David | Blog | March, 19 2010 | No Comment

WARNING: This post is about brewpubs and homebrewing, and has nothing to do with cheese!

I brew with two guys from my wife’s over sized Chicago family. They drew me back into homebrewing a year ago after I had lapsed into a pathetic once- or twice-a-year frequency.  Last week we took a day off and drove down to the suburbs South of Chicago to a wholesale grain malt supplier and bought 320 pounds of base malt to launch the 2010 outdoor brewing season. We brew about once a month.


The warehouse is not far from Flossmoor Station Restaurant and Brewery, which is located in a beautiful historic former train station directly across the tracks from a hideously spartan modern platform. We arrived  just before the 11:30 am opening time, and were seated immediately for lunch. I’ve enjoyed the beers from Flossmoor for more than 12 years but had never visited the brewpub. The standard beer lineup looked nice enough, but was a bit heavy on wheat beers and training wheelers, so we asked about the brewers specials. There were five, including a doppelbock, a low-gravity APA, at least one hop monster and a barrel-aged stout. We spent about three hours at Flossmoor. Lunch was great, brewer Bryan Shimkos gave us a nice tour, and we finished with the Bourbon-barrel stout. I enjoyed mine with vanilla ice cream.  Shimkos and one assistant max out the 15-barrel brewhouse. They make enough beer to fill all the tap handles at the restaurant, and they bottle bombers by hand on a four-head filler. Flossmoor opened in 1996, and original brewer Todd Ashman was among a handful of brewers in the U.S. to fully embrace barrel aging.  Shimkos, who became head brewer about a year ago, continues Flossmoor’s legacy with an impressive output of award winners from both Bourbon and wine barrels.

Yesterday on the Chicago Beer Society discussion board, a fellow beer geek visiting Belgium asked if anyone could explain why the cost of drinking good beer in the U.S. has surpassed the cost of doing the same overseas. Threads about the price of beer are not uncommon, or course, and they tend to elicit the same set of responses from me every time, which I won’t regurgitate here. I will say that I remember when all American beer cost about $3 a six pack and it all sucked. But once this cordial discussion had unfolded, our happy vacationer came back, thanking everyone for their insights, and concluding that a lot of American breweries have their sights on growth, while older Belgian breweries are happy to serve their local market and proud to be a part of their local community.


Well, I couldn’t help thinking that in the states we really have both of those things happening at the same time. For every bottling brewery  installing a new silo or planning an assault on a new regional market, there may be a dozen little brewpubs like Flossmoor that have been steadily putting out great beers and serving their local communities for 10, 15 or 20 years. To me it’s great that we have large, successful regional craft brewers sending their products to all points of the county, including Chicago. But it’s also nice to know that the landscape is littered with small brewpubs that do right by the locals.

Flossmoor is filthy with awards, and they just keep coming. Recently the Bourbon-barrel stout took the top award at the Chicago Beer Society’s Day and Night of the Living Ales. In the 14 years since it opened, Flossmoor has had just three head brewers, Shimkos, Ashman, and Matt Van Wyk. The three of them will be in Chicago next month for the Craft Brewers Conference and will get together at the Map Room for a special reception featuring their beers.

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