Michigan’s Disastrous Apple Crop Crunches Vander Mill’s Production Window

We love this stuff. But will Michigan’s apple crop allow us to have much more of it?

Over the weekend the Detroit Free Press reported a staggering number that should strike fear in the hearts of hard cider lovers across the Midwest; due to unseasonably warm weather this spring coupled with below-freezing nights, Michigan has lost 90 percent of its apple crop. Beyond that, cherries and peaches have suffered too. Traverse City’s cherry crop took a similar hit thanks to the sweltering St. Patrick’s Day followed by a chilly April.

Just what does this mean for cider makers, exactly? Well, according to the Michigan Apple Committee, a typical Michigan apple crop is a robust 25 million bushels. This year, Michigan farmers will only harvest about 3 million bushels.


We here at Guys Drinking Beer love hard cider, so we went to Paul Vander Heide, owner of Vander Mill Winery and Brewery in Spring Lake, Michigan, to get his perspective on the apple shortage in Michigan (emphasis added). Continue reading

Goose Island’s John J. Hall Named Brewmaster At 5 Rabbit


Immediate Release

Chicago, IL August 10th, 2012

5 Rabbit Cervecería Announces Hiring of John J. Hall as Brewmaster/Production Deity

The first Latin craft brewery in the US, 5 Rabbit Cervecería is pleased to announce that John J. Hall has been added to its growing team as Brewmaster/Production Deity. Hall will be in charge of all brewhouse, cellar, packaging and quality control operations for the brewery. 5 Rabbit’s brewery is currently under construction at their 25,000 sq. ft. building in Bedford Park, the southwest suburb of Chicago located a short distance from Midway Airport.

“We are thrilled John is joining the 5 Rabbit team. The coming months are going to be very exciting for us as we bring all production to our new brewery. We can’t wait to see our beers reach their full potential now that John is in charge of production,” says 5 Rabbit partner Andrés Araya.

“Making the best beer is the most important thing for us. We were looking for an extraordinary brewer, a highly creative person and passionate beer enthusiast. From the moment we first met John, we knew he was the perfect person for the job. With John’s addition to the team, we can confidently say that we have one of the strongest brewing teams in the Midwest,” says 5 Rabbit partner Isaac Showaki.

“We’re excited to bring John’s expertise and experience to our collaborative beer development process. The beers have been very good so far, but we expect a real jump in beer quality once we get them optimized for our new brewery with John’s help,” says partner and creative director Randy Mosher. “It’s going to be a real fun fall.” Continue reading

Oskar Blues Storms Into Chicago With Week Of Events


Chicago, IL, August 8, 2012 –Colorado-based Oskar Blues Brewery, the first craft brewery in the country to put craft beer in a can nearly a decade ago, is celebrating its expansion to Chicago! The quirky craft brewery is breaking into the Chicago market by partnering with local bars, restaurants and stores for a series of events including a beer dinner, tap events, tastings and even a charity event to benefit the victims of the Colorado wildfires and the theater shooting.

These events give Chicagoans a chance to taste the newly arrived beer and to celebrate the explosive growth of Oskar Blues! Oskar Blues has over 60 launch events planned for the week of August 20th, the list below features some of the Chicagoland highlights! Continue reading

Anheuser-Busch vs IL Liquor Control Commission; In Motion

photo courtesy chicagoarchitecture.info

This morning an army of attorney’s representing Anheuser-Busch InBev will descend on the Michael A. Bilandic Building (pictured above) in downtown Chicago for the first substantive hearing since the Illinois Liquor Control Commission announced, in June, it is forcing Anheuser-Busch to divest its minority stake in Illinois distributor City Beverage.

There are four City Beverage locations in the state. Three of those locations are in the Chicago area; Arlington Heights, Chicago and Markham. A fourth location is in downstate Bloomington.

Anheuser-Busch currently has a 30-percent stake in the distributor through a wholly owned subsidiary named Wholesaler Equity Development Corporation or WEDCO.

AB InBev’s stake in City Beverage has been a hotbed of debate for months in Illinois because of a new law, passed last summer, that clearly spelled out who could and who could not self-distribute beer in Illinois. The new law raised the question; is a brewer holding even a minority stake in a distributor against the law because it is akin to self-distribution?

The Liquor Control Commission, in a citation (below) delivered to A-B, said the brewing giant is in fact breaking the law. Continue reading

From The Cellar: Goose Island Night Stalker 2010


Goose Island says:

“A heavily-hopped imperial stout, Night Stalker is a heavyweight of a beer. It delivers a formidable punch of hops and rich roasted malt notes to the nose in a silky body that’s as dark as night.”

