside and put down a handful of these without even realizing it... especially after you climb the church tower across the street. 
Füchschen Alt  - Düsseldorf
Crazy like a fox, this place has some character.

Hausbrauerei Zum Schlussel - Düsseldorf
Don't leave without a bite to eat!

Hofbrauhaus - Munich
A classic...
One of my favorite German breweries!
Spaten - Muinch
Another classic...

Nancy Brew wants to know!
Do you have a favorite German beer style or brewery? Is it in Germany or the States?
Do you like brewing lagers? If so, what's your favorite style to brew?


Thursday, August 20, 2015

Home to Pro, a Q+A series: Brian Buckman of Illuminated Brew Works, Chicago (West Loop) IL

Brewer: Brian Buckman
Brewery Name: Illuminated Brew Works
Location:
Chicago-West Loop IL

BACKGROUND
Q - How did you get into home brewing?
A - Years of research and development and a strong desire to spend more time around beer inspired the start of this project. 

Q - When did you know you wanted to go pro?
A - The switch just flipped immediately. Matt and I have worked on several projects over the years and we’ve both always enjoyed the physical parts of those projects as well as the problem solving skills required. If hard work and puzzles turn you on, then brewing is the perfect fit. Add to that that I really enjoy seeing people get off on an intoxicant of my making. So when I started brewing it was like coming home after a long time away.
 
PROCESS 
Q How long did it take from initially thinking you wanted to go pro and when it was actualized?
A - Around 6 years. 
Q - If you were to outline a simple 5 step process from transitioning from hobby to professional, what would it be?

  1. Start by spending some real time around a brewery to see if this is something you really want to do, and I mean real time. Volunteer somewhere and spend enough time for the honeymoon to wear off. 
  2. Make a business plan and a pro-forma. Figure out how much money you’re going to need, then double that, then add 30%... and then leave yourself an extra buffer of about 30% on top of that.
  3. Check out a lot of breweries and see who is doing things in a way that is smarter, better or more interesting than other places. The time I spent at Une Annee was invaluable. Seeing Jerry’s solutions for his brewhouse was a huge inspiration for us.  
  4. Put together a good team. Nobody can do this alone... and why would you want to?
  5. Don’t rush.

Q - What was an obstacle that you had to overcome to open your brewery or get licensed?
A - We’ve been through at least 3 skins in the process of getting IBW open. One of those was around 2012 when we were looking to open a brew pub in Oak Park.  we were working with some investors that we aligned with because we wanted to get rolling, not because we had a good chemical fit with them. They had shitty ideas but a lot of money. We had great ideas but no money and they really started to think that their money made their ideas good. It became clear fast that we were going after something much different. We fired them and about ended our friendship. We took about 6 months off from talking to each other and hanging out and then slowly began rebuilding our friendship. After some time we came back to our ideas, pairing down to essentials and we started thinking very hard about how we could do this without bringing in investor money. Once we made that honest assessment of ourselves we found the project began take life again.

Q - Any weird state or government laws you had to battle?
A - Nah.

Q - What do you know now that you wished you had known before starting the process? 
A - The capital expenses really have been a surprise and we were pretty honest and seasoned as far as figuring out our costs. But, particularly because of the way we’ve done this, growing organically rather than looking for a sugar daddy... cap ex just keeps coming and shaking us down. It’s little stuff like extra tri-clamps or a broken chiller or some tool or some gauge or some build out need, they just keep at you. Every month it’s something new and unexpected. It really is surprising and sometimes painful.

Q - Would you do anything differently? 
A - Well, we clearly had to learn the lesson about investors probably to help us later down the road. That said, I would have liked to have not lost 2 years and change on that first phase and to be where we are now back in 2012, but so be it, this is the narrative and I’m not complaining.



















THE NUMBERS
Q
-
What did your start up cost? How did you fund it?
 

A - We worked *very* hard to keep our start up costs down. We’ve spent about $35k up to this point which, when you compare that to other professional breweries of our size, it’s pretty impressive. Jason has been a huge help. He worked with me visiting other fabricators from Wisconsin and visiting breweries to come up with a plan for our brewhouse and building it out. You cannot overvalue having a professional welder on your team.

Q - What size barrel system is your brew house? How much beer are you planning to produce annually? 
A - We can make 7.5bbls at a pop and we’ve got 20bbls capacity.









YOUR BEER 
Q - How did you come up with your brewery name?  
A - I like the Promethean fuck you attitude of great beer and I’ve always wanted to run a cult. You do the math.

