Portrait by Donna Haupt

Portrait by Donna Haupt

“From man’s sweat and God’s love, beer came into the world.”
–Saint Arnold of Metz

I remember my first beer, a Milwaukee’s Best, cooled within, and consumed alongside a Midwestern creek. I recall the campsite as being beautiful, but The Beast was awful. Only a couple years later, I was drinking Bell’s from my native Michigan and my relationship with beer began to shift.

I love beer. I love drinking it, talking with people who do, and supporting the craft beer industry. You could take away coffee, pie, peanut butter, and even the Taste of Lebanon. But don’t touch my beer, our beer.

I am very fortunate to live in Chicago, home to the Beverage Tasting Institute, the Siebel Institute, the Cicerone Certification program, and many, many great bars, shops, and (finally) breweries. Chicago is a global hub for the beer industry. I don’t get everything I want – Russian River comes to mind – but my hopheadedness is consistently satisfied.

Beverage of the People

A short walk down the street and I can buy some of the best beer in the world. Whether it’s sitting at the bar at the Hopleaf or perusing the shelves of La Primera, I am thrilled to explore beer possibilities. Just ask Wes Phillips, my friend and beer mentor, how excited I get when he shows up with a backpack.

What other luxury comes so cheap? For $2-$15 I can get sublimity in a bottle, or in a can. Yes, there are some beers that are rare and sell for more, but those are for special occasions. Some people wait in line in anticipation, or even camp in the freezing cold. But “new” or “rare” do not necessarily equal good. Beer is the beverage of the people. It’s accessible in price and beer drinkers love to share their knowledge.

I made my first batch of beer in 2001 with two good friends. For our wedding in 2014, we brewed a clone of Pliny the Elder, one of my all-time favorites. The joy of brewing beer is the smell, the mess, and especially watching the fermentation happen. Yeast is crazy.

Homebrewed IPA getting "racked"

Homebrewed IPA getting “racked”

Industry of Cooperation

Despite a recent trend of trademark disputes, the craft beer industry is unique in that breweries often share information with each other and frequently collaborate. The brilliant Vinnie Cilurzo openly shares some of his recipes. The brewers of Mikkeller, Stillwater, and Evil Twin do not have their own facilities, but instead wander the globe. Other breweries open their arms and brewhouses to the gypsy brewers and others.

A couple years ago Allagash founder Rob Tod visited Belgium’s Cantillon, the world’s preeminent brewer of lambics, a spontaneously fermented sour beer. Cantillon brewmaster Jean Van Roy volunteered to help the Maine brewery set up its lambic-inspired Coolship program.

One famous story is of Avery and Russian River recognizing they both had a beer by the same name, “Salvation.” Rather than taking it to the courts or negotiating, they decided not only to leave the names intact, they decided to combine the complimentary brews into a new beer which they aptly named, Collaboration not Litigation Ale.

There are nearly 3,500 craft breweries in the United States, more than double the number there were five years ago. I hope that as more money flows into the industry, the spirit of cooperation can continue. I believe it will, as it’s part of the DNA of brewers. They love to talk shop, preferably while drinking. I’ve been privileged to sit and talk with Rob Tod and Omar Ansari. Both of them want craft beer to be successful, not just their own breweries.

In the Fridge

So, what do I drink? There is usually some combination of Modus Hoperandi, Off Color Apex Predator, Stone Go To IPAUinta Dubhe, Surly Furious, Green Flash West Coast IPA, and DirtWolf in the fridge year round. This list definitely represents the hop forward choices preferred consistently by my wife, and often by me.

In the colder months, there will be a stout in there as well – likely Founders Breakfast Stout and/or Victory Storm King. In the fall, I love Founders Harvest Ale and often a Belgian dubbel such as St. Bernardus Abt 12. Occasionally, a bottle of Wookey Jack will find it’s way in there too.

In the spring and into the summer, I crave the saison style and a sour beer when it’s really hot. We typically have an extra session beer chilling, and at least Stone Saison. Special occasions merit Fantome Saison or the standard Saison Dupont.

Speaking of special occasions, there are a handful of ales aging in the basement including a couple bottles of Bourbon County Stout, an Older Viscosity, three Vintage Ales brewed by Unibroue for Trader Joe’s, and Saison Brett by Boulevard.

When will I drink them? When they are replaced with something else.