BY JOHN ROSZKOWSKI
January 2, 2012 6:00PM
Bruce Dir recently opened Tighthead Brewery in Mundelein. The microbrewery supplies various bars and venues as well as offering a tasting bar at its location near the Metra Station in downtown Mundelein. | Dan Luedert~Sun-Times Media
Updated: January 2, 2012 6:18PM
Bruce Dir has turned his passion for craft beer into a new career.
Dir is owner and founder of Tighthead Brewing Co., Mundelein’s newest microbrewery located on Archer Avenue near the downtown Metra station.
With money he saved over the years and help from a Small Business Administration loan, Dir converted a portion of the former Anatol building into the new Tighthead Brewery. The business opened up its tap room area to the public Dec. 22, giving residents a taste of some of Tighthead’s unique craft beers. Those include the Comfortably Blond Ale, the Scarlet Fire Red Ale, the Irie IPA (India Pale Ale) and the Boxcar Porter, a dark, rich winter seasonal beer.
Pints of beer range from $4.75 to $5.75 depending upon the type of brew customers choose. They can also purchase 64-ounce sealed jugs of beer, known as growlers.
Dir said the crowds have been good during the first few days since the bar area opened.
“It’s a pretty diverse crowd,” said Dir. “We’ve had older people coming in along with couples sitting right next to 21 year olds. But everyone has an appreciation for craft beer. That’s the common theme.”
Dir has plenty of experience brewing craft beer. He has been home-brewing beer for 17 years and is part of the Babble Homebrewing Club, which has held home brewing demonstrations the past two years during Mundelein Days. He worked for about a year at Flatlander’s Restaurant and Brewery in Lincolnshire as an assistant brewer and obtained a commercial brewing certificate from the Siebel Institute of Technology in Chicago in 2010.
Early customers were not disappointed by the quality of the beer.
Eric Bruce of Grayslake visited the tap room of the brewery with a friend, Mike Catuara of Chicago. It was his second visit to the brewery since the bar opened.
“I used to be part of the Babble Homebrewing Club years ago and I knew Bruce and I knew it would be good,” he said. “All the beers are really outstanding, really high quality.”
Dan and Valerie Morey of Mundelein were excited when the bar area finally opened.
Valerie Morey is particularly fond of the India Pale Ale, while Dan Morey likes the variety of brews that are offered and looks forward to the brewery’s selection of seasonal brews.
Dan Morey thinks the brewery will prove to be a popular attraction for residents of Mundelein and surrounding communities.
“I think Mundelein is a little underappreciated in terms of the villages around this area, and I think he’s trying to change that image,” he said. “I know Mundelein’s excited about having them here. I think it’s going to be a real good thing.”
The bar area, however, will only be a small part of the brewery’s business. Tighthead Brewery is a commercial production brewery that produces kegs of different varieties of brew for bars and restaurants throughout the area.
Dir said they’ve already sold beer to a number of Lake County bars and restaurants, including Park Street restaurant in Mundelein, Gale Street Inn in Mundelein, Firkin’s in Libertyville, Whirlyball in Vernon Hills, Cubbie Bear North in Lincolnshire, Biaggi’s in Deerfield and the Vine in Grayslake. He said they plan to expand their distribution into parts of Cook County this month.
“We’ll be expanding our distribution quite a bit and it will open up a lot more opportunities,” he said.
Dir said the brewery plans to add brewery tours on weekends and hopes to add some outdoor events in the parking lot during warmer months.
“I’ve told the village that breweries are destination spots,” he said. “A lot of people like to do tastings and like to do tours.”
Hours of operation for the bar area are Wednesday through Friday, 4-10 p.m.; Saturdays, noon to 10 p.m.; and Sundays, noon to 6 p.m.
More information about Tighthead Brewery is available at the company’s Web site, www.tightheadbrewing.com, on Facebook at www.facebook.com/pages/Tighthead-Brewing or by calling (847) 970-9174.
Court Conn and his sons have been home-brewing beer for four or five years.
“We’ve made some great beers,” he said. “Now, we’re going bigger.”
Conn and his wife, Karen, plan to open Obed and Isaac’s Microbrewery Eatery in mid-January, just steps from Lincoln’s Home.
The project was once planned for the so-called Maisenbacher House, the building that was moved five blocks on wheels three years ago to avoid a wrecking ball. Conn said installing a restaurant and bar inside the Maisenbacher House ended up being too expensive.