Q - What differentiates your beer from other craft breweries? What's your style?
A -
We do what we call American Farmhouses.  it’s purposefully oblique. I’m not a fan of styles and we try to thoughtfully break the rules of styles with our beer.  but mostly we're just making beer that i want to drink.  which generally is low ABV, high complexity beers that work very well with delicious food and can be consumed for about 20 hours at a time without spinning you out too much.  we also don’t put much focus on hops at all at this point.  i kind of want to get hops out of our beer altogether.  we let the yeast drive to boat. it’s far more interesting to me as a beer drinker and a brewer. 

Q - How are you going to set yourself apart?
A -
Making complex, yeast driven beer has proven very effective as a differentiator up to this point.

Q - If a consumer can take away one beer or a vibe about your beer company, what would you want them to remember about you and why? 
A - That we make beer that tastes like no one else's, that our beer makes them smarter and will reward them greatly in the next life. 

THE FUTURE OF CRAFT 
Q - Where do you see your start-up brewery headed in 5 years?  
A - We’ll have multiple bars doing delicious and hilarious things to back up our continually evolving beer gestalt.

Q - If you could give one piece of advice to a home brewer that wants to go pro, what would it be?
A - If you don’t have a method of intense and honest self-reflection right now, get one right away. 

Q - Anything else you want to add?
A - Have fun.
Nancy Brew wants to know! 

 - Are you in the process of transitioning from home brewer to a pro brewer? If so, I'd love to hear from you!

- Are you curious about transitioning from home brewer to pro? Did you find this Q/A helpful? 

 - What other questions do you want to know about going Pro?

Friday, August 14, 2015

Get carried away with these Summertime Beer Floats!

Just in time for the weekend! Try one of this Summer beer floats to cool off with and chill out...
Because I love making things from scratch, this past year I've also started making my own sorbets to go with some of my beers. The floats are perfect for parties, BBQ's and really get a wow factor from your friends. Here are some of my favorite beer float combinations and recipes.

French vanilla ice cream with a Chocolate Roasty Stout
My homebrew: Hex Mex Mocha
Commercial try: Belching Beaver Peanut Butter Milk Stout or Begyle Neighborly Stout


Raspberry Mint Sorbet with a Sour Beer
My homebrew: Lemony Lick-its, Berliner Weisse
Commercial: Counter Clockwisse by Destihl
Here is the Raspberry Sorbet recipe I used.

Blueberry Basil Sorbet with a Belgian Saison
My homebrew: Blue & Green, A blueberry green tea Saison
Commercial: Eille by Off Color Brewing
Here is the Blueberry Sorbet recipe I used, but I infused the simple syrup with fresh basil from my garden.

 I'd recommend making all the sorbets and ice creams at least one day in advance so they can get firm enough to scoop. Be creative and start with a basic recipe and if you feel like adding some citrus zest an herb or a spice, go for it!

Nancy Brew wants to know! Do you have a favorite beer float? If so, I'd love to hear about which combination is your favorite.

Monday, July 27, 2015

Home to Pro, a Q+A series: Shaun Kalis of Ruse Brewing. Portland, Ore


Brewer: Shaun Kalis
Brewery Name: Ruse Brewing
Location:
Portland, Ore

BACKGROUND
Q - How did you get into home brewing?
A - I got into homebrewing when my college roommate needed help bottling some of his homebrew, I thought it was so cool and interesting. The whole act of creation and having a start to finish of something seemed so inspiring. I have an art and music background and it fit perfectly as the puzzle piece of my imagination.

Q - How did you get initially get into the industry?
A - I lucked out and my girlfriend happened to be working at a pub that needed an assistant brewer. She recommended me to the head brewer (who was also from Michigan like myself). We met and really hit it off. Not only was I a homebrewer (and not a very knowledgeable one), but I also worked in sales at a great craft beer bottle shop in the Detroit suburbs. These experiences helped me get my foot in the door. I basically learned to become a brewer on a commercial scale without much homebrewing or any experience. I was only 22 when I became a brewer too.

Q - When did you know you wanted to go pro?
A - It took me a couple of years of learning about styles and homebrewing before I wanted to go Pro. I also studied Entrepreneurship at Central Michigan University where I did my final business plan on a brewing company operation. It all came full circle when my girlfriend suggested we move to Portland, Oregon...the craft beer capital. Then I knew I had to pursue this as a dream and career. 
PROCESS 
Q - If you were to outline a simple 5 step process from transitioning from hobby to professional, what would it be?
  1.  Look into schooling. I studied Intensive Brewing Science and Engineering at the American Brewers Guild. (A school taught by all brewers) The knowledge you will gain will be unreal. I learned so much, even after 5years of already having the commercial experience.
  2. Ask as many questions as possible. The brewing industry is by far one of the coolest, most brewers are excited and willing to help. Emails work great for questions.
  3.  Read as many books as possible. There are some great books out there, especially the brewers publication books!
  4.  Train your palette. Sensory analysis is one of the most important aspects of our industry. If it doesn’t taste or smell good, then figure out the why.
  5. Yeast is your best friend. My company is a very yeast forward brewery focusing on beers such as Saisons and mix culture barrel aged beers. Make sure your yeast is healthy and you are pitching at accurate rates at ALL times.

