A few weeks ago, I had the pleasure of sitting down with Greg Shuff and Brant Dubovick of DryHop Brewers at the release of the DryHop + Atlas Brewing Company collaboration (called High Voltage) to talk beer and DryHop. It was a fun and informative interview that ended up being so long that we decided to split it up into two parts. In the first half of our interview (the second half will be posted this Friday) we talk about the origins of DryHop, how DryHop has evolved over time, and where things are at for them now. Enjoy!
Midwest Beer Blog (MBB) = If we could just start off with you guys identifying yourselves and saying your roll at DryHop
Greg Shuff (GS) = I am Greg Shuff, spelled S-H-U-F-F and I am the proprietor of DryHop Brewers.
Brent Dubovick (BD) = Brant Dubovick, D-U-B-O-V-I-C-K. I am the head brewer of DryHop brewers
MBB = Before we get to the collaboration that brought us all here this evening, do you mind if we start at the beginning? Day 1, square 1 - how did you guys cross paths? How did you get to where you are now?
GS = I started the ball rolling on this project. There came a time where I needed a higher level of brewing expertise than what I was able to bring to the table. A lot of the moving parts came together to where I needed an experienced head brewer’s perspective on everything. So I started putting feelers out looking for people, and Brant and I connected on Probrewer. I went out to Pittsburgh and had beers with him one evening, and we kind of hit it off pretty well. The next thing you know he was flying out here.
Greg Shuff (L) and Brent Dubovick (R)
MBB - I know you (Brant) are coming from PA, and tell me if I am wrong but I think you (Greg) have your roots in Indiana. So, was it always going to be a Chicago for the base of operations for whatever came about as a result of your teaming up?
GS = Yeah. Absolutely. By the time Brant and I had come together I was already living in Chicago. moved up here about six months beforehand to start working on this project. And yes, I absolutely wanted to be in Chicago. I think this is a great city. Especially for food and beverage and all of the cultural relevancy that is around that. Its got a dense enough population that can allow breweries to really thrive. So, now we are here.
BD = I was in Pittsburgh and the brewery I was at, which was the Church Brew Works, started out as a brewpub and started to get more into a packaging brewery. I wanted to concentrate more on the growler, brewpub side of things. Greg’s concept originally was to do a lot of little growler bars around town. Specifically near L stops and mass transit hubs. So people coming off the mass transit hub could stop in and get a growler for the evening or the weekend. Due to licensing restrictions it made more sense to go with a brewpub type concept. When I was looking to move from Pittsburgh, I was either going to stay in Pittsburgh, move back to New York where I am originally from, or come to Chicago. So, I put two applications out, literally two applications - one to Sixpoint Brewery in Brooklyn and one to Greg for Last Bay Beer Company which is what it (Dryhop) was called at the time. Sixpoint never called me back and Greg called be back, so I obviously went with Greg.
MBB = I could not help but hear you mention that the original idea was a growler stop for beer, so to speak, and multiple branches. Do you have any aspirations for multiple DryHop locations around the city or Illinois in general?
GS = Sure, we would absolutely love to do well and grow as a company. We are both more enthusiastic about the brewpub concepts or growler-type concepts than any sort of packaging facility. So if we live our lives right you will never be able to buy our beer at a liquor store. But if people are excited enough about what we’re doing that we will be able to open another location somewhere else down the road, then yes. Absolutely.
MBB = Before we started recording you mentioned that you are expecting your equipment in December. Would you need a month or two to get it all setup, established, licensed, etc.?
GS = Most of our licensing process, especially the really time consuming ones, are already in the pipeline. So, that’s good. Once the equipment lands, it is scheduled to land December 17th, all of the process piping will need to be tied in. Beyond that, all of the things we have, like finishes, need to be put in around it. Because we organized our space very diligently so we do not have a lot of excess space for anything. So the brewhouse will have to go in and then we are building our bar around the brewhouse. Once the bar is in there the brewhouse isn’t going anywhere. So, it will take another couple of months to finish that. So, we are hoping in early February if everything goes right. But when that is wrong do not string me up by my toes (laughs).
MBB - So there is a chance we could be able to go in and enjoy some DryHop beer by say late spring?
GS = Oh yeah. I would love to be open this winter.
BD = I hope to be brewing by the end of January - February 1st I would like to be brewing. That would put us on a, maybe, three week cycle ‘til we get the beers on. Once we get rolling it is going to be a two week cycle from brewhouse to glass. Also, if you go back to the growler thing we are also dedicating eighteen feet of our bar space to just growlers.
MBB = Really?
BD = Three growler fillers from Russia that counter pressurize and purge the oxygen, filling the growler. So, if you come up you will have eighteen feet where you can just put in your growler order and we’ll have three of them running constantly with all of the DryHop beers that we offer to take home. So I think DryHop and Begyle are the only ones in Chicago that are doing counter pressure growler filling.
MBB = Or Illinois because until you mentioned it, and Begyle mentioned it, I was not familiar with that (counter pressure growler filling). So, fantastic!
