Monday, April 28, 2008

Half Acre Hike.... Over and Out.

I decided a couple of months ago that I would walk a case of beer up the coast of Lake Michigan about 10 miles, without putting it down once. This was an effort to raise money for the local charity, First Slice, and to deliver the ceremonial first case of beer to the Heartland Café, the northern most location selling Half Acre Beer.

I’d been training by walking around town with a case of beer (makes sense). I’d gotten to the point where I could walk over an hour and feel pretty good. A case of our beer weighs a little over 30lbs and is pretty cumbersome, so eventually it just gets heavy and awkward, no matter what.

I’d walked the route I was going to walk without the case and it took 3.5 hours and was pretty tiring all by itself. Ten miles on pavement seems to be harder on your body than a natural trail of the same length. I knew that if I was going to make it without putting the case down I was going to have to walk fast and not stop at all.

I had some great people come out for the walk and hang out. Thanks to all those guys who made the effort and spent time. I can’t say how much I appreciate the support. It was a sunny, cool day with a bit too much wind, but all in all it was perfect case carrying weather.

Many kind people sponsored the walk to help and raise money and that in and of itself was motivation enough, but I had a couple close friends that doubted the fact that I might be able to go the whole way without putting it down. Frankly, I doubted it too, but their doubts served as a motivation of a different kind.

When all was said and done, I did it. I walked all ten miles in three hours without putting the case down once, raised some money for a really good cause, did something good for a place that sells our beer, got some positive press for Half Acre Beer Co and got to shatter my buddies (and my own) doubts in the possibility that it could be done.

As I type these words, my body is sore in ways I can’t remember experiencing. All the things that you would think hurt the most, feel fine. The pains come from nooks and crannies of my body that probably go unchallenged for the most part. I got my body to the point where my shoulders, biceps and standard muscle groups were fit and ready, but come two hours into carrying that case – joints started to hurt, the weight became too much for things that aren’t generally burdened, and I just had to grind it out.

This was a great experience. I’m very glad that I did it. I’m pretty certain that I won’t ever do it again. Maybe something else, but not this.

My buddy Paul – who had wagered against my success, and also joined me on a bike for a good portion of the walk – said to me numerous times, “I think this is the stupidest thing you’ve ever done.” Part of me can’t help but agree, but a bigger part of me is really glad to help out the folks that First Slice will aid with the funds raised (over $2,000), and another part is really glad to take Paul’s money and buy Half Acre Beer for the patrons of The Heartland Café.

Off to soak.

Monday, April 21, 2008

Big Cat

I was bellied up to the bar at Black Rock in Roscoe Village when my good friend Paul asked, “Did you hear about the Cougar?” My mind immediately pictured a woman in her early forties ready to pounce the nearest young buck, but I quickly realized he was referring to a Mountain Lion. I responded that I hadn’t (I might be the only one in Chicago who hadn’t). Paul then relayed a story about an actual Cougar that had been gunned down by the authorities in Roscoe Village.  

Read about it here

This falls in line with a number of strange Chicago occurrences that just shouldn’t be. I yap about them in earlier posts, so I won’t rehash, but lets just say I find all this to be curious. In general I welcome the bizarre, and as long as people aren’t banged up I’d prefer weird things to happen all the time, but this animal death is a real tragedy.

I imagine the cat took a wrong turn one day while romping atop land that was familiar. Maybe there just wasn’t any more food to be found in his stomping grounds. Maybe there was something wrong with him. I don’t know, but I bet he was taken to a lab where people with knives were eager to learn more about him and why he wound up on city streets. He must have been very scared running from one alien place to the next in the hope of finding a place that felt more comfortable. It’s likely he hadn’t eaten in a while and that surely didn’t help his ability to get his bearings. For a big cat like that to find its way into the city is unbelievable. His natural surroundings have to be many, many miles away. It’s possible that he’d never seen a car or a human before his trip to the big city. Maybe he did most of the travel at night and kept hidden during the day while unaware people went about their days. It’s also possible that he escaped from an owner who kept him as a pet – which, to me, is ridiculous.

It seems to me, though, that the authorities could have tranquilized him in the hopes of saving his life. Maybe there wasn’t the time and the folks on the scene had to consider the possibility that put in the wrong position, he would have swiped off the face of an unsuspecting citizen. I know I don’t think to peer around corners to make sure a 150lb cat isn’t poised, back arched ready to rip me into pieces. I’m sure our cities finest weren’t, understandably, prepared to deal with this situation in the best way possible.