Instead, the Conns will open a microbrewery inside a 100-year-old carriage house on the Maisenbacher property, and the restaurant will be just across the alley in the historic Booth-Grunendike House and carriage house at Sixth and Jackson streets.
The microbrewery eventually will feature 12 specialty beers. Their first will be called “Obed’s Pride,” an amber ale. Their beer selection also will include an India pale ale, a porter and a stout.
“We’re really going to be big on seasonals,” Conn said. “We want to do the off-the-wall stuff.” (Take for example, a watermelon wheat beer he brewed back in August using fresh watermelon from Beardstown.)
Once brewed, the beer will be piped under the alley, fresh to the taps inside Obed and Isaac’s. Patrons also will be able to take home half-gallon growler jugs of beer, but the Conns have no plans to be distributors.
The bar and restaurant, which will be open seven days a week, will be on the first floor of the Booth-Grunendike House and carriage house.
Court Conn said they expect the restaurant to be family friendly, with a “middle of the road” menu — not bar food, but not fancy enough for white tablecloths, either.
The eatery will have seating for more than 90 people in six rooms, with additional al fresco dining available during the warmer months, Conn said.
Outdoor diners, he said, will have a view of Lincoln’s Home and the Capitol. The couple also hopes to capitalize on traffic from the nearby Hoogland Center for the Arts.
“There are people who think the location’s nuts,” Conn said. “We don’t think it is. We think just it’s an area that’s underdeveloped. And maybe we’ll be the catalyst for other development in the neighborhood.”
Years in making
The project has been in the works for years. But a microbrewery and restaurant weren’t part of the original plans. Neither was buying two houses.
The Conns’ restoration project was originally planned for the Maisenbacher House, which originally was at 1028 S. Seventh St.
The Maisenbacher building, one of about 100 Lincoln-era structures left in Springfield, was in danger of being torn down for a parking lot as part of Springfield Clinic’s expansion.
In October 2008, the Springfield City Council approved a last-minute agreement that allowed the building to be moved five blocks north, to Seventh and Jackson streets, rather than be demolished.
The exterior of the Maisenbacher House will still be restored, Conn said, but interior renovations will wait for now.
After the Conns determined it wasn’t practical to put a microbrewery and restaurant in the Maisenbacher building, they purchased the next-door Booth-Grunendike mansion, which had been in foreclosure.
Deana Stroisch can be reached at 788-1533.
What’s with the name?
The lot at Seventh and Jackson streets where the Maisenbacher House sits formerly was the site of a home owned by Obed Lewis. That building was torn down so the Maisenbacher House could be moved there. And the Maisenbacher House originally was built by Isaac Lindsay (with the help of a $650 loan from Abraham Lincoln).
Hence the name: Obed and Isaac’s.
Follow the project online
Time’s running out for making a bottle of wine for holiday gift-giving, but only if you expect someone to sip the gift by year’s end.
There’s another option, and one that suits customers’ tastes, according to the owners of Bootleggers Beer Wine Home Brewing Supplies, at 650 Oakfield Drive in Brandon.
Recognizing that it takes anywhere from weeks to months to age a bottle of wine, Bootleggers co-owner Darcy Hermida said customers can start the process now, then wrap up a bottle with a note that informs the recipient of the wine that’s yet to come.
“We have a lot of people doing that, gifting a bottle with a little note that says, ‘Please don’t drink this until next year,’ or noting that the wine’s not ready yet, but will be for a person’s anniversary or some other special occasion,” Hermida said.
Add to that the home-brewing beer kits and brewing supplies available, along with an assortment of related knick-knacks, and you’ve got a handle on the generalities of a small business that has grown from 10,000 to 30,000 items of inventory, according to Hermid and her partner, Carole Faessler, who came up with the idea for a small business in Brandon focusing on home brewing.
“It’s been a hobby of mine for a long time, 18 years or so, and I got started because store-bought wine was giving me headaches and making me sick,” Faessler said. “An older couple taught me how to do it and I’ve been off and running ever since.”
What doesn’t make Faessler sick now, she said, is the absence of preservatives.
“In store-bought wine, there has to be a certain amount of preservatives because nobody knows how long it will sit on the shelf or how long somebody will take to drink it,” she said. “When you do home brew you don’t have to put preservatives in it. A lot of people who can’t drink store-bought wine can drink this wine.”
