Thursday, July 28, 2011

Touring our lil' Brewery

Greetings, all!

Due to the large number of emails, Facebook posts, and Tweets requesting info about tours, I thought it might be wise of me to put a post here to explain ourselves; to explain just why the hell we haven't scheduled any public tours lately.

Let me cut to the chase here: it's all your fault! You wonderful, craft-beer drinking folks are out-pacing not only us, but every other small brewery who supplies the goods to our lovely city. We are brewing brewing brewing to keep up. We literally work every day to produce as much beer as we can. Not that we're complaining. We love our jobs. But this workload doesn't leave us much time for offering tours.

The value of offering tours to our devoted drinkers is immeasurable, we're not missing that point. But our main focus is - and always will be - brewing the best damn lagers we possibly can. All four people on our staff are devoted to this singular goal. All of our resources and money are dedicated this singular goal. Everything else comes after this singular goal is met.

Allow me to propose a solution to this (awesome) problem. For our part, we'll continue to focus on our brews, that's why we're all here, after all. And we cross-our-hearts-hope-to-die promise that we will schedule some public tours as soon as we can (we'll post them on on Twitter and Facebook). For your part, please continue to buy and drink craft beer. The more beer we sell -> the more people we can hire -> the more resources we'll have -> more public tours!

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

our walk to work today

Nothing will stop us from brewing beer. Not even a historical midwestern snowstorm that has pretty much the entire city of Chicago shut down. Behold, I documented for you what it was like to walk to the brewery today. Before we even left the back gate...

At first we tried to walk down the sidewalks. The winds caused incredible drifting and the sidewalks were nigh unpassable.

Phelps took to leaping through the drifts, which probably wouldn't have lasted long before his tiny heart gave out. So we moved out into the street. We didn't see any cars ourselves, but we were able to walk in tire tracks, so someone managed to get where they were going this morning.

Neighbors were out all over the place, starting to dig out.

We worked long and hard for many years to have this privilege of living just a few blocks from work. We almost never drive our car. And today, no one else is driving their car either.

This is the west side of our building. Huge drifts. Fortunately, the snow had drifted off of the sidewalks on the north side of the building (our side).

Phelps once again engages his leaping skillz to get into the brewery door.

See the joy on this face? Beer does that.

Our first mash-in for the day. No snowstorm can keep us from puttin' some Krank in the tank!

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

When good friends join powers, listen for the BOOM!

When Doug and I moved to Chicago in 1999, our first priority was to seek out the beer crowds. As you may know, Chicago is loaded with beer legends, authors, aficionados, and of course, geeks. We had no trouble finding a wealth of new friends who shared our obsession. Counted among them is Pete Crowley. At the time, he was the well-known brewer at Rock Bottom (State/Grand). His hospitality at Mug Club meetings and at beer events was unmatched. His friendship and support while we were starting up our brewery easily makes up for all the times he's pissed me off.

Around the same time, we also became friends with Steve Mosqueda and Sean Benjamin. Doug homebrewed with both of them, and we became staunch fans of The Neo-Futurists, the Northside theater in which they both performed. They are also the founders of The Drinking and Writing Brewery, a mash-up of theater, thought, writing, and drinking. For a while the D/W Brewery made its home in various beer bars for it's on-location performances. They even staged a show that ran for 8 weeks right in our own brewery! Oh, the (loss of) memories...

Steve, Sean, and Pete have been working together for a long time, but now, they've officially set up house together at Haymarket Pub & Brewery! Last Saturday, we finally hauled our sorry butts all the way down to Randolph and Halsted to check the place out and watch Steve and Sean perform Drinking and Writing Volume III: To Cure a Hangover.

So, full disclosure: Steve, Sean, and Pete are dear friends of ours and Haymarket has already poured many, many kegs of Krankshaft. Now that that's out of the way, if you haven't visited the brewpub and seen the show, what are you waiting for?!? The atmosphere is classy, yet cozy. The staff is friendly and thoughtful. The beer list is amazing (Pete's beers are fermenting right now and will be available soon). The menu features not one, but several vegan dishes - including one for kids! (swoon) And as usual, the D/W show was hilarious.

If you're looking for something fun to do on a Saturday afternoon - and you need to know how to manage the stinky, painful results of a night of voracious drinking, check out Drinking and Writing Volume III: To Cure a Hangover. The show runs from January 1 through February 5, 2011; Saturdays at 4pm. Buy tickets here.

Monday, June 14, 2010

Krankshaft! Flywheel!

Summer is here, if our beer sales have anything to do with it. Krankshaft and Flywheel more than doubled in sales over the past 2 months. Whoo HOO! You drink it, we'll brew it. We promise.

For a short time, we had a Spring seasonal available, I-beam, an Alt-style beer. We loved this beer and we were sorry to see it go. But, our tanks are churning away with Krankshaft, Flywheel, and Dynamo right now. We'll let it ride. Don't give up on I-beam, though. You'll probably see it again.

Doug was allowed to flex his creative muscles recently. The Craft Brewers Conference (held here in Chicago) in April and Chicago Craft Beer Week in May both were great reasons to try brewing some unique beers and give birth to our Urban Evolution Series. Stay tuned for more. He's just getting started.

Monday, September 7, 2009

generosity and the joy of Oktoberfest season

This past week our filter failed on us. Hard. Thankfully, we have a friend whose superheroism never ceases to amaze. Our good pal and reliable drinking buddy Pete Crowley down at Rock Bottom State/Grand was kind enough to loan us his filter *again* as a stand in for ours as we made repairs. We were able to filter our first batch of Krankshaft and make an 11th hour delivery to our distributor. Whoo hoo! We win! So, when you're out drinking Krankshaft (available only in kegs right now; bottles will be available later this month), surely you'll taste the effort, the dedication, the utter triumph infused within. I said TASTE IT...

So after several weeks of balls-out, punk rock, non-stop days of hard production labor, we enjoyed a day of domestic chores yesterday and are enjoying day of quiet domestic projects today. Of course, the beer fridge and liquor cabinet have been wide open throughout.

This may not come as a surprise, but nothing brings tears of joy to a lager brewer's eyes like the onset of Oktoberfest season. In celebration of our days of relaxation and the launch of the best beer-drinking season ever, this morning I sautéd up a dish inspired by a Polish meal my paternal grandfather used to make. Mine uses a meat substitute, olive oil instead of butter, and as I recall his dish... I think I use more fresh peppers. And we paired it with Hacker-Pschorr Original Oktoberfest.

- cut 2 red potatoes into thick slices
- chop 2 bell peppers (any color) into 1" sq pieces
- chop 1 medium onion into 1" sq pieces
- finely dice a few cloves of garlic (7? 8?)
- finely dice a Serrano pepper (I ditch the seeds because this dish doesn't need to be really hot, but the pepper spice is awesome)
- for the protein, I used a package of Morningstar Farms Italian Sausage

Start the sauté with the fauxage and potatoes. Use just less than a tablespoon of olive oil to start, but keep it nearby. You may need to add a splash of oil here and there. When the fauxage softens up and the potatoes start to brown lightly, add the onion. Today I had a revelation: no matter what it is you're cooking, stuff doesn't start really happening until you add onion. Anyway, once the onion softens, add the garlic, the Serrano pepper, and some spices. I used basil, oregano, a dash of celery salt, and a little lemon peel. Since the potatoes and peppers will gladly take on any flavor, I try to match my spices to whatever I use as the protein. Keep stirring everything up with a spatula - the fauxage may break up into a few pieces.