Goose Island Night Stalker
Imperial Stout, 11.7% ABV

Sayeth the Guys:


Ryan: 10 oz’s of this hoppy wonder were poured from the taps of Sheffield’s Beer School Bar. Served in a barleywine style glass, Night Stalker is pitch black in color with just a fingers worth of beige head.

The nose is full of hops. Loads of them. Continue reading

Will Indiana’s Beer Laws Keep Up With Three Floyds Growth?

There was an interesting article last week in The Times of Northwest Indiana profiling superstar brewery Three Floyds, its elusive beers and the breweries projected growth in the next two years.

The article included an interesting tidbit about Three Floyds expected production this year and next (emphasis added):

“Three Floyds brewed roughly 20,000 barrels last year (one barrel is 31 U.S. gallons). This year its shooting for about 25,000. Eventually it will go beyond 30,000. That’s where the Indiana legislation enters the story. Not only is the Three Floyds name stamped on beer bottles, but also on two amendments.

The Three Floyds amendments benefit craft beer in Indiana.

“When there weren’t any breweries in Indiana the legislators just made a law that if you are going to be a small brewery the definition of a small brewery is up to 20,000 barrels of production,” Struve said.

Among other things the law meant a brewery topping that production would limit pubs and increase taxes.

“We would be given two options,” Struve said. “One would be to continue to grow and close our pub. The other would be to stay at 20,000 barrels and keep our pub. So as a stopgap measure they (the Legislation) increased that to 30,000. And we’re going to go beyond 30,000 barrels as well.”

Meaning there is still work to be done, legislatively.”

That leaves us to wonder aloud; will the Indiana legislature be able to keep pace with Three Floyds growth? Continue reading

Hopothesis Brewing Company

As we’ve discussed many times before; some breweries in Chicago have a long buildup to their first beer launch (Finch & Pipeworks) and others keep things under wraps til it’s go time (One Trick Pony). But what about a brewery that seemingly shows up, out of nowhere?

Impossible? Au contraire.

We present to you, exhibit A, Hopothesis Brewing Company.

We first heard about Hopothesis…yesterday…when we saw a link to a news release in both the “Chicago” and “Illinois” Google news feeds at the bottom of our site.

The release wasn’t touting the breweries label approval or that it had chosen a site for its brewing operation. No, the release was trumpeting the release of its first beer.

According to their website, the guys behind Hopothesis have been home brewing and formulating recipes for years leading up to their brewery launch. And this week that hard work came to fruition in liquid form.

Continue reading

Get Into The Spirit; Bacolympics at Paddy Long’s

We’ve long been fans of Paddy Longs, as you can see here (from 2 years ago, whoa). And some of us (read: Karl) have been pushing back against the all-things-bacon trend for a while (from 4 years ago, double whoa). But as the baconsanity has faded, and our appreciation of Paddy’s remains considerable, we wanted to at least shine a little light on this: the Bacolympics.

Continue reading

Chicago Area’s Newest Brewery You’ve Probably Never Heard Of; One Trick Pony

photo courtesy One Trick Pony

What follows is a tale of determined, hard work by someone who wants to open a brewery and loads of detective work on our part. The result is equal parts admiration and intrigue for a brewery we still don’t know much about.

We first caught wind of One Trick Pony back in March after seeing their Craft Brewers License application pop up on the Illinois Liquor Control Commission website. And, yes, we really do routinely troll the ILCC website. That’s how we roll.

According to the craft brewers application, they were eying Lansing, IL for the brewery and were aiming to produce 230 barrels of beer in their first year of operation. The application also listed three beers One Trick Pony was registering with the state; Hanoverian, Spotted Saddle and Kisber Felver. But that was about all the information we were able to take away from the six page application and registration statement, so we went to the Googles to get more info.

There was none.

No website, no Facebook page, no twitter account. Nothing.

Since we are geeky enough to routinely visit the ILCC’s webpage we decided to up our nerd factor and hit up the Illinois Secretary of State’s webpage. We checked the licensed corporation database and, low-and-behold, One Trick Pony Inc had been registered with the state since the fall of 2011. A bit of detective work, cross-referencing the address on file and listed “Agent” for the corporation, led us to Chicago attorney Mark Kocol.

We emailed Mr. Kocol at his law office but got no response.

With craft breweries in Chicago multiplying like rabbits, and bloggers looking to be the first to introduce their readers to the areas newest brewer, we were bound and determined to track down more about One Trick Pony. Especially considering we could find so little out about the brewery.

Our next stop was the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau to search through their database for One Trick Pony’s labels. We thought, if Mr. Kocol had gotten this far in his paperwork, maybe he had a few labels that had been approved. And, as luck would have it, the three beers listed above all had label approval. But when we went to view the documents, we were met with an error message informing us we had to file a Freedom of Information Act request in order to view them.

