Chicago is enjoying a craft beer renaissance right now and, in addition to the many new and in-the-works breweries that are popping up across the city, many average Joes and Janes are jumping into the world of homebrewing. I’m one of them; the hubby and I got a brew kit as a wedding gift in May 2010 and now brew about once a month (we would brew more but the pesky day job keeps getting in the way…) But believe it or not, there is a group of individuals that fall somewhere in between these professional and novice brewers: the immensely talented homebrewers being showcased at the January 21, 2012 event entitled Brew Ho Ho.
If this event sounds familiar, you may have read about the previous events Brew Ha Ha and Brew Hey Hey. All events are the brainchild of Chef Won Kim, a talented chef who has worked at pop-up restaurants, Avec, The Drawing Room, and is currently the Marketing Event Chef at Whole Foods Lincoln Park. He’s also a talented graffiti artist; if any of you frequent Goose Island Clybourn, you have probably seen his artistry on the blackboards advertising upcoming events at the brewpub. For this event, Chef Won Kim is focusing on baked goods that can be paired with the darker, heavier beers of winter and is enlisting the help of some Chicago-area bakers, including Andrea Batson. Batson, a veteran of Stephanie Izard’s Girl and the Goat, will be contributing sourdough rye bread to the event. Mmm… Bread…
So, how does an accomplished chef get involved with homebrewers and create an event that highlights them? Well, Chef Won Kim is a lover of beer (even though it aggravates his gout) and says that he’s had beer enthusiasts introducing him to the world of craft beers “before ‘BCS’ became a common acronym.” He says that “the next step to appreciating beer is to try to make your own and that’s exactly what a lot of (the participating brewers) did. So naturally I would sample a ton of great homebrew beers from guys who already knew so much about tasting and appreciating them.” And this exposure to high quality, homebrewed beer is what sparked the idea for forming an event that would showcase both his culinary artistry and his friends’ tasty brews.
In addition to the main event on January 21, 2012, a pre-party was held at The Norse Bar on Thursday, January 12th that allowed patrons to sample some of the beers and pastries. I braved the snow and headed to Edgewater to get a small taste of what will be on offer at Brew Ho Ho. I was able to catch up with Chef Won and some of the brewers participating in this event at the pre-party. And if this pre-party is any indication, Brew Ho Ho is going to be the beer event of year. What I love about the entire Beer Laughter series is that it is insanely approachable; you get to interact with the brewers and talk with them about how they came up with their recipes, how long they have been brewing and their aspirations for the future.
At the pre-party, I was able to catch up with Adrian and the rest of the crew of Corazon, a homebrew collective that focuses on brewing beer with Latin American influences. I first got to know these guys at Brew Hey Hey where I sampled their Surreal Ale, an hibiscus-infused amber ale, and their Ancho Chili Porter. For Brew Ho Ho, these guys have a slightly sour Tamarind Brown Ale and a Coffee Stout that was made with coffee brought in from Guatemala. One of the brewers’ families owns a farm down there and grows coffee beans, in addition to other things.
I also got to catch up with Joshua Garrett of Powell Brew House and he told me he will be pouring six (yes, SIX) variations of his delicious, insanely creamy milk stout. I was gifted a six-pack of the blueberry version after Brew Hey Hey and it was fantastic. Unfortunately, he did not make the blueberry version this time around but some of the variations that will be available include mint chocolate and chocolate peanut butter. Buckey and Kyle of Big Dicks Brewing were at the pre-party, as well, pouring their winter ale that had a nice pineapple flavor thanks to New Zealand hops. I really can’t wait to see the rest of the beers these guys and the other brewers bring to Brew Ho Ho!
According to the American Homebrewers Association, approximately 90% of professional brewers get their start in homebrewing. Will these guys become professional brewers? Quite possibly; they definitely have the talent. And some of the veterans of the Brew Laughter series are already on their way. Low Dive Brewing who premiered at Brew Ha Ha is participating in fundraising efforts to get their brewery off the ground, and Spiteful Brewing, who participated in the Brew Hey Hey, recently acquired a commercial space and is awaiting licensure.
