I ran into Teresa at last weeks Mash Tun festival at the Bridgeport Art Center — an event that brought together craft beer lovers from near and far on Chicago’s south side in celebration of the city’s new craft beer journal. And just as we were in the middle of discussing some of our favorites from the day, including Firestone Walker’s Wookey Jack Black Rye IPA, Teresa caught wind that the boys from Pipeworks had arrived. And just like that, she was gone again.
What’s your favorite beer style and beer?
I prefer Pilsner-style beers but also gravitate towards Belgian style and stout. I usually enjoy Lagunitas Pils or Trumer Pils, but my favorite Pilsner is made by a regional brewery in the Black Forest called Tannenzäpfle.
What was the first beer that clued you in?
Leffe Brune is the first beer that made me stop and take notice and that was over a decade ago. I rarely get the chance to drink it but when I do it feels like a first kiss from an old lover.
What’s your most memorable beer moment?
A recent memorable beer experience happened in Sacramento back in March. A good friend of mine took me to Pangaea Two Brews Cafe. The beer selection was unexpected, and the owner was so friendly, knowledgeable, and had great energy. He took the time to talk with us about the history of Belgian saison beers. We learned a lot and exchanged some great ideas. I really enjoyed that moment because I realized that beer is usually secondary for me. What matters most is the people I’m surrounded by and the conversations that we have. If I’m inspired by both the beer and the person, that moment will stick in my head for awhile.
Bartender or brewer?
I live in Logan Square and am lucky to live near many excellent bars and have an affinity for all of them and their fine bartenders. However, I’d say my favorite bartender is my neighbor across the hall. He makes an outstanding Manhattan, is an active listener, and dispenses sage advice. He helps me keep my head on straight. When I’m not having a situational crisis, we trade recipe ideas for Bloody Marys and bacon-infused vodka cocktails.
What was your greatest beer hunt?
Haven’t had that epic hunt yet, but I did go to Mash Tun Craft Beer festival in Bridgeport on Saturday and was blown away by some stuff I tried: Half Acre Meatwave, St Feuillien Speciale, Firestone Walker Wookey Jack, Virtue Cider Redstreak, and Pipeworks Saison.
What’s a beer on your wishlist?
Pipeworks Saison! It was so delicious and ran out so fast at Mash Tun. Can’t wait to get my hands on some more.
Ed Marszewski of Maria’s Packaged Goods and Community Bar in Chicago’s Bridgeport neighborhood is quickly shifting the gravity of Chicago’s craft beer scene a little south.
As if the eclectic mix of rare and exceptional craft handles weren’t enough, Ed decided to use his considerable talent at producing magazines and festivals to establish a new craft beer journal in Chicago — Mash Tun. With art and culture magazines like Lumpen and Proximity already making an impact nationally, Mash Tun aims to bring the same level of artfulness, discussion and nerdery to the world of craft beer.
These journals first showed up at a modest table in the south garden of the Beer Under Glass event last week, but their official release was anything but shy. Held at the Bridgeport Art Center in an open-air loading bay spilling onto a sculpture garden, Ed lined up a coupe dozen taps featuring local standouts like Pipeworks and Half Acre, as well as some rare finds from our far away friends at Firestone Walker, Dogfish Head and Stone.
Just as the crowd settled in to their long afternoon buzz, when most festivals experience that hazy lull in excitement before grops get their second wind, Ed did something special — he started a pep rally with local “marching” band Environmental Encroachment. After sneaking in and setting up quietly on the side loading bay, the place exploded with trumpets, tubas and drums in a circus-like atmosphere.
Only a few blocks away, Maria’s Packaged Goods and Community Bar became the haven for after-partiers. Food trucks lined the parking lot with meatball sandwiches and meat pies, and the festivities continued just inside the fence on Maria’s outdoor patio.
This issue of Mash Tun features tons of photos, interviews and writing, including a history of Chicago’s Lager Riot, some insights from beer hunting in Asia, how to start a brewery from Gabriel Magliaro of Half Acre, local beers you need to find now, a hand-illustrated guide to imperial stouts, and plenty of photography from my own beer hunting adventures.
