Saturday, May 26, 2007

This is Radio Clash Maria, from Pirate Sattelite

This past week Matt and I finally juggled the schedule around to take Tom Sheehan up on his offer to visit at Radio Maria in Champaign. They are a really cool restaurant that has been around for a long time in Champaign that took over an antique store next door to them to open up a full service bar. They feature an impressive list of 27 beers (including ours) and an even more impressive bar.

The bar has all kinds of cool recycled and found objects and materials integrated in the design.

The draught system is an old hand washing sink that was custom modified into a 27 head tapper. They did so much work on it that they patented the design.

The top of the bar is a really cool blue acrylic plastic with lights underneath, and a rubber escalator railing along the edge. The owner fabricated the whole bar himself in his workshop, cut it into transportable pieces, and brought it back to the bar and reassembled it. And although you can't see it in the pictures, the foot rest underneath was fashioned out of slate from an old hospital or school or jail or one of the dozens of places Tom told us his owner found materials for the bar. One of my favorites were these really cool lights that were hanging from the ceiling.

If you can't figure out what they are, think of going to the bank teller. These are old pneumatic tube message carriers that the University used to use in the 60's and 70's to pass information around the school. Radio Maria is crawling with little details like this that really impressed me. Everything had a story attached to it.

So Tom insists that people have been coming into Radio Maria, drinking good beer, asking where the hell Flossmoor Station is, and telling them how to get to us. I believe him so now it's time to return the favor. If you are traveling through Central Illinois, visiting a friend in Champaign, looking at a school to go to, getting a family pleaser at Monical's, or anything that would bring you into the proximity of Walnut and Taylor streets, you need to go to Radio Maria.

Memphis in May

For those of you who don't know me very well, I love meat. And when it comes to meat, pork is easily my favorite. When it comes to pork, I don't think there is a better way of preparing it than BBQ. Earlier this year my girlfriend and I got a personal invitation to come to Memphis in May, the World BBQ Championship. Memphis in May works like this: You get together a cooking team, decide if you are going to compete in either pork shoulder, ribs, or whole hog, set up a tent, invite your friends, and have an incredible time.

We were with the team Sweet-Sine-O-Mine, who won first place in shoulder in 2005. It goes without saying that these people were serious about Cue. They even had SSOM '05 tattoos.

Obviously, the food was incredible and the bottle of Makers that my dad and I polished off certainly made the evening even more enjoyable. While we were there I met one of the greatest innovations in pork rib preparations. Deep-fried Buffalo pork ribs. The ribs are smoked, separated into one-rib segments, and then deep-fried in hot oil, and tossed in wing sauce. I was in Pork Heaven. (Pork Heaven also manifests itself in places like Bavaria, where almost every meal involved pork)

And as much as I know you love to read about all the mouthwatering pork that you didn't get to eat, this trip was not without delicious beer either, (although at MIM you're lucky to find someone with a cooler that isn't filled with cans of Light this, or Light that.) Bosco's in midtown Memphis, is one of the best brewpubs in the country, as far as I'm concerned, and they didn't disappoint on this trip either.

I sampled a Hefe-weizen, Scottish ale, Vienna lager, brown, and an Alt that were all above par. Jimmy, their more than capable brewer, even came out to say "hi" and shoot the breeze for a while, (on a Saturday no less!) If you are in Memphis, Little Rock, or Nashville, and you don't go out of your way to visit a Bosco's location you are doing yourself a great disservice. And the beer isn't the only reason to check them out either, they have one of the best brewpub menus of any place I have ever been to.

All of my Memphis pictures are here.

Monday, May 21, 2007

Oregon Travels-The Conclusion

So today I'll wrap this up as Andrew is surely ready to document his trip for meat in Memphis this past weekend. If you're picking up the story at this point, you may want to scroll down and see how the first of our trip played out.

So, the weekend was upon us and we did several things on Sat and Sun-Cinco de Mayo party(you don't have to drink Corona in Oregon-who knew?), King Estate Winery, and the Bier Stein.
Check out the Stein if ever in Eugene. It is a bar/package liqour store with the biggest selection in town. There are ten draft lines, a small bar, and several High top tables. Then there are rows of coolers packed with beers from around the world(they may be up to around 800 different beers). The best part is that you can grab a beer from the cooler and either take it to go or sit down and tip it back with a friend. Chip Hardy is doing some great things in Eugene.

Monday was our trip into the mountains toward Bend. We were going to Deschutes Brewery, Silver Moon where a good friend of Matt Lee's (former FSBC assistant)-Evan Taylor-brews, and Bend Brewing Co.

The weather was wonderful all weekend and Monday was no different.

We went right to Deschutes, a regional microbrewery who is growing by leaps and bounds(maybe 4 times the size of Goose Island). You might know several of their beers with probably the most well known, Black Butte Porter.

We got the deluxe treatment at Deschutes and were toured around by Paul, a principal brewer who's main duties were in the brewpub in town. The have an older 50 barrel brewhouse and a newer 150 barrel state of the art Huppman brewhouse which is controlled by computers. Just for reference, ours is 15 barrels!! Here are some pix of the old system and the new.

