Amber Waves is getting to know the brewers who will be in attendance in a series called Who’s the Brew. This week we sat down with Steve Kamp of Evil Horse Brewing Co. Steve started brewing career at home after reading an article in the Chicago Tribune about unique Christmas gifts. Steve has been a member of the American Homebrewers Association since 1984. Since then, he’s brewed hundreds of different recipes and styles and has won numerous awards in brewing competitions.
Tell us a little about Evil Horse Brewing Co.
There was a group of people I go to church with that owned a bowling alley in Crete IL, and they were looking for something to do with the building. I had already been making beer for a long time. So, we got together and came up with a plan to transform the building from a bowling alley into Evil Horse Brewing Co.
We have a really nice tap room. We are a production brewery so we have a pretty big 15-barrel brew house. …Oh, you can make quite a bit of beer.
Did you repurpose anything from the old building?
Actually, the bar and a couple longer tables are made from the bowling lanes, the high tops are the same tables that were there to start with. We took the old two-sided, neon sign with the martini glass and made it single-sided, re-did the neon and hung it in the tap room. It’s pretty cool. We still have to figure out what to do with pins & shoes.
How long have you been there?
I’ve been there since the very beginning. I started in November of 2015 and we opened April 29, 2016. We’ve been open now two years and three months selling beer.
That all started with a conversation at church?
I don’t know if it actually happened at church, but it was friends of mine I knew from church and we got together and conversation came up about the possibility of opening a brewery.
My original idea was to build it on my farm and do a farmhouse brewery. But the building was already there, and a lot of our investors liked that location and that’s how it happened.
How long had you been brewing?
I had been brewing at home since 1983. So, I’ve been a home brewer for quite some time. I’ve been a beer judge since 1986. I’ve brewed at several commercial breweries. I did a batch at Flossmoor Station in 2010 that was in the Great American Beer Festival Pro-Am. I won a Lagunitas Competition in Chicago a few years later. They flew me and a few others out to California and over a crazy 3-day period we brewed a 260-barrel batch of a black IPA which turned out really, quite good.
Tell us about the brewpub?
We’ve repurposed the building, the tap room is really comfortable, it’s a great place to come talk with friends. We have bands on the weekends. We don’t sell food, but you can bring your own. There is a restaurant upstairs you can order from.
It’s kind of the bar for people who don’t go to bars. In a way, it’s family oriented. We get a lot of parties that might be outside the norm. We actually have had baby showers, there’s been a wedding there. We do event rentals and it’s a very comfortable place to be.
What is your favorite beer to Enjoy? …Brew? What’s the most popular?
Our most popular beer is called Downtown Hottie. It’s an American Wheat. It’s not necessarily my favorite style of beer. I’ve always been a big fan of German Style Doppelbocks and Pilsners. I love American Pale Ales. I don’t know that I actually have a favorite style. Right now, we have a very authentic German style Pilsner on tap which is probably my favorite to drink right now.
Everybody has to have a niche and I’d say our brewery brews traditional beer styles. We have a Hefeweizen (Leaping Bull), a Saison (Carnaval De Binche), a Doppelbock in the Spring (Gezelligator), a Pilsner for the Summer (Seggebruch). We have an Octoberfest fermenting right now that will be ready in September. So, we take traditional beer styles and try to do them really well.
A lot of breweries will have a wide array of hoppy beers and that’s not our thing. We have our IPA and American Pale Ale and a Double IPA, but those are the only hop forward beers we have. We have 11 other beers that are more malt driven. We’ve got a Scottish ale called Nightmare which is really quite good. It uses all Scottish malt and English hops.
That’s exciting to hear. It seems people new to craft beer have starting assimilating all craft beers to IPAs or something completely dominated by the hop character.
Yeah, it’s interesting. Now everyone keeps asking me “when are you coming out with a pumpkin beer?” We don’t brew a pumpkin beer. But we are brewing an Octoberfest. Because we are located here in Crete, we are happy brewing traditional style beers. I’m not making beer with gummy bears or popsicles, or something you might find somewhere else. We have a diverse crowd that likes the traditional beer styles. That’s our niche.
You have 14 of your beers on tap, beer cocktails, and additional bombers?
We have two beers available in six packs, the Trot Hopple and the Downtown Hottie. Sgt. Reckless is available in cans. Leaping Bull, our Hefeweizen comes in a traditional half-liter bottle. The name of our Barrel Aged Russian Imperial Stout is Eyjafjallajökull and people can’t pronounce it, but you know what, that’s what makes it fun!
How did that come about?
The story goes, I was at Three Floyds Dark Lord Day a few years back. And I was thinking to myself “$15 for a bottle of beer?!, I’m going to make it myself.” So, I went home a brewed a Russian Imperial Stout. I made 10 gallons in two 5-gallon fermenters. I got up the next morning and the lids of the fermenters had blown off and there was black goop splattered all over the walls. The foam was pouring down the sides like lava. It just so happened to be when the Eyjafjallajökull Volcano in Iceland had erupted. There was no air travel in Northern Europe for a week because there was so much volcanic ash in the air. I thought, what a perfect name for this beer. We started brewing it at the brewery and its aged in KOVAL Whiskey barrels which is a Distillery on the north side of Chicago. They are a little smaller than traditional whiskey barrels and they’re great to age beer in. It has a lot of chocolate notes, some hints of vanilla from the oak, and some of the whiskey flavor. We don’t rinse the barrels. We get them raw from the distillery and we fill them with beer.
So, one of the best barrels aged Russian Imperial Stouts I have ever had started in a bucket?
Yes it did.
Are there any others that the recipe starts in a bucket and moves its way up?
Actually, a lot of the beers we have at the brewery, I formulated at the brewery.
We do another beer which is our black IPA, it’s dry hopped with a Japanese hop called Sorachi Ace. It’s a really unique hop that isn’t piney, it more herbal like dill and lemon. And that was the beer I got to brew at Lagunitas. So that’s another one that started at home in a bucket and we ramped it up.
Have you done any collaborations?
Yes, we’ve done a collaboration with a brewery in New Lenox called Arrowhead Ales. We did a raspberry Berliner Weisse that’s been very popular and its back on tap now. The original collaboration sold out in three weeks. So, we immediately did another batch. It’s not sour, sour. It is tart and the raspberry flavor really rounds it out. It’s a really nice beer.
If you could do a dream collaboration what would that look like?
Ya know… I know a lot of the guys that started the craft beer movement. It would be fun to do something with Revolution Brewing or something Iike that. I have a lot of friends locally that would be a lot of fun to do a collaboration with just because I got started in brewing with some of the people who are professional brewers locally right by us. In fact, when we first opened the guys from Brickstone came out and helped us brew our first batch.
You are going to be at Amber Waves which is a new festival helping introduce the craft beer industry to Jasper County. Do you know what you’ll be sampling?
It depends just before event day. We’ll probably take some of our staple beers and then have something extra. Maybe we’ll get the Imperial Stout out there.
Thanks a lot for taking the time to do this Steve, looking forward to seeing you out there!
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