Q - What was an obstacle that you had to overcome to open your brewery or get licensed?
A - Getting money. Banks have tightened up money big time and SBA loans for a high risk startup is not an option. Private money can be hard to obtain because of the huge amount of startup capital needed. I still am facing this challenge. Although I currently don’t have my own facility open, I am brewing my brand out of another brewery get started. Unlike contract brewing where you hand over your recipe and another manufacturer produces it, I just rent the brewery space to use when I need. I store my kegs, raw materials there just like the brewery is mine. This was the best option for me until I gain the adequate capital I need to open my own facility or I am no longer considered a high-risk startup. 

Q - Any weird state or government laws you had to battle?
A - The TTB wait times have been less than ideal but what are you going to do. 

Q - What do you know now that you wished you had known before starting the process? 
A - What I have learned along the way is to have patience. Opening a successful business takes all necessary planning and steps to get ready. Don’t rush it. Be humble, ask questions.

THE NUMBERS
Q
-
What did your start up cost? How did you fund it?
 

A - Startup cost-$552,000. (200k for buildout, don’t compromise in this area because it will cost more than you think) Still working on all the funding. I had 50k of my own to get my Alternating Proprietorship, I also have a lead on a family friend investor back in Michigan. I would ideally like to be privately funded to avoid any bank relationships which I don’t like so much. 

Q - What size barrel system is your brew house? How much beer are you planning to produce annually? 
A - It's a 10bbl system, with 10’s 20’s & 30bbl FV’s. I plan to do 1500bbls by year 3 and no more than 3000 at my facility. I want to stay small.













YOUR BEER 
Q - How did you come up with your brewery name?  
A - I had it on a list of potential names and a few buddies and I were sitting around brainstorming, they really liked the name. (I actually thought it when I was listening to "My Friend," by Phish) I'm going to kinda tie ruse's into my branding...just like the penrose triangle, mazes, etc. I have always liked things that make you think when you look at them. I plan on my tasting room to have all sorts of visual arts for customers to enjoy and ponder. I am also a huge fan of MC Escher, I always have thought..what would his brewery tasting room look like...hmmm, this is when the whole Ruse Brewing lightbulb went off. 

Q - What differentiates your beer from other craft breweries? What's your style?
A -
How am I going to make myself different. Not a huge fan of this question because we are not reinventing the wheel. But I want to incorporate my love for music, art, and craft beer by having a music venue/art galley brewery in which shows are paired with beer releases. I like the fruit and floral of Oregon in some many ways and hope to highlight these in my beers. Supporting other business and my local community is must of my company. It is pretty amazing I can get all my ingredients for Ruse Brewing within a 60 mile radius. 

Q - If a consumer can take away one beer or a vibe about your beer company, what would you want them to remember about you and why? 
A - If a customer wanted to take one vibe away from my company it would be to expect many different beers and less year rounds. I plan on having 4 year rounds and the rest will most likely be one offs. Also, is that we stay true to what we believe in..art inspired and community and culture driven. The romance for us is to have less of a predictable road. 

THE FUTURE OF CRAFT 
Q - Where do you see your start-up brewery headed in 5 years?  
A - My brewery by year 5 will be packaging much more..standard and sour released stuff will be available to a wider consumer base..WA, ID, CA, CO. I hope to open a second location maybe..Just a tasting room. 
As for the industry, you will start seeing closures. There is no more room for mediocre beer. Set the bar high for yourself and your company…you have one chance in this industry. If the beer is not good, cut your losses. I have definitely dumped barrels in the past that didn’t turn out the way I wanted them. 

Q - If you could give one piece of advice to a home brewer that wants to go pro, what would it be?
A - You never stop learning, be humble and ask tons of questions and learn from each other. Share things that have worked for you too.
 

Nancy Brew wants to know! 

- Are you in the process of transitioning from home brewer to a pro brewer? If so, I'd love to hear from you!

- Are you curious about transitioning from home brewer to pro? Did you find this Q/A helpful? 

 - What other questions do you want to know about going Pro?

Friday, July 24, 2015

Beer/Food Pairing - Infographic tea towel!

Few things amuse me more than well executed infographics, so when I saw these awesome and beautiful tea towels featuring food and beer pairings, from UK designer, Stuart Gardiner, I had to have it!

He also makes white and red wine charts too and other beer graphic items. Perfect gift for any foodie and craft lover.

Nancy Brew wants to know! 

- Do you have a perfect craft beer gift for a beer lover? What is it?