OLD (50 barrels)

NEW(150 barrels):

A picture from the hop cooler at Deschutes. They ONLY use whole leaf hops. This roomed smelled wonderful!

Paul, you lead a great tour!

These computers run the new brewery. A back saver for sure!

This 600 barrel fermentor holds my yearly production. Man we are small!
A couple of little men walking amongst the trees.

A bird's eye view of the bottling line.

Checkin out Deschutes brewpub downtown.
After lunch at Deschutes and sampling many of their beers, we met up with Evan Taylor who is a brewer at Silver Moon Brewery in Bend. Silver Moon has been open about five years and recently opened a tasting room to go along with their homebrew shop. Evan is a college friend of Matt Lee who used to work with me. He moved to Bend and pounded the pavement to find a brewing job and, like the rest of us, worked his way up from the bottom. Here's a picture of us checking out his brewing system.

Everyone seems to have a hopback in the West. Must be nice.

Wouldn't it be great to have open space in a brewery. Must be nice!

So we also walked over to Bend Brewing Co. We forgot to get the camera out, but we found that Tanya is brewing in tight quarters and despite that is making great beers. She won the gold last year at GABF.

After a quick day to Bend, we had to coast back down the mountain so we could fly back to the flatlands on Tuesday. All this and not even a stop in Portland. I hope this shows you that:

A) you have to travel to Oregon

B) you have to focus on the beer

C) give yourself plenty of time

D) leave your suburban anger and aggression behind. People drive slower, people are friendly despite our view of midwest vs. the coasts, and beer flows from every rock, tree, and crevice.

Get yourself there and enjoy!


Matt and Jenni

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

On the Road-Part Deux

So if you've been following our blog lately, you got the beginning of my trip to Oregon story. This will continue into day two when I visited a few breweries in Eugene Oregon.

For those who haven't been with us for a while, you of course are cursed by the downfall of this scrolling blog and you have to look down for part one of my journey. Go ahead, we'll wait....

Good, you're back. So we set out to visit some breweries on Friday since I knew it might be hard to catch people on the weekend. First we cruised down to Eugene City Brewery. This is the former West Bros. brewery which was bought as a Rogue Outpost. The beauty is that Trevor (met for the first time this trip) gets to brew 5-6 of his own beers, while having a full back bar of Rogue beers. Those that are familiar with Rogue know that that can be quite a draw, and once you have 'em in the door-whamo, they'll be hooked on your great beer, or so we hope. Anyway, we got the full tour and were treated very well. I think I had about 25 samplers-they had a lot of beer! You can see from a few of these pics though that the brewing system is a little "pieced together". Not so much a showpiece for people to ooh and ahh over, but it gets the job done. Trevor had some great beers on Tap.

Next was Steelhead(sorry no pics-we have been here several times), probably the closest brewpub to what we have here at Flossmoor. Not upscale, but definitely some work was put into the menu and decor. Ted is the new brewer here and doing great stuff. I had a delicious Baltic Porter. Ted replaced long-time (16 years I think??) brewer Teri Fahrendorf (yes a woman-and a woman who makes great beer). See here blog about her new upcoming adventure.

After that, we stopped to pick up a growler at McMennamins-High Street. If you haven't been to one, check out their website. It's a big chain, but they are far from it. Each location is unique and they tend to take historic buildings and make them into brewpubs. Schools, theaters, houses, you name it. High Street is in a residential neighborhood and it looks just like any old house in a college hood, until you get closer, it is a brewpub. The best spot is out back where you can sit on the deck with a beer and dip some tater tots in peppercorn ranch dressing. Heaven! Seriously, you'd think you went to your buddies house to sit on the back porch. Only your buddy has a draft system with 8 craft beers on tap and his wife is serving you for 20%.

Finally we met up with Jamie Floyd. No, not a long lost brother to the ones in Munster. This guy was the brewer at Steelhead for maybe nine years. He has started his own brewery, Ninkasi, and is doing quite well. Currently he leases a brewery to make draft only beer for the market while he builds his own brewery in Eugene. Here are some pics of the construction:

Jamie also stays busy with the Oregon Brewers Guild and was great to take time out of his brewing and construction hassle for us.
You will be hearing more of Ninkasi in the future if you follow the craft beer scene in America.

Finally we took our growlers home and enjoyed a great day of beer hunting. Dang! Two days down and it feels like we put a week's worth of sampling great beer. What's next.....? -winery, mountains, Bend and Deschutes..and more!

Tap List 5/15/07

HopSmack (8.5% abv)
It's really hoppy. It's an Imperial Reddish beer that has a lot of hops in it.

Hoppy Little Gnome (10% a.b.v.)
A beautiful marriage between American and Belgian beer, Hoppy Little Gnome is our nod to Belgian brewers that are nodding right back at us. Chouffe Houblon Dobbelen IPA Trippel and Urthel's Hop It are two belgian beers that are big on American hops. Ours leans closer to Chouffe with it's abbey trippel style dry body but is full of Amarillo, Saaz, and Columbus hops. This is IPA Experiment #2 this year.

