If you’ve been reading my blog for a while, you know I have a soft spot in my heart for the little guys; the homebrewers and nano-breweries that are just starting out. This is also the sentiment of Chef Won Kim who, along with the members of local homebrewing cooperative Low Dive Brewing, wanted to give an outlet to these artists of fermentation. So, needless to say, I was extremely excited to attend Brew Hey Hey, a Halloween-themed event (costumes were strongly encouraged) held at the Chicago Urban Arts Society building in Pilsen that showcased Chicago homebrewers. I attended the first event, Brew Ha Ha, in July by accident as I was participating in The Long March with Revolution Brewing. (You can read about my first exposure to the event here.) My attendance at that event has spawned great friendships with some of the brewers and the ability to connect my buddies at Spiteful Brewing with the powers-that-be so that they could participate in the Brew Hey Hey. Just by looking around, I would say that the Brew Hey Hey was more successful that Brew Ha Ha and I can’t wait to see the masses of people that will attend the next event: Brew Ho Ho.
As always, the hubby and I arrived a little early which allowed me to get a feel for the event and talk with some of the brewers before they were bombarded with customers. The event cost $15 to enter and included six drink tickets and one food ticket. The food item was a slow roasted pork sandwich with homemade cheese and apple compote. Yummy! Chef Won Kim is a firecracker; a ball of energy who is clearly passionate about cooking and supporting the homebrewers. I was able to witness the “staff” meeting where Chef Won Kim enthusiastically went over the logistics of the day such as not giving away free beer and where the food would be located. I then began my tour of each of the breweries in attendance.
One of the first things I noticed when I entered the room were the unique tap handles utilized by the homebrewing duo Big Dicks. In case you can’t figure it out by the name of the brewery let me spell it out for you: dildos. Some people were turned off by this but there was no denying the fact that these guys make great beer. I was fortunate to get a taste of the pumpkin porter (the keg tapped fairly early on in the afternoon) and it was delicious: big, malty with a hint of pumpkin spice.
Brutally Honest Brewing
Martin Langrall and Chris Olmstead, the guys from Brutally Honest Brewing, are both certified Cicerones (the beer world’s Sommelier) who, after receiving their certifications thought they could learn even more about beer by starting to brew their own. This is both a blessing and curse in that yes, they know just about everything there is to know about beer but it also lends them to be extremely critical of their brews. For example, their Weirwood Black Ale was a beautiful, malty concoction that reminded me of the Alesmith Wee Heavy I had consumed the previous evening. When I asked Chris about it, he said that they were going for a Scotch Ale but that it didn’t quite match that category. I personally believe that they could have left it labeled as a Scotch Ale; I know I am just an amateur taster, but it tasted like a Scotch Ale to me!
A really cool aspect of this brewery’s presentation at Brew Hey Hey was that they had food pairings to go with each of their beers. Their friends are chefs and provided the bite-sized accompaniments to each beverage. My first pairing was the Dirty Girl Double IPA with stuffed mushroom with fried sage and white truffle oil. The beer, a lovely representation of the style with a sweet, intense hop aroma, really brought out the earthiness of the mushroom. The Citizen Snips, a crisp, clean pale ale with a slight hoppiness, was paired with the salty, slightly spicy Peggy Nightingale’s Chex Mix. A delicious pairing!
Powell Brew House
I was first introduced to Powell Brew House at Brew Ha Ha over the summer. Since then, we have become friends, which definitely has its advantages, like having a fairly steady supply of Josh Garrett’s top-notch ales. At Brew Hey Hey, Josh had his popular grapefruit wheat IPA available in addition to one-offs of his milk stout. The coconut variation of the milk stout was delicious; it was sweet and creamy with a light body. The blueberry version, on the other hand, had a slight sour note. He also had quite possibly the hottest beer I have ever tasted: a beer brewed with habanero peppers. I asked Josh how he obtained so much heat in the beer and he said that the beer was in the secondary fermenter with these chilies for a few months. I guess that will do it! I couldn’t stomach more than one sip but it was interesting and I am glad I had the chance to try it.
This crew of Chicago latinos have been brewing for under a year (they started in February 2011) and are influenced by their culture to create some truly remarkable beers. Their Surreal Ale is an amber ale brewed with hibiscus which imparts a lovely reddish, amber hue. This beer had a fruity aroma and a semi-sweet, malty flavor. Another one of their offerings that I liked was the ancho chili porter. Contrary to the habanero pepper ale discussed above, this chili beer had the flavor and smokiness of the pepper but none of the heat. This was a delicious, unique beer that was a big hit at the event.
I’ve spoken about Spiteful before as I am very good friends with Brad and Jason, and my hubby designed their logo. So yes, I am biased. But these guys were a huge hit at Brew Hey Hey. People were wearing their stickers and talking about their Burning Bridges Irish Red and Instigator IPA. My favorite of their offerings at the event was the stout which I had not tried before. It was a light, dry stout with a lot of chocolate and coffee notes. Delicious! It was so cool to see these guys in action, especially since I was there on the day they first brewed on their 10-gallon system. You will be hearing a lot more from these guys in the coming months as they recently found a brew space up in the Ravenswood neighborhood of Chicago. They will be signing the lease this week!
One of the coolest aspects of the day was watching these homebrewers networking with each other and sharing beers. It was fun to see these brewers tasting and critiquing each others’ wares, sometimes even offering a bottle or two to take home. It’s great to see that the cooperative spirit that runs rampant in the Chicago craft beer scene extends to these homebrewers. I hope they stay the same when they hit it big, which they undeniably will!
And Brew Hey Hey attracted some industry folks, as well. It was so cool to see representatives from the brewing community in attendance to cheer on the homebrewers. Avid supporters of homebrewing and homebrewers, Jesse Edwin Evans and Blake Hedlin of New Chicago Beer Co stopped by. It was great seeing Jesse as I haven’t seen him since I stopped by The Plant over the summer. Apparently, even Stone Brewing’s Greg Koch, in town to sign copies of his new book, attended Brew Hey Hey. He appeared to thoroughly enjoy himself, too, and tweeted “Drinkin’ awesome homebrews @ #chgourbanartsoc Brew HeyHey. Think warehouse party meets ancho chili porters & grapefruit wheat IPAs.” How cool is that? I unfortunately did not get to meet him; I don’t think anyone knew he was there until the next day.
As with any event, there were a few hiccups. The ice that was to be used to keep the beer cold was about 45 minutes late. But, overall, the event seemed to run smoothly and everyone had a great time. Does this event sound like something you would be interested in attending? Then be sure to go to the Brew Ho Ho which, I assume, should arrive around the holidays. And Low Dive Brewing,who helped found Brew Ha Ha, is having a fundraiser on November 5th from 3pm-7pm at the Oh No! Doom space at 1800 N Milwaukee.