Once it looks like the dish is almost done, cover everything with the bell peppers. I like them warm and crisp, so I just try to steam them over the fauxage, potato, onion, spice mix. Serve it up with toast; and I like using ketchup with horseradish as a dip.

Ultimately, this dish is all about the peppers. The light Italian herbal spices, ratcheted up a notch with the Serrano pepper, topped with the bright flavors of the steamed fresh peppers... it's a pepper-lover's bliss-out.

So then, the beer. The strong malt aroma really leaps out at you after you've had your nose hanging around the peppery food. The dry maltiness of the Oktoberfest + the savory comfort food = yes. As you eat, the Serrano pepper spice will collect on your lips. The toasted malt flavors soothe the burn. And then you'll enter that delicious cycle: "mmm, spicy peppers... oooh, malty beer... mmm, spicy peppers... oooh, malty beer..." Enjoy. We'll leave you alone now.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

spit shine

In my everlasting ambition to pull my crap together, streamline my workload, and spend more time frisbee golfing, I've finally managed to make some pretty fancy updates to the blog. So here, I will blog about the blog. Bring on the metameme.

Glance to the right. With many thanks to the Mighty Anhalt, we now have a map of all the bars, restaurants, and retail stores who carry Metro. As more folks put us on tap and stock us in the coolers (hopefully), we'll add them to the map. And! Right below that link is calendar of Metro events. If you use Google calendars or iCal, you can simplify your life by adding our calendar to your list.

We've been Tweeting like Twitter is the newest, coolest thing evar. Follow us.

Now that I've rekindled my affair with the Metro blog, I might take better care of it. As always, no promises. Meanwhile, I'm going to go Tweet about the blog updates. Am I going to end up meeting myself somewhere in a parallel universe?

Friday, April 3, 2009

update on whereabouts and whatnot

Wednesday night, April 8th, we'll be drinking Metro at Northside Bar and Grill, 1635 N Damen, Chicago. As usual, we'll be giving out free beer so... you know... duh.

We've resurrected our Facebook page. Log into your Facebook account, search on "Metropolitan Brewing," and then choose the profile with the little flag next to it. That's the page we post updates, upload photos, and engage in the usual level of snark.

Also, we've been loading up our Picasa account with photos of hoisting a couple of chillers to the brewery roof, the post-party after the final performance of BEER!, and various other beer porn. Enjoy.

Monday, March 16, 2009

Tappings and Tastings, oh my!

Two weeks ago, we had our second tapping at Bottom Lounge. As always, much fun was had by all. Check out the photos here.

This week, we have two tastings scheduled...

Friday, March 20th, from 4pm until 7pm we'll be serving up free samples of Metro at Sam's at 1720 N Marcey St. I'm not going to lie, we spend a lot of time and money at this glorious flagship store. And now, as if it were a dream come true, we're going to actually legitimately hang out there for 3 full hours talking about beer!

Saturday, March 21st from 3pm until 5pm, we'll be again handing out free samples of beer at Binny's - South Loop, 1132 S. Jefferson Street. This completely awesome Binny's location has a tap room and everything!

So, hey. You know you'll be needing a beer run on Friday and Saturday this week anyway. You'll be the model of efficiency and impress all of your friends if you time it so you can drop in and talk beer with us.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

LunaR TappinG was FuN!

If you didn't join us for our very first tapping and launch party at LunaR Brewing Co. in Villa Park, well... you better have a good excuse. Many laughs, much fun, and pints of delicious beers were had by all. We saw some longtime friends and made some new ones. Beer does that. Anyway, view the revelry for yourself by clicking here.

But wait! You can join us at our second ever tapping event a week from now, at Bottom Lounge. From 7pm until 9pm, join us for Dynamo Copper Lager, Flywheel Bright Lager, and a dazzling selection from one of the finest beer lists in town. So that's Wednesday, March 4th at Bottom Lounge, 1375 W Lake Street. Be there! Win free beer!

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Listen... to what the beer people say

Last week, Karl Klockars from Chicagoist interviewed me about opening our brewery in Chicago, lagers, and how many awesome bars we have here. The first 19 or so minutes of the podcast is the completely unedited interview (glad I didn't drop any f-bombs). Enjoy!

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Metro Launch Party at LunaR

Hey Villa Park Suburbanites! Come join us for our first official launch party at LunaR Brewing Co., 54 E. St. Charles Rd., Villa Park. The date is February 25th, the day is Wednesday, the time is 7pm, the forcast calls for large gusts of Metrosexiness! Both Dynamo and Flywheel will be on tap. LunaR's awesome brews will be on tap as well, so let's line'em up and try'em all! Whoop!

Saturday, January 31, 2009

Don't bitch, we call this "lagering weather"

First, we're on tap! Find Metro beer at...

Hopleaf Bar, 5148 N Clark St, Chicago
Handlebar Bar & Grill, 2311 W North Ave, Chicago
Risqué Café, 3419 N Clark St, Chicago
Rodan, 1530 N. Milwaukee Ave., Chicago
Hackney's, 733 S. Dearborn, Chicago
Beer Bistro, 1061 W. Madison St., Chicago
Marion St. Cheese Market, 100 S. Marion Street, Oak Park
Binny's - South Loop, 1132 S. Jefferson Street, Chicago
Tavern in the Town, 519 N. Milwaukee Ave., Libertyville
Barley House, 1520 Randall Rd, Algonquin
Lunar Brewing Co., 54 E. St. Charles Rd., Villa Park
Bar on Buena, 910 W. Buena Ave., Chicago

Next, come check out for yourself what happens when a brewery has no rules. Metro Brewing plays host to the Neo-Futurist vision: BEER! This weekend was the first in a run of 6, so go to the Neo-Futurist's website and buy tickets for an upcoming performance. Just do it now. You're killing time anyway.

"When 10 year-old Boon pukes and passes out after drinking his stepfather's crappy beer, he awakens to find himself lost in a mysterious brewery. Together with his only friend, the puppet Puke, Boon must learn the brewing trade in order to go home. Through puppetry, animation, and a live band, learn about the world of BEER."

Finally, we've updated the website. Looky. And Facebook took down our page because it wasn't set up in the format they require. Stand by for a new Facebook page in the near future. As always, though... no promises.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Brewing cherry, consider yourself broken.

Yesterday was our first brew day, people! We offered a play-by-play account on Twitter and Facebook all evening, so some of you were sorta there. Hilarious mishaps were also in attendance, see the photo to the right for how not to open a 2008 lb super-sack of grain.

We have more photos to share, but they are presently in the queue for a major update to our website, Facebook, etc. We'll get to the web updates as soon as the tanks are full of beer. Believe us, the beer (!) and the website will be worth the wait.

Our good pal Rob was at the brewery for a while yesterday, helping out and shooting photos and video. He loaded the videos to YouTube. Short video 1. Short video 2. Short video 3. Enjoy!

Monday, December 1, 2008

Beer will save the world. For real.

While in Germany studying the most holy craft of brewing beer, the Dugg attended Brau Beviale - one of the largest beverage industry trade shows in the world. He noted that the event was held on the site which had once been the Nazi party rally grounds in Nuremberg. This led us to suppose that if a beer-related event was held at other sites of disagreeable/violent historical significance, we could in essence, heal humanity's wounds. You know, reversal of energy and all that hoo hah.

Well, the Buddhists always seem to have a finger on that particular pulse. In Thailand's Sisaket province, Buddhists have built the Wat Pa Maha Chedi Kaew temple entirely of Heineken and Chang beer bottles.

