Pleasanton, California is a lovely little town nestled in amongst a series of large recreation areas and reservoirs about hour SE of San Francisco. In the unforgiving heat of this past summer, the valley bordering on wine country remained dry and tolerable, if not slightly, well, pleasant. Long-time friend and collaborator, Kyle Fletcher, and I battled the heat with a minor hunt for brewing talent in the area. This is what we found.
This month marked the second release of Mash Tun, Chicago’s craft beer journal published by Ed Marszewski from Maria’s Packaged Goods in Bridgeport on Chicago’s South side. The journal is quickly finding its way, continuing to tell stories that are both intelligent and entertaining about beers past and present. The second Mash Tun festival, essentially the release party, was once again held in the old loading docks of the Bridgeport Art Center, and attracted some of Chicago’s biggest beer geeks, but also an enthusiastic neighborhood crowd looking to have a good time. A few hundred people filled the atrium on an especially chilly night — but what most of them didn’t know was that the chill they were feeling wasn’t just the breeze. At this version of the Mash Tun fest, we were bringing a ghost back to life from Chicago’s past.
photo by Joshua Longbrake
This weekend marks the launch of the second issue of Mash Tun, now available in the shop. Buy both issues and save on shipping!
Whoa Tender: Two Weeks with Pipeworks -
The corner of Wabansia & Western smells like beer, and Pipeworks is the reason. I had been biking past their warehouse when I saw eight people standing inside the loading dock, drinking and laughing. So I stopped and talked to the one who most closely resembled a brewer, Beejay Oslon:…
another enormous Good Beer Hunting print came in today. I love sending these out! www.goodbeerhunting.bigcartel.com
OATH DAY — A NEW RITE OF PASSAGE AT SOLEMN OATH BREWERY -
This past Sunday something special happened in Naperville — the boys at Solemn Oath, now four in John, Joe, Tim and Paul (sounding more like apostles every minute) held their first-ever Oath Day as a way to celebrate their uncanny rise as one of Chicagoland’s best new breweries. SEE MORE HERE
The guys from Solemn Oath are some of the best in the biz.
just a reminder…
Whoa Tender: Greenbush Brewery's Rage Imperial Black IPA -
Part II of the Black IPA series: Rage Imperial Black IPA by Greenbush Brewery. We were headed to Ludington State park—Sawyer seemed like a sensible place to stop. Michael Kiser’s coverage of Greenbush over at Good Beer Hunting gave me the idea. So we dropped by, picked up a growler of…
Dear Tumblr followers — this has been great fun over here. But there’s been something bothering me for some time now, and it’s that I’ve been using Tumblr like a traditional website for too long and living within the design constraints of its themes. So starting today, Good Beer Hunting has its own space, permanently at www.goodbeerhunting.com, with an all-new design where you can see more of the incredible collaborations I’ve been lucky to be a part of, the same stories you’ve grown to love, and even more photography and prints for sale. It’s kind of a a big day for this little blog that started a few years ago.
So please update your RSS feeds for the main blog, which is now http://feeds.feedburner.com/rss/goodbeerhunting
But Tumblr fanatics never fear! — I still plan to use this space in the way the Tumblr gods intended. I’ll be sharing photos and smaller bits here and there that really take advantage of the Tumblr platform much better. I love it here too, and I plan to keep up with you all as well.
All the best,
P.S. What are you waiting for?! Go check out this new site! www.goodbeerhunting.com
The guys at Solemn Oath are always trying new things. And they don’t stop at the beer. Seriously, these guys are an idea factory. This month, on Sept 23rd, they’re hosting the first-ever Oath Day event at the brewery in Naperville.
Here’s the incredible details:
Oath Day will feature three separate sessions with one at 11AM, 2PM, at 5PM. Each group will be limited to 30, so hesitation is your prerogative. Each of these experiences will give you a glimpse behind the scenes at Solemn Oath Brewery. Our people, our story, our goals, and our beer will take center stage as you learn about grain, hops, and how we approach the entire brewing process in an intimate setting.
As you may have gathered since we came to market, we do things a bit differently. And it wouldn’t be Solemn Oath without some spiked beer to challenge your expectations. Guests in each session will have the opportunity to select from 15 ingredients to design a spiked brew and watch us do the spiking. The following week, we’ll tap all three at the taproom for everyone to enjoy.
That’s right. You get to help make a series of taproom-only brews at Solemn Oath. Ridic.
So when they wanted to collaborate on some serious swag for Oath Day, their first-ever brewery event for all things Solemn, I was totally game. We took one of my most popular prints, taken from my visit during their first weekend of mashing in, and printed a limited edition set with signatures of the boys behind the beer.
If you get a ticket for Oath Day, which of course you would, be sure to get “Option D” and get yours! You’re essentially getting your entire ticket, a hat and a Good Beer Hunting print for less than the print alone. Once in a lifetime people. Once in a lifetime.
Solemn Oath — Oath Day Tickets
I spent the better part of a Friday last week at the University of Michigan, running a workshop on design strategy for about 80 incoming MBAs during their first hell-week. These bright-eyed, ambitious future business leaders worked for hours on end, collaborating to solve some of the city of Detroit’s looming civic sector problems, and find ways to exploit its enormous potential. And I was essentially there to teach them how to have an idea.
