Friday, June 29, 2012

Homebrewers v. The Illinois Liquor Control Commission

Image found at

Last night at my homebrew club meeting, we were notified that the Illinois Liquor Control Commission (ILCC) shut down a homebrewing event in Springfield, IL. In addition, earlier this year the ILCC notified the Peoria Jaycees that homebrewed beer would not be allowed at the annual Peoria International Beer Festival this year (info found here).

What is behind the ILCC flexing their legal muscle? Many think that is has something to do with the increase in popularity of homebrewing and craft beer as a whole. Others think that the ILCC is shutting down homebrewing events because the homebrew is not taxed. Before getting into a huff, lets look at the law the ILCC is tasked with enforcing.

The Homebrewers Association website provides information on the homebrewing laws for each state in the USA.(that site can be found here). Being in Chicago, the homebrewing law/statute in Illinois is what  applies to me and it reads as follows:
Illinois statute Chapter 235, Act 5, Article II, § 2-1 permits the making of wine, cider or other alcoholic liquor by a person from fruits, vegetables or grains, or the products thereof, by simple fermentation and without distillation, if it is made solely for the use of the maker, his family and his guests. 

It goes onto say:

§ 2-1. No person shall manufacture, bottle, blend, sell, barter, transport, deliver, furnish or possess any alcoholic liquor for beverage purposes, except as specifically provided in this Act, provided, however, nothing herein contained shall prevent the possession and transportation of alcoholic liquor for the personal use of the possessor, his family and guests, nor prevent the making of wine, cider or other ALCOHOLIC LIQUOR by a person from fruits, vegetables or grains, or the products thereof, by simple fermentation and without distillation, if it is made solely for the use of the maker, his family and his guests.

The good folks over at the Libation Law Blog go into great detail about what the Illinois law states as it applies to homebrewing. After reading their post, it seems that the Illinois homebrewing laws (as they are currently written) foster conflict with the federal law (IL law - 'can't prevent the possession and transportation of alcoholic liquor for the personal use of the possessor'. Fed law - homebrewed beer may be 'removed from the premises where made for personal or family use including use at organized affairs, exhibitions or competitions such as homemaker's contests, tastings or judging'), and are open to interpretation. 

I know I still have plenty to learn about the Illinois homebrewing laws, and how they apply to me and homebrewing club I am a part of, but I hope Illinois homebrewers follow the lead of our Wisconsin homebrewing bretheren and work with our state representatives to change the law so that homebrewing competitions and the inclusion of homebrew at beer festivals will be legal.

Friday, June 22, 2012

Thoughts on beer cellars/collections

A few weeks back I came upon a few youtube links to videos of the large beer collections of a few individuals (links to a few beer cellar videos are at the end of this post). As nice as it was to see people collecting beer, and to see some beers that I have only heard of or read about, the size of the collections made me feel a tad sad for the owners of the collections (and for myself).

You see, I am a beer collector as well as a homebrewer. At this time, the fruits of both hobbies volley for the limited space that I have for them. Lately, I have more purchased beer than homebrew (this is something I hope to change before the year is through) taking up what space I have for beer, and I have been hesitant to open any of the purchased beer for a few reasons: (1) I am curious how the beer will taste if it is allowed to age (2) I have a limited quantity of some of them and what I have cannot be replenished without a sizable purchase that cannot be completed w/ livestock. As a result, I rarely enjoy a beer from my collection but I do continue to add to it. It is this hesitation that makes be believe that collecting beer for the long term can be a curse - you want to collect beer to enjoy later but you don't want to open any of it (or rarely do you want to open any of it) because once you enjoy it, it is gone (unless you have something more valuable than a pig named Beef).

As for the folks who created the videos at the other end of the links at the end of this post, I do wonder when the last time was that they enjoyed a bottle from their collections, did they seek to replace the bottles they enjoy with a bottle of the same beer from the same year, etc. But the one thing that piques my interest more than either of the other two 'wonders' is what kind of arrangement or negotiation (if any) with their significant other, roommate, etc. needed to be agreed upon before the beer cellars were allowed to take shape.