By the way, if anyone in the Chicagoland area gets a similar idea into their head, please let it be known that the staff of Metropolitan Brewing summarily volunteers for the project. We're well-practiced at emptying beer bottles...

Friday, November 21, 2008

Lovin' the Lager Life

More press, people. Marty Nutley at MetromixTV in Chicago did us an incredible service by making us look good. And he did it on TV.


Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Beer, rock, and nerds. Life couldn't be better.

If you don't like beer, have a problem with music that is best played loud, get queasy at the site of gratuitous vomiting, and hate Monty Pyton, by all means: do not watch this video.

On the other hand, if you'd like to witness for yourself "the single greatest video in the history of ever," click away.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Holy Moly

Our website and blog are two casualties of the speed and ferociousness of a business start-up. Oh, how we fantasize about processing photos, writing, and updating everyone on our whereabouts right now. Stand by, we're on it. In short, over the past month...

1. Doug went to China to dismantle and load our brewhouse.
2. We prepared our space for equipment installation, including but not limited to breaking into the concrete floor and repouring it.
3. We built (and by this I really mean *we*) three rooms in the brewery to accommodate various equipment.
4. We received our federal Brewer's Notice number from the TTB.
5. We've begun the street-pounding to hawk our beer-wares.
6. We bought big toys like a forklift, 128 1/2 barrel kegs, a glycol chiller, and more.
7. After a 2-day delay, our equipment finally arrived from China.
8. We rigged our equipment into place. (Teaser photo above.)
9. AND, we found out that our next-door neighbor... inside our very own building... is a new distillery!! Can we get a triple-dog whoop, Whoop, WHOOP!

You want more photos, don't you!? Well, we're only too happy to meet your demands. Just give us a little time. It may be a day or two, it may be a week.* But we'll get you the goods as fast as we can.

*With a righteous middle-finger held aloft to our present workload, we're escaping to Denver this week to attend the Great American Beer Festival. It's our version of what some folks call a "vacation." We're not bringing Metro beer this year. We've paid admission as proper beer-enjoying folks and will take this first and last trip to GABF as grinning drinkers. Next year we'll be there as grinning drinkers and vendors.

More to come. Hang onto your pants.

Thursday, September 4, 2008

Dr. Suess lives.

Ever since this came out, our email accounts have been overflowing with kind wishes, congratulations, and anticipatory messages from thirsty people all over Chicagoland.  We feel the love, people!  Whoop!  One message, however, was so good, we wanted to share it here.  There's nothing like a witty turn of phrase - not to mention some clever rhyming - to make our day. Enjoy.

"Dear Metro,
I am anxious to try out your beer, but there is none near, here, I fear.  Not that your beer is one that I would pound, to savor slowly would be more profound - yet, where can it be found??  SAMS, Binny's, definitely not some corner ninny.  Is a brewery stop in the picture, to tug on a sample of your golden elixir??  Do a favor for a brother??  Tell me, where's your local vendor."

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Tools + Beer = Awesome Happy Fun Time

We're nearing the end of the 2008 beer fest season. Our best beer fest season, for sure! Okay, this was our first season, but still... whoo hoo!

If you've attended any of the fests we have, you've had the chance to see our super-swank jockey box made of a converted Craftsman toolbox. Pouring beer has never been so fun. Folks seem to like it almost as much as we do. One AleFest Chicago attendee referred to it as "beer porn." Agreed!

Click here to see a website of photos taken on the afternoon we turned an everyday, kick ass tool box (I've nearly always been a Craftsman tools gal), into a kick ass jockey box. I did forward this website onto Craftsman (Sears), but so far, no word. We expect to either 1. receive a cease and desist letter or 2. receive funding to build more.

How do you pour your beer?

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Bill Murray sky dives onto North Ave Beach

Yesterday, Friday the 15th, Bill Murray opened Chicago's 50th annual Air & Water Show by doing a tandem sky dive with the U.S. Army's Golden Knights. The Sun-Times article can be found here.

But the reason we're posting about this is here. Raw footage from a nearby helmet-cam features incredible views of the lake shore and city, other jumpers, and the crowds waiting for the landing. Awesome.

Thursday, August 7, 2008

A Guide to Beer Festing

The Dugg and I have been attending beer fests for more than 12 years. In that time, we've learned some very important tricks and lessons. Probably the earliest was this: when you meet a guy standing in line who is beside himself with excitement that, "... they charge you $15 and you can drink all you want for 4 whole hours!!", avoid that guy. Not only will you likely see him camped out at the macro-beer table, but he's likely to barf on your shoes if you get too close.

Okay, that's one. Read on for several other tips that I hope will help you to successfully navigate a beer fest as well as survive the next day. Well, no promises on a hangover, but these tips should help you to at the very least wake up alive.

1. This ain't a beauty contest. It's a beer fest.
If the fest is outside, wear a hat with a brim, sunglasses, and sun block. Don't forget to SPF your legs. Even if you can't see them when you look down, the sun will hit them full force as you're standing around sampling beer. Wear comfortable shoes; I'm a big fan of Crocs or Chucks for long periods of being on your feet.

2. Drink water. And drink it all day long.
Some fests will supply each brewer's table with a pitcher of "rinse" water. Drink your rinse water. Don't throw it in that stupid bucket that should only be seen at wine tastings. It's water mixed with a little beer, so a) don't waste the beer and b) it's mostly water and you need every drop of it. Personally, I don't trust that a fest will have water on hand, which is why you'll see me with a Nalgene hooked on my pinky finger at all times.

3. Don't drive anything to a beer fest.
Not a car, not a bike, nothing. In our modern world, any resourceful person will be able to come up with some way to get to and from a beer fest. Don't worry about the cost of a cab, just shut up and pay up. Get a hotel room close to the fest. Ask a non-attending friend to drive you and pick you up. Promise them that after the fest you'll be so drunk that you'll offer to take them out to a fine restaurant and pick up the tab. And then do it. No matter what you spend on safe transport to and from a fest, it will be cheaper than a DUI or worse.

4. Eat.
Even as a strict vegetarian who also doesn't eat much cheese, I can still find something to nosh at a beer fest. Pretzels are almost always an option. Some people even show up to a fest with a homemade necklace comprised of a bunch of small twist-style pretzels strung onto a ribbon. Looks stupid, but please see 1. This ingenious method of self-sustenance also frees up your hands so you don't drop your tasting glass. Ultimately, though, I usually relax my dietary restrictions at a beer fest enough to include a slice of cheese pizza. Fatty, greasy foods will help you get through the day of drinking by slowing the absorption of alcohol.

5. Bring your own toilet paper.
So, you've stood in a line for about 10 minutes to get your chance at the Porta-John. If you're smart, you off-loaded your tasting glass to a nearby friend. You plug your nose with one hand, and swing open the door with the other. Gripping onto the handle inside the door, you hover your hienie over the pit of stench and take care of business. You reach into the tp holder to find... oh god... nothing. I can't tell you how many times this has happened to me and I won't tell you how I've managed that situation. What I will tell you, though, is how to avoid it altogether. If you're bringing a back-pack or bag, tuck a roll of tp into it. If not, unroll a wad of tp and stash it into your pocket. You may now send me gifts of money in gratitude.

