Beer Birthday: Greg Hall

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Today is also the 50th birthday of Greg Hall, former brewmaster at Goose Island Brewing. Goose Island, of course, makes some incredible beers. Founded by Greg’s father John Hall in 1988, Greg became brewmaster a few years later and has been setting high standards ever since, though he left after the family business was acquired by ABI. His new venture is Virtue Cider. Join me in wishing Greg a very happy birthday.

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Greg with Alex Puchner, head of brewing operations for BJs.

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Greg with the owners of Monk’s Kettle in San Francisco.

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Wil Turner, also with Goose Island, me and Greg at the 2006 GABF.

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Greg pulling a proper pint of English brewed Honkers Ale at the Crosse Keys in London (this last photo purloined from Facebook).

Beer Birthday: Jonathan Cutler

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Today is the 43rd birthday of Jonathan Cutler, brewmaster/owner of Piece Brewing in Chicago. His brewpub makes great pizza and even better beer. Plus, he’s a terrific, fun person. He even got a shout-out at the Academy Awards a couple of years ago, when Quentin Tarantino said “Piece Out” during his acceptance speech. Join me in wishing Jonathan a very happy birthday.

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Serving beer and pizza at the CBC Reception at the Field Museum.

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At Stone Brewery during CBC in San Diego in 2008. From left: Peter Schell, Eric Rose (Hollister Brewing), Ian Ward (Brewers Supply Group), Jonathan Cutler (Piece Brewing), Chad Kennedy (Laurelwood Public House) and Fal Allen (now back at Anderson Valley).

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Jonathan picking up another GABF award for Piece in 2007.

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Jonathan tearing up during Dave Keene and Jennifer Smith’s wedding during GABF a few years ago.

Beer Birthday: Don Feinberg

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Today is Don Feinberg’s 60th birthday, the Big 6-O. Don, along with his wife Wendy Littlefield, ran the Belgian export company Vanberg & DeWulf. Their portfolio included such great beer lines as Dupont, Castelain and Dubuisson (Bush). They were also the original founders of Brewery Ommegang. Four years ago they celebrated their 30th anniversary of being involved in the beer industry and bringing great beer to America. Plus, they’re great fun to hang out and drink with. Unfortunately, recently sold Vanberg & DeWulf, and are taking some time off, before deciding on their next project. Join me in wishing Don a very happy birthday.

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Don, along with the Dubuisson brewmaster, being poured Lambrucha in Chicago in 2010.

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Wendy and Don at a dinner in Belgium last year.

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Wendy Littlefield, Don and Greg Engert at a Vanberg & DeWulf tasting in Washington, D.C. (photo by Chuck Cook)

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Wendy and Don in 1979.

Beer Birthday: Jonathan Surratt

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Today is the 41st birthday of Jonathan Surratt. Jonathan launched the Beer Mapping Project and also runs the website for DRAFT magazine. He also created National Growler Day, though its exact date from year to year is still fluid, and he’s a twitter diva, too. Join me in wishing Jonathan a very happy birthday.

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Horse Brass publican Don Younger bookended by Jonathan’s wife Robin and Jonathan, displaying his excellent taste in attire.

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Jonathan with Sean Paxton and Jonathan’s wife Robin at GABF a few years ago.

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Jonathan, Ray McCoy, Robin, and Ray’s wife, Cornelia Corey.

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A self-portrait with Matt, from Oakshire Brewing, Jonathan, and me at the Goose Island cask event during CBC in 2010.

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Michael Roper, owner of the Hopleaf, Jonathan, and Wendy Littlefield, from Vanberg & DeWulff, when we had dinner there a few years agp.

The Lagunitas Loft Couch Goes To Chicago

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If you’ve ever been to the loft that overlooks the Lagunitas Brewery, you’ve probably seen this orange couch. I’ve sat in it on numerous occasions. As I remember it, it’s a pretty comfy sofa, and you sink right into it.

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But I guess I’ll have to travel to Chicago if I want to sit on it again. Check out its journey in this humorous video from Lagunitas.