Anyway, lets hope this Cougar isn’t the first of many large cats that decide the big city has some appealing qualities. The city has many looming issues – we don’t need the threat of being Cougar prey. And Cougars could certainly do without the warped reality we people have whipped up for ourselves.

Friday, April 18, 2008

Earthquakes & Toilet Seats

I have to say that things seem to get more and more strange all the time. Last night I woke up because things on the bookshelf were rattling. I assumed that it was my dog creating a ruckus of some kind, so I yelled at him to chill out and did my best to get back to sleep. However, my father called this morning to tell me that it was an earthquake. Just for the record, I live in Chicago. Chicago is not a place that has earthquakes or most weather phenomenon for that matter. The winter sucks here, that’s for sure, but as far the whole natural destruction of life thing goes, Chicago is pretty user friendly. Granted, this earthquake didn’t take lives or do much other than wake people from slumber, but still. If Chicago flips some sort of core switch that allows for new types of natural disaster to be placed on top of the already shitty winters – I’m out of here.

Read about it

In other not so new news, but equally strange, a woman in Kansas was recently taken to the hospital after her boyfriend informed authorities that she’d been on his toilet for the last two years, and that her body had grown around the toilet seat. This one is bizarre on so many levels I’m not sure where to start. 1. What was his cause for alarm? Was he concerned because the seat had finally become rooter in her body or did his personal time evaluator finally go off telling him that more than two years on the toilet was just too much? 2. What the hell was this poor woman doing for two years on the toilet? I think we all have a special place in out hearts reserved for quiet time on the toilet, but two years! Maybe she had some sort of Sudoku fetish or something that kept her so engrossed that she toiled away until falling asleep, then woke and kept on rolling, for two years. 3. Food. I assume that her caring boyfriend brought her meals cooked with love, but he had to leave the house at times. She must have created a bathroom pantry accessible from her perch so that she could gobble up snacks when the mood hit, which I’m guessing was often. They didn’t include her body weight in the
article I read, but I think we can assume she’s in the higher percentile. 4. What about the rest of the world. Did she not have a single friend or family member that would have asked “Hey, why haven’t I seen you in two years?” Didn’t this boyfriend have some buddies that might have asked why he never brought his girlfriend around to hang out?

It’s hard to imagine that these things are happening relatively close to you to people that are relatively like you. When you go home and take some time to sit on the toilet take a second to think what that would be like for the next two years, with earthquakes rattling earth around you.

Half Acre Beer Co
Chicago, IL

Thursday, April 17, 2008

"Craft" Beer

My last post, the article published by The Chicago Tribune about Goose Island closing their brewpub and the general happenings surrounding Half Acre Beer Co , got me thinking. The Brewers Association, and subsequently the Chicago Tribune, knocked Goose Island for not being a “Craft,” beer company because more than 25% of their company is owned by a “Non-Craft,” beer company, referring to Widmer Brothers / Anhueser-Busch. To me, this is crazy. defines the word craft as an art, trade, or occupation requiring special skill, esp. manual skill. I think I personally think about craft along the same lines. What I don’t get is why anyone would base a classification of craft based on who owns how much of something. I would think the classification would directly relate to how they go about making what it is they make. Thinking about it based on ownership would allow a company that was 100% independently owned and operated to defrost some sort of beer popsicle into a bottle, put a cap on it and they’d be a “craft,” beer company just the same as if they were going to great lengths to foster thoughtful practices mindful of actual craftsmenship.

We chose to begin our company with the help of another brewing company in Black River Falls, WI. We develop our own recipes then brew them with the help of their staff. This was much less expensive and a way for us to build some awareness, productions numbers and know-how before plunging face first into building a brewery. To most people, they couldn’t care less. They’re excited that we offer more beer to Chicago and that we’re out there giving it a shot and making things work in the way that makes sense to us. However, there is a small group of folks that this bothers. To them, we’re not as true to the ‘craft’ and our process is somehow tainted. We’re up-front about our process and why we chose this route. Our beer is brewed in small batches, by hand with the best ingredients mother nature has to offer, but because our staff is also employed by another brewing co, we’re offending an unwritten rule.

All in all, regardless of who is defining whom as what, people have to make decisions that respect the best interests of the people and products involved. I’m sure John Hall isn’t losing any sleep over other people’s definition of Goose Island’s process, but how can it not be a thorn in his side when his company has been making beer by hand for 20 years.