6. Be friendly and don't judge.
Alcohol can transform even the nicest person into a bluthering, staggering idiot. It's just the nature of the beast. Don't shoot someone the stink eye when they spill their beer, trip over a tent post, or sport a huge beer stain down the front of their shirt. We're all in this together and it's all for the love of beer. Craft beer people are awesome, every last one.

At a beer festival in New York, I was stationed outside the men's room waiting for the Dugg to do his chore. As I lazily flipped through the program I heard a group of people chanting:
Single voice: "Gimme a B!" Chorus of voices: "B!"
Single voice: "Gimme an E!" Chorus of voices: "E!"
Single voice: "Gimme another E!" Chorus of voices: "E!"
Single voice: "Gimme an R!" Chorus of voices: "R!!"
Single voice: "What's that spell?!" Chorus of voices: "beer! beer! beer!"

It wasn't until the Dugg swung open the bathroom door (BBBEEEEERR!!!) that I realized the chant was actually coming from inside the men's room. I still laugh when I think about a bathroom full of men lined up in front of the urinals, stalls, sinks, and potted plant in the corner chanting together like old pals.

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Biggest. Shopping. Ever.

Starting a brewery requires a lot of equipment. Big stuff. Shiny. Some of our brewery toys are new; the brewhouse and several fermenters. But with the price of steel going up, we've been hitting the used market for just about everything else.

Last week we rented a Penske truck on two separate occasions, for two separate noisy, bouncy road trips. On Monday, we drove to Dexter MI to pick up our 1996 Meheen bottle filler. It's old, but we got'er running at the brewery where we bought it, Jolly Pumpkin Artisan Ales. Later in the week my step-Dad visited us, and the Meheen. Fortunately for us, he got that look on his face that only a tinkerer who loves a good challenge can make.

On Friday, we hit the road again in a 15' Penske to drive to Iowa City, IA to pick up our DE filter from Old Capital Brew Works. Again, it's old and needs some spiffing up, but it fit the budget.

We didn't do any photos of those two trips. The inside of a Penske truck doesn't exactly make my trigger finger itchy. But we did do some photography back in May when we purchased a hot liquor tank and 30 bbl fermenter from our friends at Two Brothers Brewing Co. Starting this brewery has been one, big exercise in logistics and I've never seen logistics like these. I know that you, like me, have long wondered just exactly how you get a 12' tank off its feet and onto a flatbed trailer. The hot liquor tank was no big deal really, but personally witnessing riggers working to load the fermenter was pretty damn cool. Check out the photos here.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Smell the dust... smell it!

Look! Photos of the space!

We'll be updating this page (or adding pages of photos) as we go so you may all share in the glory of construction and build-out.

Monday, June 30, 2008

One less vacant spot in Chicago

If you were to judge by our blog alone, it would seem that we've been lounging around, popping bon bons over the past weeks.

Probably the biggest accomplishment has been to secure our brewery's location. We looked at a lot of places. I'm guessing around 20-25. All in the city, and all with some promise. This was the first time we'd researched commercial space, so we found ourselves once again ferociously schooled in the Ways of the World. Any kind of manufacturing has physical logistics. When it comes to a brewery, most of those logistics have to do with the need to use gratuitous amounts of water. In the brew vessels, around the brew vessels, under the brew vessels. This requirement definitely narrowed our choices conveniently.

Anyway, if you want to know more about what finding a space for a brewery is like, buy us a beer sometime and we'll regale you with stories. For now, let it be known that the new home of Metropolitan Brewing is: 5121 N Ravenswood, Chicago. Folks, this was exactly the location we wanted! We lived in the Ravenswood neighborhood for 4 years. Had we not been booted by the condoization of our apartment building, we'd still be there.

Of course, we love you all dearly but don't come to visit just yet. The space was an auto-body shop for the last 15 years and the phrase "we need to clean this place up" has taken on a whole new scope. Sandblasters have stripped the rafters down to the wood and the walls down to the brick. In dramatic and ironic contrast, the floor is covered with 6 inches of oily, paint-soaked sand. Next, we patch and customize the cement floor. See again, there's the whole water aspect coming into play. The brewhouse needs to sit on a floor that slopes and drains to a trench. Personally, I'm hoping to get a chance to try using a jackhammer.

Now that we have our location, the floodgates have been rent asunder. Now we start dealing with our licensing, the TTB, build-out, etc. Our equipment broker told me that he's never delivered a brewhouse to a complete space, just sitting there ready for the equipment to be screwed down. I told him that we would be the first. I went further to predict that we'd be reclined in lawn chairs in the dock doorway sipping coffee on the morning of our delivery. I can already smell that plate of crow he'll be fixing for me.

Monday, May 26, 2008

Like having two grandpas over for dinner.

Top-notch friends and total beer geeks Russ and Leah presented us with a bottle of Schlitz at the Beerfly Alleyfight held on May 17th. Whoo! Apparently, the new-old Schlitz can be found at The House of Glunz Fine Wine & Spirits, 1206 N Wells in Chicago.

During a recent double-brew day, we decided to not only crack into the new-old Schlitz, but to also do a little side-by-side research ala Schlitz' step-parent, Pabst.

First, we tried them both straight from the bottle. The Schlitz had a much smoother malt flavor. The hop flavor was dry and citrusy. The PBR had it's usual semi-sweet corn flavor and finished tangy compared to the Schlitz.

Second, we tried them both using a beer-tasting glass. The Schlitz head was darker, and had a slightly darker color overall. The Schlitz also had more head retention. Braving the PBR from an actual glass rendered a surprisingly pleasant mild noble hop aroma. Cool!

Overall, the Schlitz had more malt flavor and hop aroma. We agreed that the new-old Schlitz is decent beer. Sadly, it was better than my beloved PBR. I'll be okay, though. I've already been down this road with Leinenkugel's.

Remember when you started sneaking slugs from your dad's beer can when he left the porch to go out and deal with the grill? That's what the new-old Schlitz tastes like.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

What's old is new-old... again.

Pabst has decided to revive a more than 30-year old formula of Schlitz. The new-old product is packaged in bottles and promoted with a heavily nostalgic, "those were the good old days" message to Baby Boomers. (Yeah, we're going to be seeing a lot of this over the next 20 or so years, so get used to it.) Some of the adverts attempt to appeal to the Boomers at the expense of the Millennials, the electronic age, and contemporary urban life.

This is a little different then the revival of PBR. I'm not sure about the formula, but whatever version of Pabst is in those classic red/white/blue cans, tall boys, and bottles appeals nicely to the Millennials (chronologically we have: Baby Boomers, born approx 1946 to 1964 - Generation X, born approx 1964 to 1980 - Millennials, born approx 1980 to 2004). I freely admit that I drink PBR. I mean, not all the time, but I do like it when times are tight and the beer fund is running low.

Anyway, will this attempt at retro appeal work? I'm dubious of any marketing that is pointedly negative toward one demographic as a means of accessing a different one. The Millennials are the kids of the younger Boomers, after all. Scoffing at the fact that their kids instant message and know what "metrosexual" means may not motivate them to choose Schlitz. On the flip side, this could possibly be the reason PBR appeals to the 20-something set. It's the beer their mom and dad drank. Well, that and it's cheap.

We've been shopping for a 6er of the new-old Schlitz but have yet to come across any in Chicago. If and when we do, we'll do a taste test and report about it here.

Either way, Pabst should have gotten a Millennial to do the Schlitz website. The graphics don't work properly.

Friday, April 25, 2008

Hobo Dinner & Goose Island IPA

Fun with Photoshop filters! I liked this one because the food looks like those silly painted styrofoam chunks they used as "alien" food on Star Trek: TOS.