Lagunitas Building New Brewery In Chicago

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Sheesh, you try and do something other than sit at your computer all day, and all hell breaks loose. At least I have an excuse, sort of. My wife and I just bought another house, which we’re having some work done on before we move in, and that’s been occupying a healthy percentage of my time over the past few weeks, which is also why I haven’t been posting as much, either. But what I missed was a wowzer. Tony Magee, the iconoclastic owner of Lagunitas Brewing, revealed via twitter that’s he’s signed a lease for an old movie soundstage (and former Ryerson Steel Factory) in Chicago, where he’s planning to build another 250-barrel brewhouse by July 2013, with the first brew anticipated in the 4th Quarter.

Adam Nasam, from Beer Pulse, happily, was paying attention and broke the story yesterday, even including a map of the property. Earlier today, Craft Business Daily had an interview with Magee, where he revealed more details about Lagunitas’ plans for the Chicago brewery.

This afternoon, Lagunitas finally sent out a press release about the acquisition and their plane for a Chicago brewery.

The Lagunitas Brewing Company of Petaluma CA is moving forward with the construction of a second brewing facility in the crossroads of the US; Chicago Illinois. Carl Sandburg’s ‘City of Big Shoulders’ will be home to a new ROLEC-built 250 barrel kettle and 200,000 barrels of initial capacity. The brewery will be operating by the 4th quarter of 2013, and will occupy 150,420 square feet on the grounds of the CineSpace Movie Soundstage complex at 15th Street and Rockwell in Chicago’s Douglas Park neighborhood.

According to Lagunitas founder and CEO, Tony Magee, the idea got very real in the last 2 months. A few days spent with a calculator and a couple more visiting sites around the city crystalized the plan. “I was born and raised in Chicago so the siting questions were easy to figure out. But the real driver behind it all was two-fold; first, I realized that there was about 4 ounces of diesel in every 22oz bottle of our beer when enjoyed in Chicago, even more if you’re in NYC. Secondly, the future of Craft Beer is, we believe, local and we sure want to be a part of the future so the decision was easy. One of the best things about craft brewing is being close to the people who are digging it.”

Lagunitas is just finishing up a major expansion of its Petaluma home where it built a new brewhouse that will eventually enable it to brew more than four times what it brewed in 2011. The Petaluma brewery only has fermentation capacity to meet its needs through 2013. By building a second brewery in Chicago, Lagunitas will be adding that needed future capacity closer to where it will be enjoyed. According to Magee, “By the time Lagunitas Chicago is ready to mash in we will move about 140,000 barrels of production there. All the left coast and western states beer will still be brewed in Petaluma and life at the Petaluma brewery will be pretty calm, for a change, for a while…!”.

Awesome news for Lagunitas. That’s the fourth regional brewery this year to announce a second location. I’d say we’re witnessing a definite trend.

Beer Birthday: Sarah Huska

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Today is the 25th birthday — how is that possible? — of Sarah Huska. Sarah is the program administrator for the Cicerone Certification Program that Ray Daniels founded. I got to meet Sarah while I was in Chicago for CBC last year, at the Siebel open house. You can also read much more about Sarah at her featured beer tweeter interview/profile at Drink with the Wench. Join me in wishing Sarah a very happy birthday.

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Sarah with Ray Daniels at the Cicerone booth at last year’s CBC in Chicago.

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Sarah with Nico Freccia, from 21st Amendment.

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Sarah, building a bridge with Nicole Erny, also with the Cicerone program, and Justin Crossley of the Brewing Network trying to cross it.

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A bottle of New Glarus and AleSmith? That must have been one great evening.

[Note: all photos purloined from Facebook.]

Anheuser-Busch InBev Buys Goose Island

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I received a press release this morning that Anheuser-Busch InBev is buying a controlling interest in Goose Island Brewing. ABI will pay $22.5 million for a 58% share of the Chicago brewery and the remaining 42% currently owned by the Craft Brewers Alliance will be sold to ABI for an additional $16.3 million in cash, bringing the total price of the sale to $38.8 million. The Chicago Tribune is reporting that “[a]n additional $1.3 million will be invested to increase production at Goose Island’s Fulton Street brewery” and that the “transaction is expected to close by the end of June.”