If you didn’t pick up your copy of Mash Tun at an event this week, don’t fret! They’re available in the Good Beer Hunting Shop for a limited time. Once they’re gone, they’re gone!
I’ve been following Steph’s blog thegirlandherbeer.com for some time now. She produces great content, works hard at her homebrew and even shares beer cooking recipes. Daisy Cutter Risotto anyone? I finally got to meet Steph in person at Goose Island’s En Passant release party in April — which gave us a chance to nerd out over beer photography — and she even snuck in a shot of yours truly as though I were a nocturnal animal tripping the wire on a camera snare in the jungle. The nerve.
What’s your favorite beer and style?
My favorite style is definitely the APA. A lot of APAs offer the same hoppyness that an IPA might have, but they also don’t overpower, leaving more balance between hop and malt. I think you get the best of both worlds without the sometimes ridiculously high ABV. I also really enjoy saisons and farmhouse ales; I’m a sucker for anything that pairs well with a summer day and a hot grill. As for a particular beer, I keep it pretty basic. My anytime go-to beverage would probably have to be Half Acre Daisy Cutter — an APA, of course.
What’s in your fridge right now?
Not much, to be honest. I have a real issue trying to keep beer in there because I buy and consume pretty much immediately. I could never keep a beer cellar or any type of collection because I am not able to exercise restraint. I did just buy a couple of four packs from Sixpoint - Resin and Sweet Action. I’m sure they’ll be regulars in the fridge now that Sixpoint distributes in Chicago. Other than that, I’m positive there’s someone who would be impressed with the variety of pickles I have at any given time.
What was the first beer that clued you in?
New Glarus IPA in 2006. My best friend was moving to Arizona, so of course, we sent her off with a going away party which included the typical kegged collegiate beers. At some point in the evening, my friend’s dad showed me his own personal cooler of New Glarus he was drinking from and insisted I try the IPA. Not wanting to refuse a generous offer (read: I’ll drink pretty much anything put in front of me) I took a sip and I was a goner. Before that, I had only really ventured outside of the macro world by drinking New Castle, Guinness, and Stella — you know, the gateway beers. Ever since, I’ve been trying whatever I can get my hands on, some good, some great, some awful.
What’s your most memorable beer moment?
Brewing my first batch of home brew. So many nerves and paranoia went into brewing the for the first time, so to not only have it turn out well, but to have people really enjoy it was amazing.
Bartender or brewer?
You know, I really feel as though each deserve the same amount of respect. When done right, brewing beer is an absolute art form, comparable to an Iron Chef’s cooking. To make something with the sole purpose of enjoyment and enriching people’s lives is beyond admirable; especially when it’s done with the right goal in mind; making good beer. At the same time, a bartender is responsible for helping people understand what good beer is. A good bartender will find the right style to convert a beer hater into a beer lover. I find myself dazzled by both. I’m not sure if that’s saying much, though; I’m thoroughly impressed by airplanes.
What was your greatest beer hunt?
Oddly enough, it was chasing down Sixpoint Bengali Tiger late last year. After reading nothing but good things about these guys, I had pretty much built up an obsession with trying their beers. Last fall, news got out that they would start distributing in Washington DC, which happened to be where I was scheduled to be in November for a wedding. The hunt was on! I got into DC late on Friday night knowing it might be my only chance to patronize a local beer joint. I went to Churchkey, and it was so packed I had to wait outside for a while because it was at capacity. Once I got upstairs, I had to push my way to the bar and asked for a Bengali Tiger. They had just sold the last draft — F#*@. I ended up finding some early on Saturday morning at a Whole Foods. I put it on ice in my hotel room sink and drank it out of a tiny paper cup. It wasn’t glamorous, but it was a successful hunt, and a tasty one at that!
What’s a beer on your wishlist?
I’ve yet to try Goose Island Bourbon County Stout. Anyone willing to donate to my cause, feel free; I have no aversion to handouts. I also didn’t get a chance to sample Half Acre’s Galactic Double Daisy Cutter last summer. Does this make me less of a person?