Over the past few years, we've gone camping with our lovely friends, The Beaumonts, every Spring and Fall. This Spring, we are too busy opening a brewery to go camping. Bummer, but... yay! Brewery!

Anyway, in honor of the Great Camping Trip Loss of 2008, we decided to cook our favorite camping dinner at home tonight. We paired it with one of our favorite camping beers, natch.

Goose Island India Pale Ale
Chicago, IL
5.9% ABV, 58 IBUs

-- paired with --

Hobo Dinner @ Home

For reference, the way you make hobo dinners whilst camping:
lay flat a piece of foil, about 18"x18" and then layer...
little olive oil or a pat or 2 of butter
potatoes cut into 1" chunks
Morningstar Farms® Meal Starters™ Grillers® Recipe Crumbles™
chopped onions
chopped garlic
spices, pretty much whatever you want
chopped zucchini
chopped red and green bell peppers
any other chopped veggies, one of the many joys of camping is a comfortable lack of rules
shredded cheese of any kind

Then, fold the whole thing into a pocket and toss'er onto the grate over the campfire. The edge of the fire ring, inside the stones, is also a great place to slow-cook your hobo dinner. No offense to hobos, by the way.

Okay, so here's how we made hobo dinners at home. Preheat the oven to 350°. Spray olive oil to coat the bottom of a baking dish. Then, layer...
potatoes, chopped into 1" chunks
cold Morningstar Farms® Meal Starters™ Chik'n Strips (we had some left over, hanging out in the fridge)
4 strips of Morning Star Farms® Veggie Bacon Strips (we fondly refer to it as "facon")
Morningstar Farms® Meal Starters™ Grillers® Recipe Crumbles™ (spray just a little more olive oil onto the recipe crumbles)
chopped onions
diced roasted garlic (my clever scheme for roasting garlic is below)
shredded extra sharp cheddar cheese
salt & pepper
ancho chili powder, or any other kind of chili powder
Tabasco Chipotle Pepper Sauce
chopped Portobello mushrooms
chopped zucchini
chopped red & green bell peppers
shredded Parmesan cheese

Cover the baking dish and bake for about 40 minutes.

To roast garlic: preheat a toaster oven to 400°. Slice the tops off of a complete head of garlic, but try not to pull the cloves apart. Spray the tops with a little olive oil. Wrap the head in foil, keeping in mind that you'll check its progress by peeking at the tops of the cloves. Bake them in the toaster oven for about 50 minutes. Once the tops of the cloves are browned, you're in business.

Onto the feasting and drinking.

Hop aroma abounds in the IPA. The head is just slightly off-white, thick, and tasty. You can tell right from the start that there is going to be lacing on the glass. Plenty of flowery hop flavor, of course. The mouthfeel is smooth and light. A malty sweetness greets you first, but then drops off. Randy Mosher wrote in his article "What's On Your Menu?: Dazzle Them with Beer & Food Pairings," (The New Brewer, Vol. 25 No. 1) that hop bitterness emphasizes spiciness. The Dugg's damn-near-professional spicing skills were requested for this particular dish. He fiendishly leaned over the baking dish for quite some time, shaking this jar, taking pinches from that jar, and blopping copious amounts of Tabasco sauce to and fro. Call it a premonition, but I think our palates are about to be spanked.

Indeed, the combination of the beer and food allows the spices to linger in the mouth for a long, long time. That's right, quench the spice heat with nice cold beer. Oh boy. Good thing we aren't going anywhere tonight.

The multitude of flavors in the dish are rinsed clear with the beer. Spices are tasted throughout the entire experience, but the veggie flavors are fresh and clean every time after sipping the beer.

Head-bobbing to a new-found band, Fu Manchu, we lapsed into a silence and enjoyed our dinner. The Dugg uttered the first word after many long minutes: "more."

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

“They sell Bud — we sell Weed.”

... an excellent point by brewer Vaune Dillmann of Mt. Shasta Brewing Company, home of Weed Ales and Lagers. Their slogan, "Try Legal Weed" is on the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau's no-fly list. Dillmann faces sanctions or fines for using it on his bottle caps. The bottle caps also sport the slogan "A friend in Weed is a friend indeed."

Weed, CA was founded by Abner Weed when he started a lumber mill there in 1897. They were probably having fun with the name from day one... "I trust that fellow, after all, he did introduce me to Weed." A traveler can stumble up to the city's signpost, pose for a snapshot while making the "I'm pinching a joint" symbol with their fingers, and then purchase a “High on Weed, CA” t-shirt at a nearby gas station. Mt. Shasta Brewing Company has a beer named "Shastafarian Porter."

No doubt, the pot jokes abound in a city named Weed. A Californian city named Weed.

Now, as people making nice with the local TTB, we wouldn't dare question their judgment. However, we do submit that the slogans are funny. And they're on products made exclusively for adults. We don't even need to think of the children, because you know, they aren't supposed to be drinking beer anyway.

Couldn't the TTB just aim high? Give us the benefit of the doubt; that we adult consumers know how to pass the doob jokes without coughing? We are stone serious, roll this one up and forget about it. Wait... what were we talking about?

Thanks to The Full Pint Dot Com for a repost of the article by Ryan Sabalow.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Honk if you're sad

Early warning rumblings gave way to the sad truth this week: Goose Island will be closing it's pub at North/Clybourn here in Chicago.

Click here to read the Chicago Trib article.

Now, I've always been bummed about the fact that the place closes down so early on Friday and Saturday nights. 11:oo pm hits and we always manage to find ourselves surrounded by chairs propped on top of the tables and mop-wielding staff who are clearly eager to split. But that isn't to say that GI-North/Clybourn isn't one of our favorite places to be.

The beer is excellent. Say whatever you want about the relationship with Widmer, the beer in the glass is what counts. We've been proud to hold countless business meetings at GI-North/Clybourn because the beer is so reliably tasty.

The Siebel Institute of Technology has called GI-North/Clybourn its classroom home since 2003. The Dugg earned his diploma in Brewing Technology at this pub. The Illinois Craft Brewers Guild has held meetings and festivals here. When I think about it, we've spent a lot of time at this place. No wonder I'm so thirsty right now.

Goose Island is one of the very few places in that shopping district that is truly Chicago. Depending on your direction, you walk past Best Buy; Bed, Bath & Beyond; Trader Joe's; Whole Foods; CVS; Crate & Barrel; The Gap; Circuit City; and Patagonia to get to the pub. If it weren't for Sam's Wines & Spirits, we would probably never step foot in that area again.

I will run in circles sobbing like a child if a Chili's moves in.

Sunday, April 13, 2008

The Hops are in da Haus!

Starting a brewery during a hops crisis requires us to keep our proverbial ears to the ground (eyes to the interwebs) and pounce on opportunities like a cat on nip. So, when we heard about some available hops, the very hops The Dugg desires, we made one of our very first Huge Purchases. People paying attention know that we're still searching for Metro's home, so we had the hops shipped to our apartment. All 300 lbs of them.

We've never seen the UPS guy so pissed.

At our Top Secret Metro Hidden Headquarters, our bounty is safely stored. The protective measures taken are too numerous and Top Secret to list here.

Plenty of guile

Our friends at the Drinking and Writing Brewery took some time out to talk with us at this year's Rockfest, held at Rock Bottom - Chicago and hosted by head brewer Pete Crowley. Behold! Our very first official interview with the media. Well, very casual media. Guerrilla media. Media that drinks and swears.

