C.H.A.O.S. Diaspora: When Homebrewers Go Pro, Part 1

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By Calvin Fredrickson


C.H.A.O.S. brew club is a homebrew collective located in Chicago’s Near West Side. Established in 2011, C.H.A.O.S provides brewing resources to budding homebrewers, from equipment, to cellaring space, to camaraderie. But if you’re just looking for a good time without a serious commitment to brewing, do not miss their seasonal parties, which are open to the public through a trial membership. A dazzling array of food – prepared by C.H.A.O.S. homebrewers –is served alongside adventurous homebrew with a deftness to make an epicurean blush. Their annual Cerveza de Mayo is May 7th, 2016. See chaosbrewclub.net for more info.

Many homebrewers dream of taking their stovetop batches to a commercial scale. The following homebrewers did just that. Some were present at C.H.A.O.S. from its inception, or close to it, while others had only a brief involvement with the club. One thing is certain of these homebrewers: their shared goal of working in the beer industry was impacted by their time at C.H.A.O.S. These homebrewers found a way to go pro. We hope their stories inspire you like they inspired us. Our first installment features Christopher Murphy and Curtis J. Tarver II + Quintin L. Cole

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Christopher Murphy
Occupation before going pro: Web/graphic designer
Currently: Senior web/graphic designer, Louis Glunz Beer Inc.

How and when did you catch the homebrewing bug?

My wife and I got a Coopers homebrew kit for our wedding. We made a bad lager from extract. Not too long after we met co-founders Iggy Ignaczak and David Williams and joined C.H.A.O.S., we started doing all-grain batches. From there, our excitement just took off. We were also pretty engaged in the Brew Ha Ha events as well, on both sides of the table.

C.H.A.O.S. members range from casual to obsessive homebrewers. Where did you fall on that spectrum?

These days I’m casually obsessive. I have a two-year-old son, with a daughter on the way, so I haven’t had time to brew as much as I once did. When I get the chance, I am obsessive about it, researching classic styles, dialing in water profiles and geeking out about the finer details of homebrewing.

Did you have an epiphany homebrew where you said, “Man, I could sell this. I should make a go of it”? 

I never really sought out a “beer career” – I was fortunate that it found me. I quit a job I was miserable at, and the position at Glunz came about at the same time.

So, how did you “go pro?”

My wife, Jessica of GirlsLikeBeerToo.net, was asked to blog the visit of the Hirter Bier’s brewery staff at Temperance in association with the Hirter Überbrew homebrew competition, and I tagged along as photographer as I often do. There, we met Jennifer, the marketing manager at Glunz. A few weeks later, she was looking for a designer. I had just quit my previous job and was looking for something new and it all worked out.

What does your role at Glunz entail?

I do a broad range of things at Glunz. Currently, I am working on a major update to glunzbeers.com. I also work on the catalogs and do some product photography in a pinch. There was also an opportunity to work on some co-branded beers with Anchor. I put together art for S.O.B. Ale for Shaw’s Oyster Bar, and Green Door Lager for Green Door Tavern. The work here has been very fulfilling.

Which of Glunz’s portfolio’s beers are you jazzed about?

Lindemans is going to be regularly releasing their Kriek Cuvée René. This is a more traditional lambic and not the super sweetened kriek most people are familiar with. While I love local craft, these days I get excited about niche and forgotten import styles of beer. A good example is Pinkus Münster Alt, which is not your typical dark altbier; it’s more like a cross between helles lager and saison. It has the nice bready malt base with a lovely floral and spicy fragrance and overtones.

Any advice for homebrewers or beer freaks lookin’ to go pro?

Get involved with the community however that may be: blogging, volunteering for bottling, events, design and art. The Chicago beer community is tight and networking is everything. At the very least you’ll meet a good bunch of people with a passion for beer and drink the best beer.

CHAOS_Curtis-J.-Tarver-II-+-Quintin-L.-Cole_photo_by_Calvin_fredrickson_web

Curtis J. Tarver II + Quintin L. Cole 
Occupations before going pro: Lawyer (Curtis) and physical therapist (Quintin)
Current industry gig: Co-owners, Vice District Brewing Co.

How and when did you catch the homebrewing bug?

We both learned early on in 2011 when we met (during the blizzard of 2011) that we enjoyed drinking beer but also we wanted to start homebrewing. So, it was five years ago now that we jumped all in and we haven’t turned back.

C.H.A.O.S. members range from casual to obsessive homebrewers. Where did you fall on that spectrum?

We were obsessive. We brewed two to three times per week. Q traveled a lot for work so he’d mostly have to brew on weekends. He’d brew all weekend. Curtis’ job is based in Chicago, so he would brew throughout the week.

Did you have an epiphany homebrew where you said, “Man, I could sell this. I should make a go of it”? 

No, we didn’t have an epiphany. We had people who enjoyed our beer. We just wanted to make beer for the creative aspect – not to sell. The epiphany was really our wives kicking us out of the basement.

So, how did you “go pro?” 

With full-time jobs, wives, and children (Curtis has two little ones under three), the option to volunteer here or there wasn’t realistic. The only option for us was to start our own thing. We know each other – we know our respective commitment and drive. So, rather than asking others to gamble on us with their business, we asked friends and family to gamble on us with our own business.

What does your role at Vice District entail?

We have a head brewer, Amanda Bates, who is phenomenal. Our role at the brewery is really assisting her as needed. We can’t brew as obsessively as we did while homebrewing because now we have to run essentially two businesses and two locations (our second location in Homewood, IL will be open this summer).

What’s the latest at Vice District, and which of your beers are you jazzed about?

The latest is our expansion project. We are super excited about the ability to get beer into cans and kegs and out into the market. The response to the taproom has been outstanding and we hope to carry that forward. The beer we are most stoked about right now is called Far from Ordinary, which is an English Best Bitter.

Any advice for homebrewers or beer freaks lookin’ to go pro?

Do it for the right reasons, for the creative process and the ability to share good beer with good people. If you are chasing money, this isn’t the right space.

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