This one’s for the beer lovers.
One of the newest microbreweries in town is Marz Community Brewing in Bridgeport. We were lucky enough to interview one of the founders, Ed Marszewski. Check out what he has to say and some of the amazing labels they’ve designed for their first brews scattered throughout the post and throughout Chicago of course.
Also, *BONUS* – the Marz Community Brewing launch party is Monday, September 8th. We’ve got 10 tickets to giveaway. Tweet to us or write on our Facebook wall to snag them. First come, first serve.
1. Congratulations on the brews! Tell us about the process of getting this off the ground. Creatively and logistically. What were the biggest hold ups?
Thanks, Shelby! It’s hard to believe Marz Community Brewing Co is open for business. It took us 18 months from actually saying “Let’s brew it”, to getting to serve our beer to the public. So in the beginning of our liquid dreams we knew we wanted to open up a space in our neighborhood of Bridgeport. We love our neighborhood and we love the people that live here. We felt it was important to contribute to the blossoming cultural ecology that is evident in the every day life of this part of town. We feel that breweries add value to a community and bring people together. And frankly, it is in Bridgeport that I feel opportunity and growth are reaching a sustainable moment. It made complete sense to do something that seems ridiculous here, in the Community of the Future.
In general our brewery is an experiment in collaboration and elective participation. Most of the members met each other while drinking beer at Maria’s Packaged Goods & Community Bar, a place I helped my family create. Most of us are homebrewers, former brewers that were burnt out working at shitty breweries and people we met at our Mash Tun Festivals that made rad liquid. We drank together, read lot of books, visited conferences, had lots of meetings and made lots of beer. But mostly we learned how to evolve our project by talking to other brewers like: Gabrial Maglione of Half Acre, Gerrit Lewis and Beejay Oslon of Pipeworks, Drew Fox of 18th Street, Master Cicerone, Dave Kahle, Brant Dubovick of Dryhop, and John Laffler of Off Color Brewing and many others. Without those cholos we still wouldn’t be open. We owe them everything.
Logistically we realized right away that we were not going to have a lot of money to play with so we started investing in a nano-brewery system made by Psychobrew. It is the training wheel brewhouse system that Pipeworks and 18th Street used to get their liquid flowing and growing. And its great! We parked our system in a storefront in Bridgeport. The place is small, but the price was right. It’s a great laboratory for what we are doing.
But it took a while to get here. For some reason I thought I could navigate the bureaucracy, rules and regulations that surround the manufacturing of beer as if it were like starting a punk rock band. I wanted to figure out how to do the application process myself because my thinking was that “If a moron like me could do this then anyone could.” And I could prove to all the naysayers that it could be done. But it really sucked. In filling out forms I learned how to be really patient in waiting for agencies to approve them. And no matter how hard I tried to decypher their requests for changes or more information, I invariably failed. But being a life-long successful failure prepared me for the pain. You just have to follow instructions and listen to the very patient members of the licensing agencies who have to deal with dumb asses like me every day. I also would say that Murphy’s Law is real. Very real. Everything will break. Everything needs modification. And the job will be learning how to fix shit. Every day.
But making beer is the easy part. And making awesome beer is hard. But because our brewing system is small we can take risks that won’t break the bank. We can make great standard style beers like our Brideporter and The Machine American Pale Ale. And we can brew exquisite and very difficult to make beers like our Bubbly Creek Berliner Weiss or Smoke Wheat Everyday Polish Style Gratzer. We also get super weird making a Pho soup base infused Oak Porter or wheat IPAs made with rooibos tea. We get to collaborate with great chefs like Bill Kim in making conceptual brews that are made real by our team of weirdo brewers and get to have our beer used in sausages made by Missy and her awesome crew at PQM. So we get to have a lot of fun.
The thing about our crew is that most of us have other jobs, because brewing pays shit (or at least brewing for us pays shit). Despite that fact, we all want to work in a brewery and we work long hours on our time off. So besides being brewers some of us are writers, designers, artists, welders, bartenders, coders, and carpenters. And these careers inform our working habits as well as our conceptual and representational frameworks. For example, I have been involved with the arts for a few decades and have worked with some of the world’s best artists and designers. So visually we know that we want to kick ass and get away from some of the shitty graphic design found in some brewery identities. And we can do that because we have Michael Freimuth on our side. He is our graphic designer and partner in this endeavor so we feel lucky. We also have the honor of working with many of our artist and designer friends, like Paul Nudd, Scott Marvel and Cody Hudson, by having them make artwork for our beer labels and schwag. Additionally some of us have been community activists and organizers so we want to give back to the people and groups that fight the good fight. So profits from our Community Brew Series will go to neighborhood groups, non profit orgs and activist and cultural enterprises that we think make a difference in our lives.