Me on the other hand, obviously I’m a little prickly, and more than once I’ve refrained from laying into someone with an explanation on how hard it is to get something like this off the ground. But then I remember that we have a fun company that has positive intentions for the brewing community, respect the integrity of the brewing process and appreciate the people nice enough to buy our beer.

Brewery tours available soon....

Half Acre Beer Co
Chicago, IL

Landlord Strangles Goose

After 20 years of expanding the minds of Chicago beer drinkers, The
Goose Island Brewpub will close its doors at the end of this year. It’s a shame because that brewpub helped to make a name for craft beer in Chicago. The beer brewed at that location opened the eyes of many folks to the fact that better beer was worth their time and money. It helped to show people that beer comes in many shades and can offer a wide array of experiences. Somebody had to pave the way and Goose Island had a large hand in all that. Not to mention that they house the classroom for The Siebel Institute, one of America’s leading educational institutions for the brewing industry. But, Siebel will find another home – it might even spur a new direction in how they go about their process, and The Hall Family can build or lease a new space – it might be the location of their dreams that alleviates any issues they’ve dealt with at that location for the last twenty years.

This must be a real bummer for Will, the brewer that makes all the beer at that location. I imagine he really likes his job and the wide array of beers he’s able to make as a result. It’s also tough for groups like the Chicago Beer Society that have met there for some time. You won’t find too many establishment owners that welcome groups of people who bring their own beer and take up space where paying customers might sit. That’s pretty great. It’s also tough for the many people who frequent that pub looking for a good beer that might not make the trip to Wrigleyville or the next location. The next entity that leases that space will likely be much less interesting and add little to the cultural fabric of Chicago.

Chicago Tribune article that published the story talks about all this and also dives into their relationship with Widmer Brothers Brewing Co / Anhueser-Busch. With the help of the Brewers Association that debate their “craft beer-maker,” status. It’s kind of amusing, but that topic will be addressed in the next post.

Good Luck to the Goose, but at this point they don’t need it.

Monday, April 7, 2008

Building Our Brewery

We've been perusing the brewing forums of the world in search of a
brewhouse that might be a good fit for our needs.  The industry is pretty robust these days so used systems don't become available often and when they do there are hungry start-ups like ours circling to get their hands on it.  

One such system became available the other day and we were mildly quick to make contact.  This is a good brewhouse that's seem some action.  It would be coming from a brewing co that has a great reputation and makes good beer.  I won't get any more specific than that should the ghouls of brewing who also want this system be reading these words, but it's good stock coming from good brewers.  

By the time we reacted we weren't the only ones.  These days a lot of purchases are made sight unseen, which to me is crazy, but I guess that's the way it can go.  Either way, our interest was tempered by this other "interested party."  We decided to keep full steam ahead and do what we could to feel out the opportunity.  Matt, my coworker who is heading up this part of the project, was going to fly out to this unnamed western state(remember the ghouls) to see it, but was going to be attending the Siebel Institute this week for a class on starting a brewery.  This class was expensive and stands to be very helpful to us.  

Well, after booking plane flights and hiring consultants and doing our due diligence we're set to investigate it to the fullest.  What's amusing is that when Matt attended the first day of the course today, he happened to be sitting next to a guy who was looking at buying a brewhouse in an unnamed western state coming from a respectable brewing co.  Small world -- the ghouls might be right next to you.  I had to laugh at that one.  The guy said that he isn't quite ready to make the purchase and we're now the lead horse.  We'll see what comes of this.

If nothing else, Matt will get to spend some time in a beautiful unnamed western state.

Half Acre Beer Co

Half Acre Hike Trial

On Saturday, with some great company, I did a dry run of the Half Acre Hike.  We began at the Monroe Harbor and hoofed all the way up the lake to 7000 North, hung a left and landed at the Heartland Cafe -- more than 70 blocks.  The whole walk took three and half hours.  It's a good walk, a walk most could do.  However, this case of beer will be a cumbersome addition creating a whole different challenge.  

At times during the walk I'd imagine myself with the case, the weight, and think that I might be in for not only a painful experience, but an impossible one.  Three and a half hours is a long time to hold pretty much anything, or do anything for that matter.  I'm really not sure, but I'm looking forward to the challenge.  

The worst thing that could happen would be the need to pass it off to someone walking with me, and that's not that bad.  The case will get there, and for right now, I think I'm going to be the one to get all the way there.

I just hope the weather is as nice as this past Saturday.  What a treat at the tail end of a pretty morbid winter season.

Half Acre Beer Co