by Ms. Rachel Driver, Manager of LUSH
Way back in November, I set up a beer brewing class for Michael’s birthday down at Bev Art in the Beverly neighborhood of Chicago. Bev Art is the fantasically grassroots, hands-on project of Mr. Greg Fischer. The shop is a jumble of wine and beer making supplies, as well as grapes from California, and bottling equipment. Across the street, on the ‘wet’ side of Beverly, Mr. Fischer has a classroom setup for the actually brewing of wine, beer, and mead. He has been homebrewing and tinkering with winemaking since he was quite young…and has been teaching the process for at least 15 years. Greg is lively and eccentric…just the type of guy I want to get educated by.
BEV ART, 10033 South Western, Chicago, IL 60643. (773) 233-7579.
*Sidenote, beyond conducting winemaking and brewing courses and selling supplies, Greg also creates and distributes lovely local meads under the delightful moniker Wild Blossom Meadery. He keeps bees in the Cook County Forest Preserves, each strategically placed to collect a certain type of pollen and make distinctively flavored honey. These nuances are compounded by Greg’s extreme infusion of wild fruit, chocolate, and bourbon barrel aging. Try them at LUSH on Roscoe!
*Second sidenote…all these photos were taken on my phone, so they may not be the best quality. I can’t believe I left my camera at home. Doh!
Alright, back to brewing. Michael and I joined approximately 10 other enthusiastic first time brewers and one old hand. Most of them, ironically, were couples…the boys had November birthdays and the gals were treating them to a fun filled day of beer. I believe that our group was brewing one fruit based beer, a cherry lambic if I recall properly, one Scotch ale, three Chimay clones, a wheat beer, and our big, bad Belgian Abbey. Greg kicked off class briefly explaining the setup and steps he had already taken, poured us a bit of wheat beer from his 1/6 barrel supply, and popped in the ‘3 Stooges’ to exemplify how not to brew beer…funny episode set during Prohibition. We then jumped right in to the hands-on process of brewing an entire 6 gallon batch. I won’t bore you with the details, or steal Greg’s thunder, so go take a class yourself. We tried a bit more beer from Greg’s personal supply…my favorite was a phenomenal honey rye, and a Dogfish Head Pumpkin Porter clone. Tasty.
I kept sneaking glances at the other brewers’ ingredients and the process, and also chatted loudly about Lush…imagine that. Michael and I had really great Belgian Trappist yeast, yay!, big huge brown rock sugar crystals, and a whole bunch of malt…two types. We all shared a couple steeping containers and a specific blend of hops and grain, premixed for our particular brew. We added ingredients, stirred, measured, stirred, drank more beer, and then tasted our concoction, measured the sugar and predicted alcohol levels, and drank some more. After a very exiliharting afternoon of brewing with good friends, we slammed on the toop of the brewing bucket and put it aside to do it’s thing for 2 weeks…Greg and company keep an eye on the process and transfer, add hops, and adjust if needed.
After two weeks, we made an appointment to bottle and trekked back down to Beverly. We chose to bring our own bottles, I recycled for a few weeks and got a boost from the Goose Island Bourbon County Stout event at Lush, but rounding up 60 bottles is kinda insane. Greg sells them at a very reasonable price, and also has all equipment necessary…crown closures, a capper, the tubing, and sanitizer! One other classmate was bottle, as well. Greg carbonated a bit of our beer for us so we wouldn’t be too thirsty, and gave us a few samples of the new mead infusions he was working on, too. Thanks, Greg.
I believe we came home with 55 bottles. Once the bottles made it home, we settled them into a dark, cool spot and let them finish the second fermentation and carbonation process. Since our yeasts and such are still in the bottle, the aging is super helpful and just deepens the flavor. Our brew is about 8%, with a bright, lovely citrus note upfront, with a touch of malty brown sugar and caramel frame. The hops are well balanced. Yum.
Should you want to schedule a beer or winemaking class, just holler at Greg. He also customizes courses and travels to do on-site classes. If you want some mead, visit Lush at 2232 West Roscoe. And, check out Lily’s post on this blog for more tasting notes on Wild Blossom Meads.
To finish off our afternoon properly, we drove down to Three Floyds Brewery and Pub for tasty food and brews.