I do know that my hesitation to open what beer I have collected is ridiculous. I am supposed to enjoy the beer I have and I should share it with other beer fans. Beer is not supposed to be put away and left alone due to the fear of never being able to enjoy it again. Fortunately, I am getting married this November, and I think that occasion will warrant the sharing of a nice chunk of the beer in my collection. I think that after the beer has been shared, and the bottles rinsed and prepped for homebrew, I will review my decision to share my prized stuff with people who (probably) could not care less about why I valued it so much. I may regret sharing the beer, but hopefully the voice of logic that is my fiance (I did have a voice of logic but it keeps to itself these days) will speak up and remind me 'now you have more room to add more beer'. 

Beer cellar videos:

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Recommended homebrewing books

When I started homebrewing, I was an assistant for my Dad. I would help move carboys, clean pots, bottles, the carboys, etc. I recall my Dad using the instructions in the kit boxes for instructions on how to brew. I do not recall seeing any homebrewing books in the early days.

While I have gotten back up to speed with my own homebrewing (during which I was the boss), I have found a great deal of value of having a few homebrewing books at my disposal for a reference before and during the brew day.

  • Designing great beers - Ray Daniels
    • The book itself is very approachable in that it does not talk down to you. It has been my primary reference when composing my homebrewing recipes. It provides info about past NHC recipes that have done well. Which, in-turn, provides a reliable basis for composing your own recipes. It also covers the qualities of a variety of styles ranging from barley wine and bocks to stouts, pilsener and scotch ales.
    • About the author - Ray Daniels is a veteran of the US beer industry and president of the Craft Beer Institute. He is also the founder of the Cicerone program. 
  • Brewing Better Beer - Gordon Strong
    • This has been a book that has become invaluable in that it builds upon what Ray Daniels' book provides, and spends more time explaining Gordon Strong's approach on how to brew better beer. It also goes into detail about various mashing types (infusion, decoction, and step mashes), beer hopping choices (first wort hopping, post-boil hopping), as well as advice on 'mastering equipment', and ingredients. In short it is an invaluable reference.
    • About the author - Gordon Strong is the current president of the Beer Judge Certification Program (BJCP).
  • Yeast - Chris White with Jamil Zainasheff
    • This book is a great resource of information about yeast - cultivating, maintaining it, and keeping it happy. As well as information on how to create your own yeast lab at home (which is a project I want to undertake once more room is available). 
    • About the authors - Chris White started White Labs in 1995 after researching and developing a library of brewers yeast strains from around the world. He received an undergraduate degree in biochemistry from the University of California, Davis, and a Ph.D in biochemistry from U.C. San Diego. Jamil Zainasheff is one of the most respected homebrewers in the country. He is also the founder of Heretic Brewing
  • Radical Brewing - Randy Mosher
    • This book is probably the most fun to read of all of the books listed above. It gets into the history of beer, funky ingredients (herbs, honey, etc), and it provides a bit of advice on how to put a spin on your beer and not end up with something you would not offer your newest friends. It also gets into the pairing of beer and food, and Mr. Mosher puts his own fun spin on things. It is a really fun read.
    • About the author - Randy Mosher is a nationally recognized author who is also the creative director for 5 Rabbit Brewing Company
I realize that Charlie Papazian's book was not mentioned, but the books above are the ones I use the most.

Do you have other homebrewing books that you like and reference every time you are preparing to brew? Let us know!

Thursday, June 7, 2012

A few days in Indiana

Image found at

On June 1st and 2nd (2012) I celebrated my bachelor party in Indianapolis with my Dad, brother, and two of my closest friends from Chicago (Mike and John). It was a weekend that involved a few brewpubs, brewery visits, little sleep, and a lot of fun.

The chums from Chicago and I rendezvoused in Chicago before heading to Indy (my Dad + brother opted to fly to Indy and meet us there).  We rode into town around 745p local time, and opted to go and find some food and beer after we checked into our hotel and dropped off our stuff.

For dinner, we chose to go to Brugge Brasserie. Mike and I had heard good things about it and we were interested in giving it a go.

When we walked in, I knew we were in for a treat – bright colors on the walls, brewing equipment converted into tables in one section of the first floor, table shuffleboard on the second floor, and you could converse with other people in your group without yelling. This was all good, but we were all looking forward to their beer.