Click here to hear the interview portion of the radio show. About 10 minutes long.

Click here to hear the entire radio show from April, 2008. Enjoy the frenetic, hilarious madness that Neofuturists channel with uncanny ease.

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Randy = Biggest Beer Nut in Chicago!

Okay, this is a couple of years old now (2006), but it contains so many familiar faces, I just had to post it anyway. Some of the most well-known and loved beer Illuminati in Chicago - Randy Mosher, Jason Beaumont, Jeff Sparrow, Scott Mikros, Pete Crowley, Lyn Kruger, Jonathan Cutler, and many more - make an appearance on the Chicago episode of Beer Nutz. Even The Dugg can be seen enjoying a quaff or two near the end. Choosing the biggest Beer Nut in Chicago is a task we wouldn't dare attempt, but the fellas made a choice we find completely reasonable and logical.

Thursday, April 3, 2008

Brewer's Etiquette

I read somewhere that "brewers should always be seen drinking a beer, but never be seen drunk."

Heh. Whoops.

Drinking from the Firehose

Our "pre-production" phase officially began April 1st. This refers to the 6-month period during which we are allowed to spend our time pulling together all of the various aspects of starting a brewery, but aren't expected to actually sell any beer. We both officially work full-time for Metro now. Of course, I've been doing so since October 1st and Doug since March 21st. The difference is that now, we get paid for it.

I've never needed a nap so badly in my life.

Every day begins early. We typically schedule appointments beginning at 8 or 9am with one of our six Realtors to drive all over Chicagotarnation looking at possible spaces. I'm not going to say that we've seen it all, because that would be exaggerating. But we have seen a space that was too lovely, oh so perfect and out of our budget; a warehouse space with "place rodent trap here" drawn in marker on the wall; a barn-like space that would have worked nicely but for the sagging and chipping roof; and a space that might work once the dollar-store merchandise has been liquidated. How do you put stuff that costs $1 on sale?

Last week, we took a field trip up to The Great Dane at Hilldale in Madison, WI. The brewhouse (the tanks in which you brew beer) at this location is the prototype of the system we intend to buy. The brewer was incredibly hospitable, allowing us to brew a batch of his Oktoberfest with him from start to finish. The entire 15 bbl system made us feel like really little kids in a normal-sized toy store. The hoses were big...
The mash rake in the mash tun was big...

And the amount of spent grain needing to be raked out of the mash tun was big...
And apparently, we need to brush up on our Cantonese in order to use the equipment.
We've been asked to give a talk at the Siebel Institute of Technology (this is the school where The Dugg earned his diploma in Brewing Technology) here in Chicago next week during a 3-day seminar named "Start Your Own Brewery Course." I guess we've actually gone through many of the paces necessary to open a brewery, and I suppose we do have some wisdom to pass along. But we don't feel like experts and we desperately hope that no one sitting in the course holds us to such standards. However, we are looking forward to sharing some of our experiences and even took some time to pull together a snazzy PowerPoint presentation in order to look more official-like. Our mantra: learn from your mistakes. Hell, learn from others' mistakes too, if you can help it.

The past few weeks have also involved numerous meetings with our accountants, lawyer, insurance agent, and banker. Oh my! Now, each person involved is lovely and has helped us tremendously, but like the back of a thong on a 20-something, our inexperience is showing to the embarrassment of everyone involved. We were soundly scolded for mixing up our personal and business financials. A situation that is now remedied... but we do often "buy gifts" for Metro with our own money. Sorry, we love our kid and can't help but spoil it.

And we're waiting with bated breath for the appointment wherein a nurse (PortaMedic... hee!) comes to our home to take urine and blood samples. These, along with an interview that grills us for our health information will finally be distilled into a number for each of us. This number will be stamped on the life insurance policy - and our checkbook annually - required by our bank in order to obtain our bank loan.

A high point of our meetings with professionals involve our graphic designer. He is probably one of the strongest members of our team. He's a genius of graphic design, brewing, and marketing and we're relieved he saw fit to help us along our way. This week, he showed us a nearly-final version of our first beer label. Behold...

We're happy to be nursing our newborn through the first few months of life. But they say new parents are often surprised by the amount of work and attention their larvae-like offspring requires. We're no different in this respect. Fortunately, if we screw up too badly, no one dies.

And to think... we haven't even begun to apply for our licenses yet...

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

yeast's bitch

Humans did not discover yeast and harness it to do our bidding. It's the other way around.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Stick your e-bumper

For Facebook fun, I created some Metro jpg bumper stickers. Please feel free to copy and paste these on any website you like. Take! Take!


Passion. Opinions. Enthusiasm. The guts to get up and make a speech after having a couple of pints. These are just a few of the characteristics that make craft beer people so damn great. Behold, Rick Reed of the Cricket Hill Brewery in Fairfield, NJ.

Saturday, February 2, 2008

Aren't we free to be you and me?

Anyone who's had more than small-talk conversation with me knows that I get touchy when women and men are herded into different camps. "The only difference between women and men is that one can gestate offspring inside the body and one can't," is my usual response. Drawing lines other that that worries me. Such delineations imply limitations that I find dangerous and sad.

As a business woman in the craft beer industry, I know that women are as active on a professional level as men. See Teri Fahrendorf, Julia Herz (Craft Beer Program Director for the Brewers Association) Deb Carey, and many others (scroll to the bottom for a list of female pro brewers). To say that only men are into craft beer is as ridiculous as saying that only men are into sushi.

But I can't argue with the data or my own experience. Festivals and events are largely populated by men. The headlining article of the January/February 2008 New Brewer magazine focuses on marketing brewpub craft beer to women. And while we're active in professional craft brewing, women don't tip the scales statistically in the industry. Baffled, Doug and I keep our eyes and ears open for clues as to reasons behind the gender divide in craft beer.

Recently, Doug pointed me to brewvana, an excellent beer blog written by a guy named J. Wilson. Wilson was also curious about the perceived difference between men and women where craft beer is concerned. Being a doer rather than a chin-scratcher, he gathered 6 women of varying ages for a beer tasting. He thoughtfully sampled 6 beers with different flavor profiles and got the participants talking about what they liked and disliked about each beer. You can read his M.O. and results here.

Right off the top, Wilson points out that industrial beers don't market themselves to women. To be sure. The idea that you'll win yourself a cheap trophy in the form of a cute girl with a bodacious figure by drinking swill cut with corn is beyond delusional. Let's just add that reason to the sky-high pile of reasons that industrial beer sales increase less than 3% each year. I would propose that this type of marketing doesn't even work with fellas anymore, if it ever really did.

We were recently advised by a potential investor to rustle us up some "Metro girls" to send out to the bars to market Metro beer. We explained to him that craft beer doesn't work that way. You occasionally find a craft beer ad that features a girlie with the titties burgeoning from a spaghetti-strap tank top, but this is rare. At the 2007 Great Taste of the Midwest, one brewery featured a burlesque dancer who stripped down to pasties and hot pants, but this was a temporary diversion in an otherwise focused day of learning about and drinking lots of craft beer.

Doug and I have been studying the craft beer industry for more than 30 years collectively. We can tell you without a shred of doubt that craft beer drinkers are intrigued by great tasting beer rather than the promise of any external, perceived pleasures that might appear as the result of drinking beer. Craft beer drinkers get riled up over a wide variety of choices, beers brewed with quality and purpose, and if you want to get into marketing, we like campaigns that are clever, intelligent, risky, and fun. More specifically, we like campaigns that spend a little time telling us about the beer.

