OK, maybe that title is a bit of an exaggeration. But as far as homebrew competitions go, this may have the most at stake. As you know, the Chicago craft beer scene has been growing by leaps and bounds over the last few years and it is just going to continue to grow. In addition to the increased number of established breweries, the hobby of homebrewing has gained in popularity. Chicagoland has seen the establishment of more homebrew clubs, homebrew shops and homebrew events (despite the recent crackdown by the powers-that-be to end them). Over the last year, a huge proponent of all things homebrew and “underground craft” is Chef Won Kim, the mastermind behind the frequently sold-out homebrew festivals in the Brew Laughter series (Brew Ha Ha, Hey Hey, Ho Ho, and the “one of these things is not like the other”-named Brew Springsteen). The next festival in the mix is the Iron Brew, a homebrew competition that had the preliminary on June 30th where 20 brews were selected to advance to the final round, culminating in a beer festival on August 25th where a winner will be chosen by a panel of celebrity judges. Despite his super busy celebrity chef status (did you see him as runner-up on The Food Network’s Chef Wanted with Anne Burrell?), I was able to ask Chef Won some questions regarding this next homebrew installment.
Q: You have been quite successful with the previous Brew Ha Hey Ho Stein festivals. Why are you now hosting a homebrew competition?
Won Kim: I feel like it’s a natural progression with all of the recent highlighting (good and bad) on the homebrewing scene. Whereas the previous incarnations have been about curation and picking brewers, I figure we make it fairer and let anyone enter for an equal chance at the massive prizes being offered. All the beers will be great so why not reward one of them and get them one step closer to achieving their dreams?
Q: How did the partnership with Two Brothers and Stone Brewing come about? Who approached whom?
WK: [Stone Brewing Company’s] Greg Koch made an awesome surprise visit to the Brew Hey Hey installation with Aaron Tyrell [the Stone Midwest Representative] and he was overwhelmed and impressed with the event in terms of attendance, interest, and taste of all the offered brews. Aaron has a good relationship with Two Brothers Brewing and thought it would be a good idea to bring them in, seeing as how they have been staples in the craft beer movement as well as avid supporters of homebrews. After initial meetings and interests, it was just a matter of meeting, talking, and drinking to get this show on the road!
Q: How many individuals entered the preliminary round? How many are competing for the Iron Brew title on August 25th?
WK: The preliminary judges picked 20 brews out of over 40 entries from all over Illinois. It was a long night for them. I did not envy the amount of liquid they had to consume for this round.
Q: What is your reaction to the recent crackdown on homebrewers serving their beer at festivals?
WK: I think it sucks. There are a lot of great people who are just so passionate about sharing beer that they are proud of and it’s a shame that there isn’t an easier way to put your beer out there considering how many shitty commercial beers dominate the industry.
Q: What is the prize for winning this homebrew competition?
WK: We have three amazing prizes for this Iron Brew. The grand prize is airfare for two to San Diego to brew a special batch with Stone and Two Brothers brewing, bottled, and distributed through Stone. The second place prize is to brew a special keg with Two Brothers Brewing for their taproom along with a release party. And the third place prize is seasoned barrel donated by FEW Spirits!
The Iron Brew is on August 25, 2012 at the Co-Prosperity Sphere, 3219-21 South Morgan Street, in the Bridgeport neighborhood of Chicago. You must email RSVP@IronBrewHaHa.com to R.S.V.P. and purchase a membership package that will garner you complimentary entry. There will not be tickets sold at the door! You do not want to miss this; in addition to the great beer, food, and souvenir glass, there will be celebrity judges! Stone Brewing’s Greg Koch; Two Brothers’ Jason Ebel; and author, designer, brewery owner, and every home brewer’s idol, Randy Mosher, are confirmed but there may be a surprise guest judge or two. There is a pre-party this Thursday, August 16, 2012 at Maria’s Packaged Goods and Community Bar from 6pm-9pm so if you want a taste of the Iron Brew, be sure to stop by. See you there!