On Monday, January 5th we shut down our taproom so that the SOB staff could all party together.
And man, oh man, did we party hardy. Like, we ate Gushers and danced on tables and stuff. You’ve gotta do that kind of thing every once in a while to maintain your sanity.
It is important to leave your mark.
I was invited to spend a few days with Timberland
recently to be a part of their MarkMakers series. It gave me the chance to share what I love most about being part of Solemn Oath, the tight-knit Chicagoland beer community, and the best damn neighborhood in Chicago–trust me, we have the Map Room.
Tim and I invented spontaneous combustion.
It actually sounds cooler than it is. Really, we were just bored. History was boring. Extremely boring. Who knew? Not these two time-traveling mavericks. Why do you think Paul quit teaching it? You have to be a god-damned illusionist to try and get kids to pay attention to all the boring shit. Yeah, we know, Cromwell, Hammurabi, Tesla, blah blah blah. 332, 1280, 1668, 1776. Yes, there were some interesting people and times in our world history, but they’re only a minuscule part of the vast void of history.
To take an oath is a serious thing. Taking a solemn oath is the most seriousest of serious. So serious, it makes you invent new words.
When we hit year one, we decided to inaugurate our own holiday of sorts: Oath Day. Only this holiday doesn’t mean you have to shoot the shit with your sister’s new ego-maniac boy toy in your parents’ backyard, or pretend to be ecstatic when you open up a pair of lacy underpants from Grams. Hell, you don’t even have to exchange gifts. This holiday is about drinking beer with friends and strangers in our brewery, sharing stories, maybe playing some dodgeball or hopping on a mechanical bull. It’s a celebration of all things Oath. And that includes all of you SOBs.
Our taproom bartenders tell us that you guys make the funniest faces when you see us in the brewery wrestling with a yeast brink—or “funny-shaped keg,” as we hear you like to call it. Here’s the breakdown on all things funny-shaped keg.
The most microbiologically sensitive part of the brewing process is between the heat exchanger, where we cool the boiled wort, and the completion of primary fermentation. Wort in the kettle is hot enough to prevent microorganisms from establishing residence, but once it’s cooled it’s basically bacteria and fungus heaven—lots of sugar, full of nutrients, and moderate in temperature. The way it’s supposed to go is we pitch a carefully selected and cared-for yeast strain into the wort, which ferments wort into beer. When fermentation is complete, the depleted reserves of sugar, low pH, and alcohol content mitigate the chance and severity of infection. Knockout—pumping the wort from the kettle through the heat exchanger to the fermenter—is, therefore, a critical quality checkpoint to make sure that the yeast strain we select takes hold and prevent foreign organisms from doing the same. Any process equipment that touches cooled wort has to be thoroughly cleaned and sanitized, so when preparing to harvest yeast, we start by soaking all our yeast brink parts in caustic, rinsing them, and finally soaking them in a no-rinse sanitizing solution.
Despite having flown a million times before (I’m exaggerating a bit), I still get quite nervous and my life tends to flash before my eyes during that initial take off. Sure, I had a Budweiser on the plane, but that simply wasn’t good enough.
I had really needed approximately twenty Budweisers, a Xanax, and a hand to hold… and I wasn’t about to hold John Barley’s hand. Even the thought of it makes me shudder. Luckily the flight was pretty short otherwise I might have been forced to give in. But, I finally did arrive in New York super enthused and sweaty-palmed.
Before Solemn Oath began, I sought to build a company where individuals could be unleashed in a creative atmosphere with a united goal. The work of our artist, Jourdon Gullett, is an excellent example of how this looks when it goes really, really well.
The person we sought for our brewery art was one who would understand our goals and make Solemn Oath Brewery a part of their home. Joe and I had an affinity for raw illustration and tattoo-inspired work and those dimensions defined the space we wanted Solemn Oath’s art to inhabit. Our world collided with Jourdon’s through a mutual friend, and he has since filled it with all things dark, dangerous, and unfathomable.
Your mother was wrong. The use of profanity, even in print, is not always inelegant. Nor apparently does it disqualify you from incredible and humbling honors. Last week SAVEUR Magazine announced Solemn Oath’s SOB Stories as a 2014 Best Food Blog finalist. Unbelievable.
We’re one of six finalists in the best wine and beer category, each of which have incredible sites. While we hope it is us, please take the time to vote for your favorite. Voting closes April 9 and we’d love to have your support. And dammit share with your friends.
Sometimes an idea sounds so good that you just have to look past its gratuitous extravagance, technical obstacles, logistical complexities, and uncertain outcomes and just fucking do it.
So it went when I started talking to Jay Cunningham at Intelligentsia. Jay is a fifteen-year coffee pro who loves beer but thinks putting the two together has not generally been a very inspired process and that the results are not generally all that good. The tilt of coffee beer is unfortunately towards that generic burnt-caramel roast character that flows by the thousands of gallons from donut shop Bunns every morning, everywhere. It smells like what people think of as coffee, but to someone like Jay who’s been around the world buying beans and selling the end product, that’s what stale coffee smells like.