From the press release:

Chicago-based Goose Island, one of the nation’s most‑respected and fastest-growing small brewers with sales concentrated throughout the Midwest, today announced it had agreed to be acquired by Anheuser‑Busch, its current distribution partner, in a move that will bring additional capital into Goose Island’s operations to meet growing consumer demand for its brands and deepen its Chicago and Midwest distribution.

Goose Island’s legal name is Fulton Street Brewery LLC (FSB). Anheuser-Busch reached an agreement to purchase the majority (58 percent) equity stake in FSB from its founders and investors, held in Goose Holdings Inc. (GHI), for $22.5 million. Craft Brewers Alliance Inc. (CBA), an independent, publicly traded brewer based in Portland, Ore., that operates Widmer Brothers, Redhook and Kona breweries, owns the remaining 42 percent of FSB and reached an agreement in principle to sell its stake in FSB to Anheuser-Busch for $16.3 million in cash. Anheuser‑Busch holds a minority stake (32.25 percent) in CBA.

Goose Island sold approximately 127,000 barrels of Honkers Ale, 312 Urban Wheat Ale, Matilda and other brands in 2010. To help meet immediate demand, an additional $1.3 million will be invested to increase Goose Island’s Chicago Fulton Street brewery’s production as early as this summer.

“Demand for our beers has grown beyond our capacity to serve our wholesale partners, retailers, and beer lovers,” said Goose Island founder and president John Hall, who will continue as Goose Island chief executive officer. “This partnership between our extraordinary artisanal brewing team and one of the best brewers in the world in Anheuser-Busch will bring resources to brew more beer here in Chicago to reach more beer drinkers, while continuing our development of new beer styles. This agreement helps us achieve our goals with an ideal partner who helped fuel our growth, appreciates our products and supports their success.”

Hall will continue to be responsible for Goose Island beer production and the expansion of Goose Island’s Chicago brewery, where production will continue and its business will still be based.

“The new structure will preserve the qualities that make Goose Island’s beers unique, strictly maintain our recipes and brewing processes,” Hall said. “We had several options, but we decided to go with Anheuser‑Busch because it was the best. The transaction is good for our stakeholders, employees and customers.”

Anheuser-Busch has distributed Goose Island brands since 2006 as part of an agreement with Widmer Brothers Brewing Co. of Portland, Ore., a co-founder of CBA, that provides Goose Island access to the network of independent wholesalers that distribute Anheuser-Busch beers. Anheuser‑Busch also provides logistical support to all Anheuser‑Busch wholesalers distributing Goose Island and CBA beers as part of that agreement.

“These critically acclaimed beers are the hometown pride of Chicagoans,” said Dave Peacock, president of Anheuser-Busch, Inc. “We are very committed to expanding in the high‑end beer segment, and this deal expands our portfolio of brands with high-quality, regional beers. As we share ideas and bring our different strengths and experiences together, we can accelerate the growth of these brands.”

The two Goose Island brew pubs are not part of the deal, but will continue in operation, offering consumers an opportunity to sample Goose Island’s award-winning specialty beers and food selections.
As part of CBA’s agreement to sell its 42 percent block in FSB to Anheuser-Busch, in addition to cash, Anheuser-Busch will provide enhanced retail selling support for CBA brands, will reduce distribution fees payable by CBA to Anheuser‑Busch and will provide CBA additional flexibility with respect to future acquisitions and divestitures.

In a separate press release today, Goose Island announced that Brett Porter will become Brewmaster of the production facility, replacing longtime brewmaster Greg Hall. Porter’s most recent brewing job was with Deschutes and he’s also brewed at Portland Brewing and a couple of UK breweries.

UPDATE: Goose Island founder John Hall has released a short statement about their acquisition by ABI, which they call a Special Announcement.