Once school was out, we went students’-choice and grabbed a beer at Good Time Charlie’s. Any beer geek would steer you clear of this place, but it’s not impossible to enjoy yourself and find something worth drinking. I found a a big, malty IPA from Rochester Mills that got me through it. Besides, Saturday was the real day for scouting out great beer, and we used the time to plan our hunt amongst the din of student life.
Ann Arbor is home to a number of well known microbreweries. But I was outclassed on this trip in terms of local knowledge. My wife Hillary was an undergraduate mechanical engineering major at U of M, and this was her turf. Also joining us was John Barley of Solemn Oath Brewery in Naperville, IL. Some years back he was living and working in Ann Arbor long before he had his run-in with craft beer. So when it came time for us to meet up, he made a bold call — “10am, Jolly Pumpkin, as soon as the doors open.”
I’m no stranger to day drinking, or even starting off a weekend morning with a roasty, chocolate stout. These things happen. But Jolly Pumpkin, with its signature aged tartness and intense flavors was more than a suggestion — it would set the tone for the rest of the day. Before we were done, we’d hit Jolly Pumpkin, Grizzly Peak and Arbor Brewing, all in time for a late lunch.
Jolly Pumpkin’s cafe is a beautiful space — dark, cozy, the morning light cutting across the bar. Posted up three wide, we started working our way down the menu. Nothing could have kept me from downing a couple Weizen Bams right off the bat. I’d been thinking about this beer since my first taste at Watershed in Chicago a couple weeks prior. White-golden color, sharp tartness, but a soft and light finish like a kolsch with a touch of fruit on the palate — this is as good as anything Jolly Pumpkin’s ever made.
After sharing a few swigs of the other offerings, I came back to La Roja, one of Jolly Pumpkin’s most famous brews. A big, Flemish amber with tons of tart fruit and barrel flavor, La Roja is unfiltered, unpasteurized and blended to perfection. It’s somehow both heady and refreshing.
Jolly Pumpkin has three locations — the cafe in Ann Arbor, the brewery in Dexter, and the Traverse City location largely dedicated to contracting North Peak’s beers for the time-being. The coolers at the cafe offered an impressive set of both breweries’ bottled lines. But with chilly temperatures finally arriving in the Midwest, I’m heading into in cellaring mode, so alongside John, I bagged up a bunch of Jolly Pumpkins for the trip back.
Just down the street, through a couple of demilitarized alleyways we clamored into Grizzly Peak’s brewpub. Grizzly runs off a 7 barrel copper-topped, brick-sided kettle in the front window. More of a gateway craft spot back in the day, a few brews at the back bar seemed somewhat more adventurous, including a pale ale hopped with the owner’s own cultivated cones. The last taste the bartender was able to siphon off the keg was promising, if fleeting. Freshly tapped was the Swift Run Ale, a well-hopped English bitter with an almost red kick that sobered us up and gave us time to plan our next move.
John coaxed us into another short walk to Arbor Brewing. He recalled his first impressions of Arbor years ago, which were memorable, if not a little surprising back then. They were more adventurous than most, and in those days anything unusual really caught people off guard. In that spirit, John ordered the 2005 Special Reserve bottle for the table.
First, we noticed the pour. The first two glasses were a translucent ruby color, whereas the second two were completely opaque and muddy red like an unfiltered cider. From top to bottom, the bottle was incredibly varied. And the taste was unspeakably tart. Almost unbearable in the thicker pours, while the thinner pours carried a similar flavor but finished much cleaner and bright. Really delightful. I tried to counteract it all with a glass of the Ryeclops Rye, but by that point my palate was obliterated.
How Arbor describes this concoction:
We inoculated an oak cask with Hansens Geueze, filled it with Old Ale, covered it withy stale hops (to serve as a preservative) and aged it for a year. Then we transferred it to the bottle and bottle conditioned it for another year. The lactobacillus and perhaps some of the yeast from the Hansens consumed some more of the residual sugars left in the Old Ale that were inaccessible to our standard ale yeast. This combined with some oxidation from the oak cask soured the beer and gave it some earthy character. It is a sour and spicy ale reminiscent of a Flemish Brown - with a complex palate of dark fruits and earthy, oaky notes.
And just like that, it was time to head east to Grand Rapids, rest up, and ready ourselves for our Sunday farm dinner with Brewery Vivant. It was a short, but memorable stint in my wife’s alma mater, and John’s old stomping grounds. I appreciated the local insight. Those Jolly Pumpkin bottles should keep me warm this winter.
Before I let you go, here’s what John has to say about the experience, Ann Arbor as a beer town, and the incredible Michigan beer scene in general:
This is a place that epitomizes what small town breweries can and should be. Jolly Pumpkin stands as one of the most sought after breweries in Chicago — La Roja in particular is absolutely ridiculous. Arbor Brewing Company is known across the country as a brewery that consistently pushes the limits of innovation both in style and approach. I used to eat black bean burgers at ABC before it was cool. This year alone they became Michigan’s first solar brewery and (while the rest of the beer world teases spots in Europe) opened a new location in Bangalore, India. All in, I can still taste that 2005 we drank, right now.
From Greenbush to Brewery Vivant to Jolly Pumpkin, Michigan is doing some incredible things in craft beer — people need to take a weekend and learn about it. Particularly Vivant, because two months from now they’re going to be at market in Chicago and blowing up.
You can follow John at: @solemnjohn and www.itisalwaysmorning.tumblr.com (starting later today)