Monday, June 29, 2015

What Happened to Subbeerbia?

Or…a brief history of how I got here.

Plank Road Tap Room. Photo: Matthew Tanaka.
Photo: Matt Tanaka

Been a while. Here’s what happened.


Moved to Chicago in 2006. Worked in a miserable job for eight years. Did beer stuff (including this site, events with the Ale to the Burbs gang, a little festival photography) during my sparse free time. Applied to lots and lots of beer jobs in Chicago, but nothing came together. Time marched on.

Last year, two separate opportunities appeared in a totally-not-serendipitous way at all. Took both of ‘em and quit the miserable job. Sold beer via two of the three tiers for approximately 10 months. Learned about retail and distribution from the inside. Sold a decent amount of beer by the pint, bomber, case and keg in a number of Chicagoland beer bars and bottle shops. Worked six days a week between the two jobs, both of which I enjoyed. Quickly discovered I enjoyed one a little bit…ok, quite a bit…more than the other.

Recently, the opportunity to make on job a full-time gig appeared, so now I sell beer at only one place: Plank Road Tap Room in Elgin, Illinois, as well as taken on managerial duties.


So, it's time to get started. A little reorganizing, a pinch of deep cleaning, and a whole lot of pouring beer and talking to people lies ahead. Stop by for a pint sometime.

In the meantime, you can read about my experiences and thoughts on the beer industry in this piece on Working for Beer.

So, what's all this mean for Well, a continued hiatus for now. Perhaps permanently. But you can always follow my exploits elsewhere:


Friday, July 4, 2014

BuckleDown Brewing & Hop Head Farms Public Hop Rub

Chicago Craft Beer Week may have come and gone back in May, but some events linger in the mind longer than others. Perhaps it was the educational aspect of BuckleDown Brewing's public hop rub on  Friday, May 23rd that made it stand out from hundreds of other events around the city throughout the week. Or maybe it was the unique sensory experience of seeing, feeling, smelling, and tasting a variety of hops straight from Michigan that elevated the event.

Whatever the case, attendees got a nose-full of knowledge from Hop Head Farms owner Nunzino (Nunz) Pizza as he explained the process of evaluating hops based on all of one's senses, from color, size, and shape, to dryness and moisture, and, finally, to the scent released during the act of rubbing the hops. Nunz patiently guided the attendees through the process, explaining the need to fully embrace the subjective nature of scent, much like taste.

While certain characteristics may stand out to more than one person, each person picks up on subtle nuances others may miss. And while there are no right and wrong evaluations, there are certainly some that are "more right" than others. Several attending homebrewers were able to identify specific hops by scent, as well as the type of hops used in a special beer being sampled out during the event.

The public hop rub added an educational element to CCBW that too often gets overlooked. And in the expert hands of Nunz, whose "teaching style" was purely conversational and experiential, learning how to properly evaluate hops couldn't have been more enjoyable.

For more photos from the event, visit the photo album on Facebook.

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Why We Created the Illinois Suburban Brewers Summit, and Why You Should Attend

Ever have one of those ideas that’s trapped in the back of your mind and just sits back there tickling your brain until you finally just have to act on it? For me, that idea was the Illinois Suburban Brewers Summit.

Last year, while traveling around the Chicago suburbs talking to brewers, bar owners, distributors, and beer geeks of all varieties, I noticed something; I kept hearing some of the same comments, questions, and stories from many of them. Chief among these was loud and clear: there seems to be a lot more focus and attention on craft breweries and events in the city than in the suburbs.

Something hit me while I was hearing and processing all of this feedback. Suburban breweries and beer drinkers alike face many common issues, and there’s a huge opportunity for brewers to learn from each other, including their city-based brethren, as far as what’s working, what’s not, and ways to work together to keep the Chicagoland beer scene moving in the right direction.

So, I went to work on what has become the Illinois Suburban Brewers Summit, an event organized by Nevin's Brewing Company in Plainfield and our Ale to the ‘Burbs group. For the uninitiated, we started as five individual beer websites based in the suburbs who collaborated on a monthly series about breweries and beer destinations, but have since expanded to more of a grassroots movement to help share news about beer events and even organize some of our own. Beyond Subbeerbia, our members include Kevin Bastian of Pour Man, Eric Woodruff of Blah Blah Beer, Ryan Williams of Suburban Brew, and Don DiBrita and his Beer Dogging clan. This summit never would have happened without each of their help.

I’ve Heard Enough. Take Me to the Tickets:

Scroll on....

Monday, February 17, 2014

Naperville Winter Ale Fest's Man with the Plan, Joshua Seago

Of the four seasons, winter seems to be the most divisive. You either love it or hate it. And after this exceptionally bitter and snowy winter, it's safe to say more than a few people have switched over to the "hate it" category. But even before he knew what kind of season lay ahead, Joshua Seago, founder and president of Lou Dog Events, knew that it was time to bring an outdoor winter beer festival to Chicago's suburbs.

Naperville Winter Ale Fest and Lou Dog Events founder Joshua Seago stands in the parking area where the festival will be held on February 22nd.
Lou Dog Events founder and president Joshua Seago stands in the middle of the empty Frontier Park parking area that will host the first Naperville Winter Ale Fest on February 22nd.

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Beer House - Come for the Beer, Stay for the Music

Sometimes when you’re tracking down beer bars in the Chicago suburbs, you find them in some pretty unlikely places. Such is the case of Beer House, tucked into the courtyard of Lombard’s Yorktown Center. While at first glance you might be skeptical of a bar found in a retail shopping area, it’s clear that the owners and staff at Beer House are committed to not only serving quality beer to their patrons, but also contributing to the Chicago and suburban beer community in big ways.

Image: Solemn Oath Brewing Kidnapped by Vikings, Beer House, Lombard, Illinois.
Goblet of Fire. Solemn Oath's Kidnapped by Vikings at Beer House.