The cost of home-brewed wine depends on taste, and can range from around $60 to $200. Available to brew is anything from a value wine to a high-end wine, like Stag’s Leap District Merlot, “which you can buy, on sale, for $40 to $50, but we make it here for $6 to $7 a bottle,” Faessler said.
“We sell a brewing platform, which is the cost of the rental of equipment and space to brew here, for $40,” Hermida said. “And then it’s an ingredient thing, whatever they want for ingredients, and whether they want to bring clean bottles from home or even reuse store-bought bottles, as long as the labels are scraped and the bottle are clean.”
Only wine, though, is processed on site, “a very simple process.” Hermida said. “The beer you do at home. The process is an hour, a second process is two hours with cleaning and another process takes about six hours. It depends on what you want to do.”
The Bootleggers Beer Club meets the third Wednesday of the month at O’Brien’s Irish Pub on Lumsden Road in Brandon. Club members “are very knowledgeable and the process is part of their presentation at the night meetings,” Hermida said. “Sometimes they brew at home and invite club members there. They bring in samples to taste so people know what home-brewed beer tastes like.”
In a nutshell?
“It’s like making a cake,” she said. “If you like extra chocolate, you throw a little extra chocolate in there. There’s no control [to brewing beer] outside of what you want to do with it.”
To brew a beer, you need — and Bootleggers stocks — grains and liquid malt extract and dry malt extract. “You use less of some or more of others,” Hermid said.
“Yeast, it’s one of the most important factors in making beer, and we have a variety of hops,” she added. “When you enter the ingredients, at what stage of the brewing, it’s all very scientific.”
But it’s not rocket science to figure out why Greater Brandon residents should support the shop-small movement exemplified on such days as the Saturday after Thanksgiving, for what has become known as “Shop Small Saturday.”
“Better prices, better customer service, with one- on-one contact, and to give back to the community,” Hermida said.
As for home brewing, “it’s also a fun hobby,” she added. “Both my partner and I enjoy this. We wanted to share this experience with other people.”
And, she added, “sampling is free any time our store is open.”
Also available are fter-hours parties at Bootleggers, from 6-8 p.m. by appointment, aimed for small-group gatherings, such as “bridal parties, Rotarian gatherings, a girls’ night out,” Faessler said. There is no cost to rent the facility, only a minimum to create three batches of wine.
For information, call: 813-643-9463.
Six years ago Eric and Ginger Bowden received a home-brewing beer starter kit as a Christmas gift from Ginger’s parents.
“When we stared home brewing, we talked about how much fun it would be to retire and own a brewery,” Ginger said.
Now they are the owners of The Bucket, a home brewing supplies store, located at 510 East Main Street in Vernal, which offers everything home brewers need to begin their own beer brewing, cider pressing or wine making journey.
The Bucket is just the beginning in the Bowden’s and father-in-law Bill Zimmerman’s goal to bring a brewery to the Uintah Basin.
Zimmerman, also received beer making kit as a gift from his wife years before and started to brew beer about 15 years ago, making it somewhat of a family tradition.
“We acquired the strip mall on Main Street and opened The Bucket to break ground in the spring on the lot behind to build the brewery,” he said.
The first part of their plan was to open the home brewer’s supply store, then open a brewery, and finally open a family-friendly restaurant on the corner.
Eric said their long-term plan has moved up faster than they first thought with considerably more local interest than anticipated.
“We thought we’d start with maybe one or two people who home brewed,” he said. “But it’s been more like 10 to 15 people locally.”
Since opening in October it has been a steady stream of patrons coming to The Bucket from across the Basin.
Architectural plans have been drawn for a 5,000-square-foot brewery with a brew-house to make the beer, a tap room for 20 or 30 visitors along with a kitchen and garden area.
They will brew four flagship beers available year-round along with specialty beers only available seasonally.
Ginger said local ordinances for a brewery were written specifically for their venture, because none previously existed in Vernal or Uintah County. Both the city and county recently passed ordinances for a brewery.
“It’s a 21-or-older restriction and the ordinance requires that some food be served in the tap room,” she said.
For now, the business license for The Bucket is a straight marketing venture without any alcohol on the premises.
It has taken the family years to hone their beer-making craft by visiting different breweries in California, Colorado, Hawaii, Oregon, Washington, Wyoming and, of course, Utah.
Zimmerman, owner of ZECO field service support company, hopes the idea catches on.
He would like to see a Basin-wide association of home brewers get together to share recipes or produce festive brews, or “maybe even sell specialty brewed beer through the brewery for charity events, and what not,” he said.