Make A Pipe Dream Come True: Invest In Pipeworks Brewery

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Looking for a unique gift for yourself or a loved one? Why not invest in a brewery? Seem like a pipe dream? Well, then the Pipeworks Brewery may be for you. Two self-avowed beer geeks living in Chicago, Beejay Oslon and Gerrit Lewis, are trying to raise enough money to make their dream of starting a small brewery a reality. They’re using Kickstarter to raise the $30,000 they need to fund their little brewery. So far, they’ve raised just over $17,000 with 20 days to go. That means they need to find another $13,000 before the end of the month.

Kickstarter is great. I’ve contributed to help fund projects before using it and it’s a great tool for microbusinesses and microfinancing. It’s a fun way to help people out, even strangers, if you like their idea. I’d encourage you to check out all the cool projects trying to get off the ground there. There are projects in Art, Comedy, Comics, Dance, Design, Fashion, Film & Video, Food, Games, Journalism, Music, Photography, Technology, Theater, and Writing & Publishing. For each project, the people lay out their idea and provide different levels of investment for you to pledge, and usually each level of participation gets you something related to their idea as a thank you. There’s a set time within which they have to reach the amount of money they need. If they don’t reach their goal, you don’t pay a dime, but if they do then your pledge kicks in and then (and only then) your account is charged. It feels very satisfying to help someone realize their dream, or at least kick start it. Not only are you helping fund an idea you believe it using alternative financing but you’re also building community at the same time.

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For the Pipeworks Brewery project, you can pledge as little as $5 or as much as $10,000. There are a dozen different levels available you can choose from to help them get started. You can read their story at the Kickstarter website, where they also post regular updates. But here’s the short version:

Pipeworks began as…

the dream of a couple of beer geeks right here in Chicago. Beejay Oslon and Gerrit Lewis started their adventures in fermentation within the plastic buckets and stovetop kettles of the home brewer. The two met while working at West Lakeview Liquors, a mom and pop liquor boutique on the north side boasting one of the best beer selections in the world. It wasn’t long before they began dreaming up plans for their own craft brewery.

In January of 2009, after some persistence, the Pipeworks boys landed an apprenticeship in Belgium with Ratebeer.com’s 2008 Brewer of the Year, Urbain Coutteau of De Struise Brouwers. Living and working alongside Urbain, the Pipeworks crew honed their skills,learning the traditions of Belgian brewing while mastering some innovative new techniques. To document these brewing adventures the boys started the popular Buckets to Barrels Blog hosted on De Struise’s site.

Pipeworks is…

— Beejay Oslon, a native of Chicago who began home-brewing while attending art school. Beejay serves as the head brewer, with over five years of experience in both brewing and craft beer retail. Through his experiences as a fine artist and graphic designer, he also serves as the creative director for Pipeworks.

— Gerrit Lewis, a transplant from the brewery-rich Colorado, armed with a sharp palate and lust for everything beer.He spends his time (and lots of his money) visiting at least one area beer store a day, seeking out the newest craft beer releases. Gerrit attended Loyola University Chicago Business School and considers himself a savvy and aggressive fresh-faced marketer.

And below is funny video that should get you fired up about their project.

To learn more about Pipeworks Brewing Co., you can visit their website, their blog or their Facebook page.
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The Chicago Beer Market

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Chicago Business has a lengthy, but interesting, article online about the beer market in the windy city. It’s entitled Pay-to-play infects Chicago beer market, Crain’s investigation finds, and was written by a trio of reporters: James Ylisela Jr., David Sterrett and Kate MacArthur.

Corruption, of course, infects virtually all business everywhere and while Chicago has an elevated reputation because of its history, it seems to me what is exposed here is happening in many places. When it comes to the smaller breweries, most just understand that they can either go along with it or not, based on their own individual company philosophy. I don’t think it makes any one of them good or bad, it’s just different responses to the markets in which they’re trying to sell their products. In a sense, there’s a trade off with the three-tier system. It has advantages and disadvantages that manifest themselves in different ways in different states. That’s what the film Beer Wars tried to expose, which is simply the uneasy way in which the beer industry actually works.

But give it a read and let me know what you think. Oh, and be sure to read all the comments, too.