If the previous events are any indication, I can honestly say that this event to going to be a blast. If you are interested in attending, send an email to RSVP@brewhoho.com to get a confirmation email that will let you know the location. Participating brewers are Powell Brewhouse, Brutally Honest Brewing, Big Dicks Brewing, Corazon, Rockwell Brewing, Soma Ale Werks, Second Story Brewing, and New Oberpfalz. The price for the event is $20 and includes 10 beer sample tickets, one taste of Angel Envy Bourbon, and five treat tickets. And if you want more information about Chef Won Kim and what he’s currently working on, be sure to check out his blog sleepingisforsuckers.blogspot.com. Continue reading for the full interview with Chef Won Kim:
First and foremost, how’s the gout doing? Are you going to be able to drink and enjoy yourself at Brew Ho Ho?
I don’t what the hell is going on with my gout. I’ve been doing all kinds of research only to find out that uric acid levels can hide itself during a standard blood test. What kind of shit is that? It’s here to stay apparently, but I still drink cautiously more than anything these days. A lot of bourbon and whiskies. I drink minimum beer so needless to say, if it isn’t from a good brewery or semi hard to find, I’m either smoking pot or having something on the rocks.
How do the home brewers get chosen to participate? Do you already know of them? Do they contact you/express interest to you?
It’s been a little bit of everything. Before any of this home brewing stuff came about, I’ve had beer enthusiasts introducing me to world of craft beers before “BCS” became a common acronym. I feel like the next step to appreciating beer is to try to make your own and that’s exactly what a lot of these guys did. So naturally I would sample a ton of great homebrew beers from guys who already knew so much about tasting and appreciating them. Otherwise I’ve received a random emails expressing interest in participation or just to taste beers and to get an honest opinion.
What can we expect from you in the future? What kinds of events are in the works?
I was toying with the idea of doing a friendly homebrewing battle ala iron chef called the Iron Brew or continuing the brew laughter series.
You’ve been getting some great press about the event. Are you expecting this to be the biggest event so far? How many people are you anticipating?
I’m hoping this will be the biggest one thus far. I’m curious to see what the turn out will be now that we are hosting this in the North Side of the city. I am anticipating around 250-300 people throughout the day or it can be a complete bust and only get 20 people.
What culinary delights can we expect at the event?
In the spirit of heavier and darker beers being brewed, I wanted to delve into the pastry side of things and round up some baking enthusiasts to participate. So expect to see a lot of sweets like cookies, breads, cakes, or even a savory puff pastry treat.
You are having a pre-party at The Norse Bar. How did that come about? What are you hoping to accomplish from that? Do you typically have a pre-party?
I just wanted to drum up more interest for DIY events like this in a neighborhood that gets overlooked for having a great beer scene. I also want to explore another part of the city and enjoy its treasures.
Have you ever been interested in home brewing? Have you ever tried it?
I have been but feel like I don’t have the patience for it, but I have been around it many times. It’s intriguing to me how something made with common ingredients can eventually magically turn into alcohol.
The last two events were in Pilsen, but this time the location changed. Why is that?
The main reason was that the venue we held it at for the previous Hey Hey and Ha Ha was moving to a new space so I opted to give the Northside a try and see what the turnout is. I also got sick and tired of hearing people say “why can’t you do this in the Northside”?
How do you come up with the ideas for the menu to serve at these events? Do you have the specific beers in mind that will pair well with the food?
I go for sustenance more than anything, knowing that the home brews can pack a punch ABV wise. I want to make sure there is something in people’s stomach that is convenient, tasty, and possibly something to puke up later. I think it would be impossible to make a quintessential food/beer pairing item so I try my best to incorporate elements to the food that will pair with as many beers as possible.
Any aspirations to one day have a brewpub that features handcrafted beers and your food creations?
Ha, find me the investors and I’m on it!