Home brewers craft success
Published 10:19pm Wednesday, October 19, 2011
SAWYER — As soon as Greenbush Brewing Co. opened its doors, it was turning a profit.
The beer is pretty darned good, but don’t discount the vision, execution and the passion of those who continue to pour the brew each day.
Scott Sullivan, Greenbush’s brewer extraordinaire, was not actively pursuing that particular career path when he discovered home brewing.
“I was living in Chicago, and I was building furniture and woodworking and stuff,” he says, sitting at one of Greenbush’s pub tables.
It was February 2008. Sullivan had injured his hand and was not working when a friend gave him a home-brewing beer kit for Christmas.
Sullivan was interested.
“We were like, wow. This is kind of fun,” Sullivan said.
He and friend Justin Heckathorn began brewing beer and giving it to friends.
“We were handing it out to people and people were saying, ‘this is awesome, you could sell that beer,’” Sullivan said.
But the two wanted to move beyond small batches of beer for their own consumption; Sullivan says they wanted to “do this the right way.”
“So we wrote a business plan, started looking around for space, looking for money,” he says.
They found it in the center of Sawyer.
They found friends who were willing to fund renovations to their location at 5885 Sawyer Rd., which gave the new business a leg up and saved debt.
Then, they brought in brewing equipment formerly used by the San Francisco Brewing Co.
“By that point, I had been brewing once a week at least,” Sullivan says.
Meanwhile, Greenbush’s resident “ambassador of everything,” Jill Sites, who had been managing the Wine Shop in Three Oaks, watched as beer lovers fawned over Greenbush’s brews during Beerfest, an event she was running in October 2009.
“Everyone was at his table the whole night,” she said. “It was awesome.”
Sites took a six-pack of Sullivan’s beer to New York with a group of friends, and she heard rave reviews again
To further cement its following, Sullivan said he and Heckathorn handed out nearly 9,000 bottles of beer in three
At Beerfest, “our table got smoked,” Sullivan said. A distributor even approached them.
The buzz grew stronger as Sullivan and Heckathorn were preparing their space and soon things started falling into place. Three distributors were after the two friends for their brews, “we ended up in the unique position to pick our distributor,” he said. “That gave us a little confidence being able to pick what we did along the way.”
One could say the rest is history — but it’s certainly a short history. Greenbush Brewing Co.’s rise to success — and the company can certainly boast of its success — has been strong and swift.
Inside the brewery feels more like stepping into the in-home bar of a good friend rather than a carefully marketed establishment like some other taprooms.
The music spills out into the main room and over the open ceilings where glass windows allow patrons to watch the brewing process.
Greenbush offers a straightforward list of brews and each is clean and clear in its flavors.
Sullivan can rattle off every element of his brews like anyone else might rattle off the alphabet, and Sites can tell which one he’s talking about before he’s even finished.
The two are examples of the synergy that goes on behind Greenbush’s bar.
Greenbush is going strong.
The taproom is open all year and, in the fall, they’ll be rolling out brews in the Chicago area.
They’re already on shelves from Traverse City to South Bend and Michigan City, Ind.
“I think we’re in an interesting position,” Sites said. “We’re in the best place to do business period.”
Even with its marginal success, thinking back to that moment when Heckathorn and Sullivan, two friends who enjoyed good beer, thought about going into business — Sullivan said Greenbush has been a pleasant surprise.
“None of us really had a vision for it to go as far as it’s already gone,” he said.
“We have these great relationships,” Sites said of the company and the people who have helped along the way.
“But we back it up with the beer. And thank God, the people love the beer.”
For more, go to www.greenbushbrewingcompany.com.
The U.S. Manufacturing Myth: Why China’s Rattled!
China is losing its edge. It’s now cheaper to make something in Baltimore than Beijing. U.S. manufacturing is surging back! A top analyst at TheStreet has identified a small company at the epicenter of this long-term megatrend. Get its name in our free report called, “The Little-Known Industrial Stock With Huge Upside Potential.“
- beer at home
- beer brewing equipment
- beer brewing kits
- beer brewing supplies
- beer kits
- beer making
- brew beer at home
- brew your own
- brewing at home
- brewing yeast
- home beer brewing
- home brew
- home brew beer
- home brew cider
- home brew kits
- home brew supplies
- home brewery
- home brewing
- home brewing equipment
- home brewing for
- home brewing kits
- home brewing supplies
- your own beer