If you live in the Ravenswood / Lincoln Square / North Center area — chances are you know City Provisions. And if you know City Provisions, you know Cleetus Friedman. He’s the force of nature behind one of Chicago’s best eateries (and one of our few legitimate delis on the north side). He’s received praise from almost every major Chicago news outlet, including Chicago Magazine, the Tribune, and Time Out Chicago.
But on my visit, we weren’t there to talk deli. We were there to talk beer. You see, Cleetus can’t keep his hands out of anything that might show up at the dinner table. And most recently, that’s included beer.
Our goal at City Provisions is to Connect Community With Food. My goal is to shorten the length from the producer to your mouth.
I have honey, I have beehives, I make cheese, my bourbon’s gone now, but I do caramels and truffles with Katherine Anne. I’m not trying to brand everything that’s mine, but I want people to know that a lot of this stuff, I touch and make. And it’s not sitting on a truck coming across the country. It’s made down the block, or in Indiana. That’s why I have a map.
Cleetus’ interest in beer making has lead to an incredible number of collaborations with local brewers. But his interest in beer started long before he had a place to sell it. Before the deli came into it’s own, Cleetus created supper clubs and farm dinners. Known for their generous portions and incredible flavors, these dinners put his guests in awe of the farm. But another love, beer, was always a main component.
These beer collaborations came about because I started my supper clubs, which evolved into my farm dinners because of my love for beer and my love and appreciation for cooking with it, pairing food with it, and educating people.
When I moved out here in ‘95, wine dinners were all the rage. But nobody was doing beer dinners. So when I was with Jimmy Bannos at Heaven on Seven, I started doing beer dinners. And when I left, my first beer dinner was with Two Brothers and it just kind of snowballed.
So when I started this place [the delicatessen side], I had already established great relationships with all the brewers from my farm dinners. And at every beer dinner I did with Doug from Metropolitan, I would be like “let’s do a beer together! Let’s do a beer together!” and it was a great idea and we would talk about it. But at no point did I have a venue to sell it. So when I built the deli, I was like “let’s do a beer together and put it on tap at the deli!” But I didn’t have a tap! I just figured we’d figure it out.
And then Templeton showed up with a rye whiskey barrel and asked if I wanted it. And I said “Yes.” So I called Doug and I said “Look, I know we’ve been talking about doing a dunkle…dopple…rye bock and now I have a barrel!” And it was just “boom.” I took the barrel and went up to Metropolitan and we brewed. I went home to my wife and I was like “That was the coolest fucking day ever.” Besides the first day I broke down an entire cow — that was the coolest thing. I mean, I’ve always known the process, but actually doing it was awesome. And making a beer that’s gonna be here?! It’s like, so rewarding.
So what does a guy who’s an obsessed localvore and chef do about his newfound desire to create beer?
So the next day, I started calling all the brewers around here and I was like, “What if we did a beer together?” And I called Nick at Flossmor and he was just like “Yeah, ok.” And I called Gabriel and Half Acre and he was like “Ah man, we can’t even think about that right now.”
I called — I called everybody. And I was really lucky to have all these guys just be like “Yeah, come on!” And now it’s become a thing to where people like New Chicago want their first beer to be with me. It’s kind of become — it’s crazy now. And great for the same reasons.
Cleetus doesn’t seem to ever let his lack of expertise get in his way. Like any dedicated homebrewer or amateur chef knows, you just have to try new things. You don’t get good by thinking about it. But Cleetus barely even tried the homebrew route — he went straight for the big leagues.
Here’s the deal. When I brewed my first beer at Metropolitan, I had brewed a couple of times, but I’m certainly no homebrewer. I have a lot of home brewers asking me questions and I’m like ‘I don’t know…” I only know how to brew on these huge systems and I feel lucky and spoiled but that’s how I learned. I learned on a 10BL system! And I just brewed on a 25BL with Two Brothers. But it’s like when I started breaking down whole cows, whole pigs. I just jumped in to it, because in my 20-year career at that time, I hadn’t done it. And I knew I would want to get into it eventually, and I’m glad I did because that’s what I do here. When I don’t know something, I throw myself into it to learn it. And I wouldn’t say that I’m an expert at all of these things. But I can do all of these things pretty damn well. And when I’m only “good,” I hire or work with people to help make me better.
