Paul Schneider Brewer
Paul Schneider

SOVER Summit: A Wandawega Weekend

We might be crazy. When we decided to design an entire line of t-shirts complete with an online store concept and all the sales and marketing work that follows in a single weekend, we had no idea if it would work. We crossed our fingers and loaded our cars with plenty of beer in case it didn’t.

We had plenty of reason to bring the beer. When we treated a friend well-versed in the fashion industry to drinks in exchange for his thoughts on the SOVER concept, he told us we should be trying to get our shirts on Shaun White if we ever wanted to make anything of it. “Fashion isn’t like beer. Chicago isn’t a city that cares about apparel,” he warned. “Food and drink are king and queen here,” which is true.

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Taxation Without Representation? Come At Me Bro

In honor of the 237th anniversary of our country saying “bugger off” to King George, we thought this would be a good opportunity to hold a mirror up to America and get us all back on track in a few key areas.

As you man the grill, smuggle fireworks into the state, and reflect on the Supreme Court’s recent decisions affecting the rights and liberties of tens of millions of Americans, please take a moment to stop ruining the American experience for the rest of us. Here are five easy ways. Get on it.

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The Zahm

You can’t observe how fast a train can go if it’s standing still. The only way to solve some problems is to force a change. That’s how our Zahm works.

When we say a beer is ready to go out, we mean it. At that point, we have decided that the color, clarity, aroma, flavor, mouthfeel, and finish are dialed in enough to put our name behind a beer and share it with the world. We expect to see a small degree of variation when looking at any given characteristic, but any deviation outside of imperceptible and subtle usually belongs in the drain and not in your glass. To make beer as consistently as we need to, we take several measurements as beer ferments, conditions, and carbonates. Making beer on a scale as small as we do, there are some limits to how well we can know what we need to know. It doesn’t make sense for a brewery our size to invest in all the bells and whistles that New Belgium or Sierra Nevada has.

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One Year

The life of a bowhead whale can span up to two hundred years. Some bowheads caught in recent years have been found with late-nineteenth century harpoon points embedded in their blubber. Imagine going through life with a chip on your shoulder that you can’t shake because it’s literally a part of you. Every brewery will have one.

We don’t know what our chip is yet, but we’ll damn well know it when it hits us. By bowhead standards, we’re not old enough to live on our own. These animals are living museums, bearing silent witness to their rapidly changing aquatic world. The oldest bowheads alive today have weathered a mini-ice age, post-industrial oceanic warming, the filling of the seas with our plastic junk and chemical waste, and the depletion of their food sources. Our environs are changing in the beer world, too, but everything is actually looking up. Here’s a look back on this year from full-time SOBs.

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When we told you last month that we were going into glass, didn’t you think it would take some steel to get there?

Today we received and placed three new 30bbl fermenters from Michigan-based manufacturer GW Kent. With this addition, we will increase production by fifty-four percent (point five if you want to get specific), allowing us to keep the bars and restaurants that already support us in good supply. This will also give us the chance to dig a little deeper into our home turf in the west suburbs. When we get there, packaging will be limited as well. Just one batch each month in twenty-two-ounce bombers, which you can expect to be available this summer. There won’t be many bottles to go around at first, but if there were, you’d want them less anyway.

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May Beer Releases

May. The month of our birth. The month of Chicago Craft Beer Week. The month in which we release four collaboration beers. In which barrels say goodbye to what’s been hibernating inside them for months, or even a year. In which we are embraced again by the sun’s warmth. But let’s not get sentimental about it, we have beers to drink.

Enjoy your thirty-one days of May, remember that it’s fall in the Southern Hemisphere, and try to work the words of the great Notorious B.I.G. into as many conversations as possible, “It was all a dream.”

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In preparation for this announcement, I read ideas about bottles. Lots of them. Wine bottles. Bottles of ketchup. Messages in bottles. Turns out people are really, really angry about single-use water bottles. Imagine that!

We’ve been making beer for one year and four days. And until now your options for getting your hands on our product have been limited. Once our bottle releases hit they will still be limited. If you spot one in the wild be sure to move quickly. Realize that Solemn Oath is still in its infancy, and now we will be consistently out of beer on two fronts.

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The Zwickel

So much of the brewing process happens inside stainless-steel tanks and rubber-clad hose that brewers don’t usually have much visual evidence that things are going according to plan.

After the boil, we send yeast into a clean and sanitary fermenter with sugar, nutrients, and a whisper. “Come out bright and clean, baby, will you?” From that point on, everything is done sight unseen. Our fermenting beer is much like Schrodinger’s cat, existing in multiple states at one time given our inability to observe it. There’s no sight glass on our fermenters, no glass manway. It could be going well inside, or off the rails. Rolling bubbles in the blowoff bucket give us a sign. Temperature control gives us some options.  Our preparation for this moment gives us confidence.

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