GS = We’ve actually done quite a bit of testing. We have one in our research lab right now attached to a kegerator. We fill up growlers all of the time, and we have tortured the heck out of those growlers. We are pretty confident that up to about six weeks, six to eight weeks, for the shelf life of a growler before I’d tell you to throw it away.
MBB = Wow!
BD = We did one where we filled it, let it warm up on the window sill for eight weeks, and the sunset comes down and over into Greg’s kitchen. So we had the sun beating it up for eight weeks and put it back in the refrigerator and cooled it down again, and we got a little oxidation out of it. You could tell the difference but it was not a drain pour by any means.
Photo by Michael Kiser, goodbeerhunting.com
BD = We used Half Acre Daisy Cutter as our control subject because it is hoppy. One of our main beers is going to be a hoppy wheat IPA. So we wanted to see how a hoppy beer did.
GS = We figured that if one beer was going to show distress quickly it was going to be an American pale ale with a really high hop profile. So if that beer can survive it, we feel extremely confident that your high gravity whatever stouts will too.
MBB = Test the weak ones and you can probably assume, perhaps, a longer shelf life for the higher ABV ones.
GS = Yeah.
BD = Yeah. I don’t see why not if you did an imperial stout or a barleywine why it can’t be longer.
MBB = You mentioned briefly that one of the first beers you are going to have is going to be a wheat IPA. Have you talked about, confirmed or decided on the other beers you are going to be leading with?
GS = (To Brant) Do you want to answer that one?
BD = Sure. We are going to have two year round beers - one is the wheat IPA which we’ve brewed once already in collaboration with Hamburger Mary’s and I think you (MBB) already tried at a brewclub (i.e. Squarekegs) meeting.
MBB = There is a good chance. Yeah.
BD = That’s (wheat IPA) going to be one. And the other year round beer we are calling it a Chicago common, is a hybrid between a cream ale and a steam beer. So we are going to use a steam yeast to ferment a cream ale. Those are going to be our two year round beers that we have on constantly. Right now, if we open in February we are going to have a Winter Warmer on which is a traditional English Winter Warmer. We are going to have a tbd hoppy beer. When we started this, Greg and I were like ‘Well, what are we going to do?’. Right now we are going to have six year round beers on and two seasonals.
GS = Well not six year rounds.
BD = Sorry, two year rounds and six total DryHop beers. So, we are going to have, what we are calling, an ‘International Beer’ which will either be a German, English or a Belgian. And we are going to have a hoppy beer on, another hoppy beer besides the wheat IPA. We’re going to have a high gravity beer. So, like an imperial stout or a barleywine. And the final one is we’re going to have a dark. So we’re going have a brown ale, a stout or a porter. Something in that vein. And we’re also talking about doing four guest taps and one of those guest taps being dedicated to a collaboration beer. Maybe I go and brew with, hopefully/maybe, Mikkeller, and it will be a Mikkeller - DryHop collaboration. Or if we brew with Half Acre. Or if we brew with Atlas. We will have one of those collaboration beers on. So, I guess, technically, we will have seven DryHop beers on at all times. And Greg through his investigation and his diligence with the space that we are leasing that even though our landlord said there is no basement, Greg found a basement.
GS = That’s the weirdest story I promise you.
BD = So the basement is being demo’d and we are going to run stainless down to the basement and we are going to do a barrel aging program in the basement. So, we’ll have some 750 mL bottles available for sale in the brewhouse as well.
MBB = It does sound like you guys have a lot of the beer spectrum covered. Wheat, hoppy, dark, high gravity, collaborative. That’s fantastic!
GS = (laughs) Yeah, we think so.
MBB = With your equipment on order and your space determined, what is left on the to-do list?
GS = Get it built right?
MBB = Yeah yeah, okay. Yeah. That’s fair.
GS = The big thing we are waiting on now is we’re waiting for the city of Chicago to get back with us with complete building permits. So they have all of our materials. We have gotten approvals on a number of sections. We have to come back with new comments or revisions to part of our architectural plan. Fire protection and then our electrical. As soon as we get that taken care of, hopefully they are going to issue our building permits and then build out. That’s our big focus at the moment.
MBB = Do you have any other collaborations on the docket before February?
BD = We are actually talking with Begyle about doing something. We were originally slated to do something with them in late August. We were going to do an Oktoberfest marzen. They sort of, not ran into problems but they wanted to get their glycol system professionally done. They could not get it installed professionally for a certain amount of time. So, we lost that window on doing an Oktoberfest, but we are talking with them about either doing a harvest ale which is going to pretty much be an Oktoberfest but on an ale yeast so we can turn it around a little quicker than eight weeks. So we’re talking about doing that or maybe doing a pumpkin porter or a pumpkin stout. Which we’ll hopefully release around Halloween. So, we’re talking about maybe doing something with them in October. I really like what Solemn Oath is doing. I’ll brew with anyone. I’m just hungry to brew. So, anybody that wants to brew, get in contact with me. We’ll make it happen. (firstname.lastname@example.org).