The best thing about being a part of the beer industry is the people you meet. My brother Joe and I first met Matt Taylor in December of 2013. Eager to escape the Chicago cold we set out to San Diego at the invitation of Tomme Arthur of Port Brewing Co./Lost Abbey who had asked me to join a panel discussion he was having for startup breweries for Brewbound.
Since then Matt and I have spoken often of the polarizing issue of aesthetics in beer. After brewery safety, the quality of what is actually in the glass will always be what’s most important, but not far behind is the environment that beer is in. Illustration and design have been and will always be a massive part of our culture here at SOB. From the simplicity of our taproom to the passion through creativity you see in our bottle labels and murals, art is how we tell our story.
They say that good things come in threes. The third time’s the charm. We here at SOB think the number three still just marks our beginning.
A few weeks back, Oath Day Three happened, our annual celebration of all things SOB. For those of you who are not familiar with Oath Day, let me give you a quick tutorial. Oath Day is the birthday of Solemn Oath Brewery. It’s where we invite all the SOBs of the world to come party with us in true SOB fashion, at our brewery, and celebrate another year of good beers and good friends. A thank you of sorts.
The rise of Michael Kiser and Good Beer Hunting has been an incredibly personal adventure for me to witness. When Solemn Oath began, I didn’t know Michael. We first met in April of 2012 when he visited our brewery while we were making SOB Batch #001.
At that time, Good Beer Hunting existed as a tumblr page with just a small and primarily local following. GBH’s captivating aesthetics through Michael’s photography and a poetic approach to storytelling drew me in as a reader. Michael’s written word has always had the ability to establish an emotional connection between me and the people and places that he visits. In short, Michael has made me give a shit about things I didn’t even know. Over the years we have become great friends and watching him grow the GBH brand and develop his own personal skill sets has been incredible to watch.
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.