2. What are your first brews? Where can we find them (restaurants and retail)?
Our first beers are the Bubbly Creek Berliner Weiss series. We call them our South Side Sours. They are tart and mildly funky. We made a Yuzu fruit juice version and a version made with a secondary fermentation and blend of chardonnay grape juice. That one is called the Bubby Creek Winobascillus, dedicated to Mad Dog 20/20 drinkers. We also make a kick ass Pale Ale called The Machine, an homage to the 11th Ward Democratic Organization, and the Bridgeporter, an American Porter that is one of our Community Brews. We also brew the aforementioned Smoke Wheat Everyday, a light smoky and tart wheat ale. And then we have our May 1968 Saison that is perfect and a few other brews like the Buddy Extra Pale Ale and an oak aged amber jam. We have a number of one offs coming soon. We recently sponsored a homebrew competition called the Homebrewer’s Ball where the winner gets their beer brewed by us and we also made a collaboration wet hopped brew with a local brewery in planning called Antithesis.
Believe it or not we have our beers at over 24 bars in the metro region. You will most likely find them regularly at Maria’s Packaged Goods & Community Bar and at Publican and Publican Quality Meats if we keep our allocations in check.
3. What are the best food pairings for the brews?
The Smoke Wheat Everyday will delight fish eaters. The roasted maltiness of our Bridgeporter goes perfect with deserts containing cocoa or chocolate and I like to eat pork chops paired with it. The Bubbly Creek Berliner Weiss pairs great with fruit and cheesecake but is traditionally served with sweet syrups mixed into the beer like a shot. We even pair it with sour gummy bears. And of course The Machine Pale ale pairs well with bar food. Fried chicken is my favorite choice for that beer.
4. Will you have brew tours in the future?
We will! In fact we will be doing Chicago Brew Bus tours of the neighborhood at our launch party this September 8. Otherwise it will be by appointment only. Our space is small. It’s not a big deal unless you want to start a DIY brewery.
5. Any collaborations in the works?
We love working with Chef Bill Kim and are about to make the first Kimchee spiced beer in the world (maybe)! We plan on making beers with our friends in the hospitality bizness and will continue to help the crazy people that want to start a brewery on their own. One of our goals is to help incubate homebrewers to become pros. We did it and so can you, liquid dreamer…
6. How is it going? With growth are there any hires you are looking for?
We didn’t kick start our brewery and are therefore going to have a steady climb to get out of debt and reach the goal of opening our expansion facility next year. We have our collective members that will be on board and hopefully fully employed for a while when we get our shit together. So we are not looking to hire additional people in the foreseeable near future. However, if there is someone interested in learning the true skills of brewing, like humping sacks of grain, cleaning up and sanitizing everything, please don’t hesitate to send us a resume. We need a few interns.
7. Marz COMMUNITY Brewing – how has your brew startup been community-centric? Is it specific to Bridgeport, the beer community in Chicago in general, or something else?
I think I unwittingly and long-windedly answered that above…
8. Outside of the new Marz Brews what are some of your favorite beers?
If I want something refreshing and unique that is super low in ABV I drink Off Color beers and Anderson Valley Gose. If I want to get krunked I drink Three Floyds and Pipeworks double IPAs. If I just want to drink something hoppy I enjoy Half Acre brews and Spiteful canned beer. If I go out to a brewpub and want to enjoy awesome food with my beer I visit DryHop, Revolution and sometimes Haymarket.
9. It’s quickly becoming a staple and favorite question for our Q&As with serious food (and beer) enthusiasts like you – what is your guiltiest food pleasure?
I am not ashamed to admit I am guilty of food felonies every day. Pies from Pleasant House Bakery, ramen at Urban Belly, sandwiches at PQM, chicken at Honey Butter Fried Chicken, beef sandwiches with mozzarella and giardanera from Phil’s Pizza, hybrid Korean food from Parachute, and best of all home cooked meals made by my beautiful wife, Rachael Olson Marszewski.