Craft beer folks know a lot about beer. We know beer's ingredients, we know how to pair it with food, we know it's history. The best way to market to us is by educating us about how a beer is made. Informing us about the entire line of brews that are available is the way to hook us. As one participant in Wilson's tasting group said, "Point blank, breweries could do a better job explaining their different beers in their commercials." Melissa Cole, freelance food & drink writer and committee member of the British Guild of Beer Writers, states in her blog, "I've been thinking about how to further explain why it's pointless 'marketing' beer at women when education is the way forward." Is it really so radical to propose that craft beer is marketed as... beer that is hand-crafted? I'll bet we could dismiss any notion of inspiring women to drink craft beer and focus on getting just plain everyone to drink craft beer.

While it certainly doesn't help, I don't think stale-minded advertising is entirely the reason behind the weird gender thing with regard to craft beer. The way we communicate with each other, one on one, also matters. Doug and I drove up to a new brewpub in northern IL for a little research (we truly love our jobs). We ordered the first round, Doug ordered the Kölsch and I ordered the Czech Pils. The waitress exclaimed at my choice, "Oh, usually girls order the lighter beers and guys like the hoppier beers." Groan. I told you before, I get touchy at crap like this and I did tell her what I thought of her comment. Oh, and on the topic of waiting tables, don't comment on what people drink. It's rude, newb.

Melissa Cole writes in another blog entry about a beer that was designed by, and for, women: "I must point out that the beer will have "curvaceous" branded glasses – with a daisy on them. I’m sorry, but I’m not a buyer of this either because I can’t see a lot of blokes drinking from a pretty flowery glass and why should they be excluded?

Just as women shouldn’t be kept from enjoying beer by ridiculous social mores, why should men be told, albeit subliminally by the chintzy nature of the receptacle, they can’t drink this product either?"

I propose we dispense with all the sexist put-down - flowers and fruit for girls, footballs and dirt for boys - when it comes to marketing, brewing, discussing, advertising, and sharing craft beer. Perhaps if we tune out that noise, the tasty praises of craft beer will be heard more clearly by everyone.

Friday, January 4, 2008

Is that a pub in your pocket, or are you...?

If you've ever wished that you had your own pub - not to make oodles of money or because you're hospitable - simply because you just want your own darn pub. Airquee can feed your desire.

Let us know if you buy one! We'll serve up a complimentary keg of Metro beer.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Where are you, anyway?

It's not about being in the right place at the right time. We've learned that it's best to be everywhere, all the time.

Saturday, December 8, 2007

on music

You know what I want to see? I want to see Jack Black and Jack White do a music project together.

Friday, December 7, 2007

Wing Sauce Burritos & Negra Modelo

Negra Modelo Dark Beer
Cerveceria Modelo, S.A. DE C.V., Mexico, D.F.
This beer has corn adjuncts as per the Dugg and a rater on Beeradvocate. I couldn't verify this because the actual page for Negra Modelo seems to be under construction. No worries though, we're pretty sure they put corn in the beer.

~~ paired with ~~

Inspired by a burrito I had at Handlebar, I hit on one of those meals. You know, like Indian food. The type of meal where you just don't stop eating to talk or even breathe if you can manage it. In my mind, anything with wing sauce applies. Anyway, gather the following ingredients in amounts that would serve 1-2 burritos to each person in attendance. I used brand names to be helpful, feel free to follow your own whims. For example, the burrito I had at Handlebar featured seitan instead of the Chik'n Strips.

flour tortillas
rice (we like Jasmine)
olive oil for
sautéing, no more than a few Tbsps
Morningstar Farms® Meal Starters™ Chik'n Strips
- one package per person (you'll probably have some left over)
Frank's RedHot Buffalo Wing Sauce
- one 12oz bottle per 2 packages of Chik'n Strips
- if you can make your own, cool - the stuff in the bottle is like crack
halved and sliced sweet onion
shredded Jack cheese
shredded iceberg lettuce (I know, I know... just trust me on this one)
chopped or sliced tomatoes, whatever type looks best in the produce section
Annie's Naturals Cowgirl Ranch Dressing

Prepare the rice as per the package instructions. Sauté the Chik'n Strips (or whatever) and the onions in olive oil. I like my onions pretty crisp, so I add them to the pan after the Chik'n Strips have been sautéing for a few minutes. Drizzle the Buffalo Wing Sauce over the Chik'n Strips and onions fairly liberally; use about 3/4 of the bottle per 2 packages.

If you have a toaster oven, toasting the flour tortillas for a few seconds softens and warms them up. Yum. Lay down a bed of rice in the tortilla, top with the Chik'n Strips and onions. Dress with cheese, lettuce, tomatoes, and ranch dressing. Roll'er up.

Negra Modelo is a Vienna style lager. Metro's Dynamo Copper Lager is also a Vienna style lager, only we don't use corn and we do use hops. The NM is very, very dark brown with golden highlights. The nose is estery, chocolate/vanilla. There is no hop aroma. The use of corn reduces the amount of head-producing proteins. And, to increase shelf life, much of the protein occurring in the beer anyway is broken down during the mash. So what this means is there is virtually no retained head in the glass.

You're about to annihilate your palette with wing sauce, so spend a little time on the beer first. The flavor is mostly sweet, smooth dark malt. Again, virtually no hop flavor to be found. The finish is dry, but a second later you'll notice a lingering sweetness on the palette due to the corn adjunct.

The sweet flavors in this beer pair beautifully with the spicy wing sauce. This makes sense given that this beer is often served with spicy Mexican cuisine. After the heat of the spices, the beer is cooling and resets your palette for another bite of the burrito. See how dangerous this can be? Remember to breathe, but do it through your nose to free your mouth for chewing.

Our recommendation: if you do this right, your lips will be on fire.

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

Larry Bell, distribution, and the Chicagoland market

The Chicagoland craft beer community is buzzing... so to speak. We are once again able to purchase pints of Larry Bell's beer in several locations in the city and the 'burbs. To catch you up, Kalamazoo Brewing pulled out of our market due to a dispute with their IL distributor, National Wine and Spirits. Debate and rumors have been flying to and fro since.

Why do beer manufacturers need to use distributors?
This is due to the mandated three-tier system in IL. From Nicholas Day's article linked above, "The system, which stipulates that all alcohol has to pass through a middleman, was established to ensure that producers couldn’t run bars and limit consumer choice by exclusively serving their own drinks, a situation known as a “tied house.” Keep in mind that this is a good thing. This has kept us from being limited to haunting "Miller bars" and "Budweiser bars."

Why did Kalamazoo Brewing pull out of the IL market?
The problem Larry Bell ran into is described in Day's article: "... according to state law, NWS was entitled to sell Bell’s distribution rights to another wholesaler without his approval, and a few months ago it decided to do just that, in a deal with Chicago Beverage Systems— the Miller distributor in Chicago." It just so happens that CBS has been sited by folks in the local craft beer industry as a distributor that doesn't exactly have what it takes to sell craft beer.
Larry Bell started his brewery with $200, boatloads of luck, and endless hours of hard work. For what? To be sold to a distributor without his input? What if he didn't want to work with CBS? Well, he had (as far as we know) 2 options: work with CBS or pull out of the market.