Blanche DuBois (5.5% abv)
A painfully delicious Belgian-style wit spiced with coriander and two types of orange peel. Citrusy, crisp, and very thirst quenching, this beer is slightly hazy and perfect for the beginning of spring.

Killer Kowalski Baltic Porter (8.3% abv)
Our deep, dark, full-bodied lager. A slightly bittersweet chocolate aroma with a malty body that hints at dark fruits. It's complex and very enjoyable with a touch of roast finish. This may be the best beer we make all year long.

Monday, May 14, 2007

Everyone needs a vacation.......

...even if someone does pay you to make beer for a living!Ever wonder why people love Oregon and the Pacific Northwest? Sure, sure the beer is great, but look at that view. This is on our way from Eugene to Bend when we stopped to "get rid of some coffee." Views like this even make the burned out forest around it look beautiful. And I'm talking about the mountain, not my wife Jenni-though that is nice too!

Anyway, my wife and I spent six gorgeous days drinking our way across Oregon. We ran into some GREAT people, some fellow brewers and some not, drank GREAT beer, and generally had a relaxing weekend with my brother and sister-in-law.

Our first stop from PDX (on the ONLY rainy/cloudy day of the week) was in Pacific City Oregon at the Pelican Brewery whre multi-award winning brewer, Darron Welch crafts some of the finest ales you've seen. Darron has been the small brewpub brewer of the year at the Great American Beer Festival and last year won Large Brewpub Brewer of the year. The view from their patio is literally staring straight at Japan-see:

That is a large rock-not Japan. But I guess the surfer's love this little cove and even the staff have surfboards hanging out of there cars in the parking lot. We got the full tour and even got to take a look at their old and newer bottling systems. I paid close attention...hmmmm..bottles of Flossmoor Beer. Maybe some day. Here's what they bottle on:

Formerly tricked out by Avery Brewing in Boulder Colorado. Now Darron packages great beer on it. As a send off, Darron raided the "aging cooler" and was kind enough to send us of with some great vintage treats. Thanks Darron!

Next it was on the Eugene. We took the scenic route through Corvallis and arrived at Jenni's sisters' house Thursday night. Waiting in the fridge was a bottle of Oak Aged Abyss from Deschutes and a Collaboration Not Litigation Ale from both Avery and Russian River. I think this is going to be a good trip!

Gratuitous photo of my nephew Javin (hey we stayed at his house-he made me!)

Ain't he cute.

Next edition, I'll tell you about Friday when I visited the brewers of Eugene.

Tuesday, May 08, 2007


Matt has been in Oregon since Thursday and will be back tomorrow, maybe if you're good he'll tell you about his trip. It sounds like it was pretty fun. Apparently they have some good beer there.

It was really hot today. If this weather keeps up it means the start of two-shirt days. One shirt just won't cut it and if you have to ride the train home from an hour and a half a sweaty shirt is the last thing you want.

I transferred Hopsmack today and it will be ready for our tapping on Thursday. It's an obscenely bitter beer. It might be too hoppy. You'll have to come by and judge for yourself.

With this hotter weather also comes Hefeweizen. We are making twice as much as last year so hopefully we should be able to have it on all summer.

Tuesday, May 01, 2007

Where does the time go?

It's been pretty crazy since we got back from St. Louis the last time we checked in with you here at We went to Austin for the Craft Brewer's Conference. We were at Alefest at the Arlington racetrack. We had a beer dinner at Galways Tribes, and I worked Dark Lord day at Three Floyds. It's been busy to say the least. So here are some updates.

Alefest went better than I anticipated. There were some hangups with the organizing of the event which led to a shortened advertising period but overall things went really well. The turnout was decent and I'm confident that if it happens again next year that there will be a lot more people than this year. Arlington Park is a great venue and everyone got a chance to sample almost all of the Replicales for this year.

The CBC in Austin was amazing. I had 8 bbq meals in 5 days and I wish I could have had one or two more. I have sold Texas bbq short in the past but it is a mighty force to be reckoned with. In addition to gorging ourselves on smoked meat, we learned a lot at the various seminars and talks that are offered each year. My two highlights were from two Anheuser-Bush folks who gave talks about hops and malting. Whether or not you enjoy drinking their beers they have some incredibly educated staff and I felt very fortunate to be able to sit in on those presentations. CBC pictures can be found here.

On April 24th we had a beer dinner at Galway Tribes in Frankfort which went swimmingly. Those that came got to sample De Zuidentrein Frambozenbier, Blanche DuBois, Young Sarge, Wooden Hell, Pullman Brown, and Hoppy Little Gnome, all hand paired with dishes by Galway's Chef.

The night before DLD we had a very good crowd of travelers come in from all over the US to check us out before the mayhem began the next day in Munster, IN. A heartfelt thanks goes out to those of you who came and if you continue to show up the night before Dark Lord Day, we will continue to make it worth your while.

I worked DLD for the Floyds guys and it was certainly a spectacle.

If you have never made the treck to Munster you by all means should, and if you think you know what a parking lot of crazy people looks like, you don't unless you've been to Dark Lord Day.