So what’s it like to collaborate with a chef that’s willing to throw himself into any situation? Well, for starters, Cleetus takes an unusual approach to making beer. And then he relentlessly pursues a recipe until he and the brewer are both effectively out of their comfort zone. And it’s that collaborative element that drives him.
It doesn’t matter if it’s beer or if it’s bacon — I have six different bacons in my case right now — I sit awake at night and think of things like whiskey bacon and tea bacon and half the stuff on my menu comes to me because of lack of sleep, or a song, or what other chefs are doing, or beer.
Now I’m trying to take a culinary approach to beer. This Biere de Mars I did with Two Brothers — I’m working on a rhubarb pale ale with strawberries with Flossmor Station.
Beer is essentially soup. In fact the beer I just did with Greenbush is called Loud Mouth Soup. But that has nothing to do with actual “soup” of course. The more I make beer, the more I realize that you’re creating a dish that you’re extracting the liquids out of. Ultimately, this [beer] is every element of the dish in liquid form. So whatever you’re putting into the mash, tweaking in the brew kettle, and then playing with fermentation — the ultimate dish is a very complex profile of flavors that people savor in a glass. So instead of just the pale ales and the blondes, I’m thinking of what kind of food we can put in the mash.
Cleetus has made about half a dozen beers already, with many more on the docket for this year. It seems like his head is constantly spinning with recipes. His eyes glaze over just thinking about them all, like a kid at Christmas thinking about a BB gun that Santa might bring. How he keeps them all straight, and all the ongoing back-and-forth of ideas between various brewers, I have no idea.
And that’s pretty much how I’m going to let the rest of this interview play out — the stream on consciousness that is Cleetus Friedman, and the beery genius that’s occupying more and more of his grey matter every day. I can’t wait to see what this guys does next.
So, I said to Nick [Flossmor] — we were kind of drunk at FOBAB — and I was like “what if we did rhubarb?” And he was like “Yeah! Like a hint of strawberry maybe?”
I was up at Greenbush and I had the coriander and the fennel, and peppercorns and all this, and I started toasting some and chopping some and I was starting to blend them and smell them. And I was like “wow, this is just soup.”So that’s kind of my take now. Not only to create great beers that are unique to the brewery, but so that people are like “oh, that’s definitely a Cleetus beer.” Like the Dunkleweiss — Finch’smay never have done that. But I’m able to bring that out and excite them about it.
I’m doing a cider with Paul at Vander Mill now. For Rosh Hashanah I’m doing an apple and honey and aging in Jack Daniel’s barrels, what’s called a cizer, which we’ll release for the holiday.
The Bier de Mars with Jason [Two Brothers], I wanted to do a hoppy scotch ale and call it Hop Scotch. Maybe somebody’s done that, I don’t know. I don’t get on Google and see if people have done things already. He was like “Yeah that sounds cool. What if we did figs or dates?” And I was like “Yeah, but they’re not seasonal.” So then we though about sweet potato and spice and it started becoming like a carrot cake, which wasn’t a good spring beer. And he was like “Nah, I don’t like potatoes.” But then he told me he had some Bretts he wanted to use. And it was like “boom.” We spent five months talking about it, and no no no, and then “wham,” as soon as he mentioned Brett. [snaps fingers].
The collaborative process is really exciting. When we were brewing at Greenbush, we started talking about a summer ale. And honey came into the picture. And I though “what if we smoked honey?” And Scott was curious.
And Finch was like “What if we do a kolsch?” and I was like “I’m not gonna do a kolsch. But what if we did a kolsch and we toasted some hops or roasted them or something?” And the Richard was like “What if we beechwood aged it?” and I was like “No.” And he was kind of like “Well, listen. You know, it’s kind of showing people what beechwood aging is really like.” So I was all like “Alright, that could be cool.” It has since turned into a summer Kolsch style with pan toasted hops, burnt lemon peel, and applewood, named “Toasted Summer,” and will be bottled in 22oz bombers. “Beechwood aged…” [Budweiser commercial voice], “triple hopped” or whatever. I can see it now, with a big old horse’s hoof on it. Just the hoof.