Okay, so screw CBS. Why didn't Larry Bell just make a deal with a different distributor?
Agreements between distributors and beer manufacturers are very difficult to terminate. This is due to franchise laws and the Beer Industry Fair Dealing Act, which was written to protect distributors from being financially ruined by large breweries. Say a distributor busts their hump to get beer out there and promote for a brewery; the brewery succeeds famously as a result; and then the brewery dumps the distributor for a different one. That type of protection seems logical enough, but the incident with Kalamazoo Brewing has highlighted a bias in the franchise laws: they apply to the relationships between small distributors and large breweries. Smaller craft breweries don't have the financial clout to bring down a distributor, but the laws apply to us anyway.

Distribution sucks... right?
No. Getting into the craft beer industry takes a lot of work and planning. Add to that the stresses of putting together and managing a fleet of trucks - tickets, towing, accidents, CDLs, maintenance, etc.?!? No thanks. We got into the industry to make beer. That's enough to think about. Even if we were in a state that didn't mandate the three-tier system (coughWisconsincough), we would still make deals with distributors based on our business model. That, or we'd get a friend to start a distribution company. Anyone interested?

Larry Bell was quoted in the articles above: "Normally when you go see a distributor, they say, ‘We’ve gone out and tried the beers and we’re very excited about selling Oberon.’ Unfortunately, I got into a relationship with a wholesaler that didn't have our best interest at heart." And that's the key, folks. Distribution agreements can be profitable for everyone involved, provided the deal you make is fair. The best bet is to get into agreements with distributors who know how to handle craft beer and who are willing to work collaboratively with manufacturers.

Okay, blah blah. Distribution agreements are complicated. The most important thing is that we can now enjoy Larry Bell's beer at some locations in Chicagoland again. How?
A new company exists: Bells Brewery Incorporated. This company is entering the market with a new brand called Kalamazoo. The first beer available from this company is Royal Amber Ale. We haven't tried it yet, but some well-beerducated folks we know went out this week to taste it. Apparently, they loved the beer so much that they had to skip their reasonable dinner plans for late-night burritos. This, as you know, is a very good sign.

We at Metro Brewing are thrilled to have Larry Bell back in our market. No, really. We mean this. The more craft beer available, the more people are going to drink it. Craft beer drinkers like choice and variety, so why not have lots of both available to us? Sure, we might have to fight for taps that Kalamazoo Royal Amber Ale now occupies, but you know, that fight would exist either way. And really, we love Larry Bell's beer. Having a few local taps will save us lots of gas money and time since we won't have to make as many border beer-runs. Now, if we could just get New Glarus down here again...

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

Garlic Soup & Morimoto Black Obi Soba Ale

Morimoto Black Obi Soba Ale
Rogue - Newport, OR
30 IBUs

~~ paired with ~~

Garlic Soup, recipe adapted from Vegetarian Planet by Didi Emmons

olive oil
2 cups chopped onions
16-20 garlic cloves, minced
2 quarts veggie broth
1/2 tsp dried rosemary
1 tsp dried thyme
1 tsp fennel seeds
5-7 red potatoes, peeled and chopped
3-4 large carrots, peeled and chopped
black pepper
wheat baguette
Parmesan cheese

In a soup or stockpot, heat about 1-1.5 tbsp olive oil over medium heat.
Sauté the onions for 10 minutes. Add the garlic and sauté for another 5 minutes.

Use a mortar and pestle to grind the herbs. Add the broth and herbs, let simmer for 15 minutes. Add the potatoes and carrots and simmer until the potatoes are tender. Add a few generous dashes of sherry, simmer for another 5 minutes. Take a swig of the sherry.

Season the soup with black pepper, salt, and a little more sherry. To serve, place slices of baguette on the bottom of a bowl. Ladle the soup over the top. Garnish with black pepper and Parmesan cheese.

Nothing is better than soup. Well, maybe beer. But other than that, nothing. This soup makes magic of the simplest veggies which are in ample supply in the winter.

And speaking of things that are comforting, Rogue in Newport, OR serves up 22oz bottles of their tasty specialty ales, one of which is Morimoto Black Obi Soba Ale. The Rogue website informs us that this brew is part of their Signature Series with Chef Masaharu Morimoto.

Beautiful brown-red tones gleam from the glass. The nose is hoppy and spicy and blends well with the flowery herbal aromas of the soup. Roasted soba (buckwheat) adds a nutty flavor to the beer which is a little surprising, but pleasant. The huge amounts of garlic in the soup are also surprising, but pleasant. Coincidence? Maybe. Anyway, the nutty flavors blend perfectly with the garlic, inspiring me to begin imagining a sauce or something that combines garlic and nuts.

The hops reassert themselves in the flavor as well. The Dugg pointed out that every hop addition to this beer has been amped up; aroma, bitterness, and flavor.

The MBOSA finishes dry. Spicy dry. Bone dry. After a few mouthfuls of this beer, the sweet flavors of the carrots and potatoes in the soup taste new. As if you'd never tasted a carrot or potato before in your life. The beer reboots the palette.

Our recommendation: put on some pj's, ladle out a bowl of garlic soup, split (or not) a bottle of the
Morimoto Black Obi Soba Ale, and spin up a DVD of a TV series you've been meaning to catch up on. For us, it was Battlestar Galactica.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Gonzo Imperial Porter

Flying Dog Brewery, LLC
Denver, CO
9% or 9.5% ABV (different numbers on the website)
1.093 OG
80 IBUs

I'm a huge fan of Hunter S. Thompson. I dressed up as Raoul Duke for Halloween once; the Dugg served up a fine rendition of Dr. Gonzo, complete with the suitcase of drugs. I was hungover for 2 days afterward. Anyway, Flying Dog Brewery seems to base its marketing on all that is HST, right down to the packaging graphics by Ralph Steadman. So when I saw their Gonzo Imperial Porter on the liquor store shelf, I picked it up, natch.

Turns out this beer is not only an ode to HST, proceeds from the sales go toward erecting the Gonzo Memorial Fist. In true HST form, the PSA on the package reads, “Since they don’t serve our beer in prison, please drink responsibly.” More importantly, artwork on the packaging features a cartoon of HST declaring, “Ok! Let’s Party!” Indeed, let's.

I happen to be listening to Tom Waits, The Heart of Saturday Night while doing this review. I suppose it would be more appropriate to listen to Bob Dylan, but since I like Tom Waits better, I'm listening to Tom Waits.

The beer pours a beautiful dark, dark brown. I can smell the sweet, roasted malts as the beer fills the glass. At the end, I'm rewarded with a super smooth, milky brown head. Starting with my first sip, the bone-crushing amounts of malt in this beer slammed into the roof of my mouth and then evaporated right off my tongue. I was then left with enormous hop flavor in the aftertaste. Somehow, this beer is perfectly balanced for how much raw material went into it. Folks, this is a floor-to-ceiling, wall-to-wall masterpiece of brewing. Huge. This beer has grabbed me by the face, but even so, I detected absolutely no off flavors.

Halfway through the glass… oh, I'm a very, very happy woman. The head has almost, but not completely faded. With each sip, this quaff gets even better. The malt and hops continue to catch my attention, even though by this point, I’m clicking my way through an online game of Euchre.

Okay, nearing the end of the glass and definitely feeling the 9.whatever%. Still smooth. The malt flavors linger on my palette now. Still some hanger-on bubbles in the glass. I'm not going to suggest a food-pairing or any other extraneous nonsense with this beer. If you simply must have something else in your other hand, I suppose a Mint Julep would work. Or maybe a grapefruit.

My rating: don't be stupid. Buy this beer.