After we were seated on the second floor, we reviewed the beer menu and were happy to find a homemade sour as an option (experimental beer # 7). Running with Hoosier Beer Geek’s recommendation to try any sour that is available, 4 of 5 of our group gave it a go and it was fantastic. It was a beer that was made with raspberries and agave nectar. The beer's sour quality was evident but not overwhelming. It was refreshing, easy to drink, and one I hope to try again. 

My brother opted for the Triple de Ripple and was won over immediately by it. I tried it and thought it fantastic – it was smooth, not too sweet, and it tasted lighter than its abv led me to believe. A great beer.

After the sour, I opted for a glass of the Black. A Belgian stout that had all the characteristics that I was hoping for – it had plenty of chocolate and caramel sweetness, and it was very easy to enjoy a few.

From there, we made our way to the Broad Ripple Brewpub (Indiana’s oldest brewpub). My brother and I decided to start with their cask porter, and the Chicago chums thought a few of the available meads were worth trying (no offense to the mead fans out there but ordering mead in a brewpub makes as much sense as ordering pizza at a steakhouse). The porter was good and if I had more time I would have tried a few more glasses of it. My brother seemed to feel the same about it.

For the second round, my brother went with their ESB, and the Chicago chums went with a glass of port and a glass of the Common. I went with the brewpub’s hefeweizen which was enjoyable, but I wish I would not have added a lemon wedge.

Afterwards, we made our way back to the car but not before stopping in a local liquor store where Mike found two bottles of Gilgamesh (I thought we would never be able to try it). He gave me one bottle, and he kept the second. I plan on enjoying mine in a few weeks. I am really looking forward to it.

The next day we stopped at Flat 12 and Sun King. At Flat 12, we tried a few samples of their cream ale, porter, and their tangerine porter. Before going outside to their beer deck, a few of us acquired a pint of a beer called Mustache Ride which is a red ale aged in bourbon barrels with vanilla beans.  It was a beer that went quite well with a few games of corn hole. We considered sticking around Flat 12 for the 1p tour but we thought it would be better to keep our $10 and put it towards beer and food that would be acquired later in the day.

Next, we stopped at Sun King where we marveled at the open space where people could walk around, the brewery’s hardware (i.e. medals), and the numerous taps that were the keepers of their year round offerings as well as their popcorn pilsner, sea cake and dragonfly wheat. Of all of the available offerings (that were granted gratis, but limited to 3 tickets for the year round and 3 caps for the specials), my favorite was the popcorn pilsner. It stood out because the popcorn (I presume) provided a straw like taste that took the place of the uniform crispness that I expect from pilsners.

After Sun King we made our way to 3 Floyds, which I was really looking forward to. Up until our visit there for lunch, I had only been to 3 Floyds for Dark Lord Day and their 15th Anniversary party.

I expected that we would have to wait to get a table due to prior conversations with locals who told Mike and I that there is not really a good time to visit that will not include a wait. Surprisingly, when we visited, we walked in, showed the doorman our ids, and had a table immediately thereafter. So, the lesson here is, try to arrive around 3p – 330p on a Saturday. Its post- lunch but before dinner.

While there, I had a chance to try Mutiny and the Mollusk, Thick White Freeks and Al Dabeyoun. Mutiny and the Mollusk was smooth and sweet but not oily as I thought it may be due to the inclusion of oysters. Thick White Freeks was surprisingly chewy but I thought the notes of pepper helped make it an enjoyable beer. Al Dabeyoun continues to be a beer that I really like. It combines the aromatics of a Belgian triple with the hop qualities of an ipa. I seriously considered getting a growler but I did not see any around the bar (I recalled seeing them hanging above the bar during my 1st dark lord day), and I had plenty of beer in the fridge that I wanted to share with my brother, Dad and fiancé after we returned to Chicago. So, I passed. Regardless, I do hope it is still available the next time I visit.

The trip was a lot of fun, and I am glad that everyone was able to make it (I will add a few pictures from this trip later tonight).

Some time in the future i hope a similar trip is possible, but to Madison, Wisconsin.