Yup, they wanted a FOIA request for beer labels.

So we submitted a formal FOIA request…for beer labels.

And a few days later we were greeted with an email informing us the approved labels had been posted:

The labels gave us a bit more information about the beers listed including style, IBU and ABV. Spotted Saddle is a Pale Ale coming in at drinkable 6.1% ABV, Hanoverian is a wheat ale clocking in at 6.5% ABV and Kisber Felver is a black IPA rocking 90 IBU’s and 7.5% ABV.

The labels also provided us with an alternate way to contact Mr. Kocol.

So we took another stab at tracking down the seemingly elusive CEO of One Trick Pony. We sent a series of questions his way in hopes of finding out more about him, his brewing background, his beers, the horse thing and why there was no online presence for One Trick Pony.

The last question is what had us all baffled. We’ve become accustomed to breweries rolling out social media campaigns long before their beers are first brewed (Finch and New Chicago Beer Company) or well publicized Kickstarter campaigns building early interest in a budding brewery (Pipeworks, Arcade). Then there’s One Trick Pony, with zero online presence and only a handful of government documents giving us a tiny glimpse into their plans.

The less we knew, the more we wanted to know.

So why was information on One Trick Pony so hard to come by? Simple, Mr. Kocol was up to his elbows in getting the brewery off the ground. Beer first, publicity second.

We’ve told you before that starting a brewery isn’t easy. Remember Marika’s story in getting Scratch Brewing off the ground? Same thing goes for Mr. Kocol; it was paperwork and then more paperwork, locking in a location, buying the brewing equipment and brewing the beer. And he wanted to brew lots of beer. Because, let’s face it, there’s nothing worse than visiting a new brewery only to find half of their tap list is tapped out.

Full pints over Facebook “likes.”

In no way are we trying to “out” anyone here. Mr. Kocol knows we’re writing this and had no objection to it. In fact. he got back to us after our second means of contacting him, kindly apologized for not getting back to us sooner, and answered one question using the question itself, when asked why we can’t find any sort of online presence:

“…Or were you more focused on getting your ducks in a row?”
There’s your answer to #6.

Now, this isn’t to say that having a huge social media roll-out leading up to your brewery’s opening is a bad idea. Nor are we saying that any brewery should have been tweeting like crazy a year before they open. We were just a little surprised and, frankly, impressed to see the marketing take a backseat to the beer.

And that beer is ready to be poured. One Trick Pony had its grand opening on June 29th. And, according to its website, currently has seven beers on tap;

  • Spotted Saddle (American Pale Ale)
  • Gypsy Varner (American Amber Ale)
  • Hanoverian (American Wheat Ale)
  • Kisber Felver (American Black IPA)
  • Nordlandshest (Belgian Dubbel)
  • Kentucky Mountain (Barrel-Aged Old Ale)
  • Clydesdale (American Barleywine)

Eventually, Mr. Kocol, we’d love to find out more about you and One Trick Pony. And if we have to come to Lansing, IL for that to happen – then so be it. We’ll happily talk shop over a Hanoverian or a Nordlandshest. Until then, we hope the world catches up with all the work you put in to getting the brewery up and running, so the craft beer lovers in and around Chicago can find out more about One Trick Pony.

One Trick Pony:

Website: http://www.onetrickponybrewery.com/
Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/OneTrickPonyBrewery

From The Cellar: Arcadia Bourbon Barrel-Aged Shipwreck Porter 2011

Arcadia says:

“Aged in in 22 year-old Bourbon Barrels for almost two years.”

Arcadia Bourbon Barrel-Aged Shipwreck Porter
Baltic Porter, 12% ABV

Sayeth the Guys:


Karl: This was a fun one simply based on style variation. Almost by muscle memory alone, when you say “bourbon barrel aged,” one almost immediately follows it up with “stout.” Not so much this time. New takes on old tropes are always fun to try but are often hit-or-miss; thankfully it was “hit” this time for this porter. (Minor side note: When it comes to stout versus porter, I almost always pick “porter.”)

Arcadia’s choice to throw this style beer into the barrels seems to be a fairly educated one, as porters always struck me as just baby steps away from stouts anyways. This particular Shipwreck (yarrrrrr) pours with a reasonably light body, tan head, a little chocolate on the nose and a touch of wood on the front end. Then on the back, coffeecoffeecoffeeburn. Aaaaaand done.

The 12% ABV is thoroughly camouflaged, the light carbonation makes this the breeziest porter I’ve had in months, and while I wasn’t completely blown away it was certainly pleasant enough. Continue reading