Craft beer with a Latin flair: An interview with Randy Mosher (Feature for Extra)

This feature originally appeared on the cover of Extra Newspaper. 

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Brewer Randy Mosher is a partner at the new 5 Rabbit Cerveceria but he has been known in homebrewing and “Beer Nerd” circles for years.   Mostly because Mosher  wrote and designed the eye-catching and popular home brewing guide “Radical Brewing” and “The Brewer’s Companion.”  He recently sat down with Extra to talk about brewing beers with a Latin theme here in Chicago, Aztec Gods and why craft beer has grown so much in the last few years. 

Extra: For people not familiar with 5 Rabbits what’s the elevator pitch or short summary of what you’re doing.

RM: We are bringing the fun and excitement of Latin cuisine and culture to the fabulous world of craft beer.

Extra: So what are the 5 Rabbits, does that tie into the Latin theme?

RM: First of all, it is not a quantity its 5 Rabbit singular, and this is based on Aztec mythology.  It’s very common for pre-Columbian personal names to have numbers in them.  So, the numbers usually refer to some kind of calendrical name (having to do with the birthday) they were really involved with all the cycles of time: The earth and Venus and the moon and everything.

Five in particular is a number that was associated with days that represented a loss of control.   What the five are well there are actually five gods of excess of which 5 Rabbit is one.  There is 5 Rabbit, 5 Lizard, 5 Vulture, 5 Flower, 5 Grass, and each one of those represents a different type of excess. I suppose you could say they are like the seven deadly sins in Christian mythos.

So the rabbit for example represents excess of pride.  The big ears are symbolic that we should listen more for messages from the community and our inner selves theirs a beautiful story behind all of this

Extra: I see you also work in design did you also design all the packaging?

RM: Yes I did

Extra: Did you take Aztec images and other images from the past?

RM: Well, we looked at all of that.   You know it’s our goal to not be too fussy about the past.  We’ll take inspiration from it but we really intend to be very much a 21st century project, very much a kind of a fusion thing.

Extra: Where else does that Latin influence touch the beer, besides the name?  Is there also an influence on the beer itself?

RM: Well, we have three beers.  In our portfolio right now although one of them is on vacation for the summer. But the 5 Rabbit is a golden ale that is a beery beer.  Really in Latin cultures the most popular beer that’s drunk really the only beer that’s drunk (with a few exceptions) is that yellow beer that has that golden color that was influenced in some way by pilsner.  So we felt that it was important for us to have a beer that had that look.  But we didn’t want make something timid or do something that we thought would be boring and easy.

The other beer that we have out this summer is the 5 Lizard and this one is a little more obvious in its relationship to Latin culture and cuisine especially.  We are calling it a Latin style wit beer.  So Wit is that really delicious wheat beer from Belgium that is usually spiced and so we used some coriander with a really crisp character to it and instead of the traditional orange peel we used lime peel.  We use about 60 limes per batch of beer.

The beer is very light in alcohol 4.2 % it’s very light very crisp then we spike it with passion fruit pulp during fermentation. It’s very well integrated, and its super super dry.  We’re calling it a fruit beer for grown ups.

Extra: In describing these both it seems like there’s this dichotomy between doing a way out there novelty beer and a boring timid beer.  How do you keep that balance?

RM: Well that’s the trick.  All along for me that has been one of the more interesting things.  How do we express the Latin culture in a beer and do it in a way that’s not just a novelty or gimmicky that really creates things of beauty that have depth and drink ability, beer that you can have 2 or 3 pints of and don’t wear out your pallet.

Extra: What do you think is fueling the popularity of craft beer.  Do you think we are in a growing trend, is this a fad or the height of something that is always going to be around?

RM:  It’s a huge question and no one can totally predict the future.  But here’s how I see it. I think this is a kind of hundred-year-long pendulum swing.  If you go back to the early 19th century breweries were all local.  People knew their brewers they went to church with him or went to the bar with him. They were there in their community.  And in the 19th century with the scaling up of all kind of industries we developed a very different relationship with our suppliers and the idea of nationally branded products really took hold.

They served in the USA anyway a way to kind of hold people together in a funny way.  If you think of people as coming from Poland and Mexico and Ireland, Germany and every where else they became real Americans through a lot of different ways but one of the things that they did was they shared this real kind of progressive modern industrialized brands like Heinz ketchup, Campbell’s soup, and eventually Budweiser bee things like that.  People were really looking for modernness in their product: efficiency and economy and canned beer.

We have this phrase the greatest thing since sliced bread.  For them it really was great you didn’t have to slice that old bread and it didn’t go stale as fast.  But when you look at what you have to do to make sliced bread you get bread that’s not really all that bread like.  Garret Oliver has a great statement “You look at a loaf of wonder bread and it looks like bread and it has a crust it has an interior and its kind of spongy but it’s not bread.   It’s a chemical system that is held together in a way that makes it possible to package it, cut it up, put it on the shelf and have it last for two or three weeks.  Its very different from what our great grandfathers had for example.

Extra: Being on both sides of brewing as both a home brewer and a pro brewer what do you see as the relationship between growth of home brewing and the growth of craft beer?

RM: They’re two sides of the same coin.  The forces that drive people to home brew are the same forces that drive them to take it a little bit further to take it into the commercial realm.

It’s a bit of an obsession to be an honest.  For a lot of people it kind of takes over there life and makes them question things.  Maybe you take a look at that job as a computer programmer and its not as interesting as it used to be.  When you’re a brewer it’s very easy to see what your doing is making people happy

Extra: How many iterations do you go through to get to the finished recipe that you actually bring to market?

RM: for us that really wasn’t a difficult process.  My partners are beer enthusiasts but not necessarily super beer knowledgeable.  So what I did we sat down at my dining room table and I blended commercial beers and spiked them with different flavorings to try to put them in a glass so we could all taste and discuss.  We tried different fruits we tried the chilli ancho that we have in the 5 Vulture.  And so in a couple of hours we were able to go through a dozen or more beers and once we got to the point where we had something that we all liked and agreed on then it was up to me to cook up a recipe.

For some it took one or two to get it right.  But then we were able to scale up.  We are still doing some tinkering but the changes are on the order of 10% more or less.  In a range that most consumers aren’t going to notice.  But we want the beers to be as good as  we possibly can so we see something that could use some improvement were going to do it.

Extra:  Is there anything big coming up for 5 Rabbit?

RM: We will be brewing up the 5 Vulture that was previewed and put on vacation for the summer.  That’s a 6.4 % dark beer spiked with a small amount of chile ancho which is that really dark leathery smoky chili that you see in a lot of Mexican especially Oaxacan cuisine.  We’re calling it a Oaxacan Ale.

We are also working on a beer for Dia de los Muertos, something along the lines of a bent October-fest.  We’re not sure its gonna work, but it probably will so that’ll be something to look forward to maybe second week of October.

Extra: It’s appropriate that a Dia de los Muertos beer be shrouded in mystery?

RM: I think that’s appropriate.  We are gonna have some fun around it.

Beer Bread and Bananas (Vámonos Vol. 5)

What can you eat anywhere?

When you’re traveling there are many questions that continually plague a person in a new country. Where to stay, what the currency conversion is, whether to bow, kiss, or shake hands when introduced. But there is nothing as universal as food. Business or pleasure, short trip or long, seeing family or going alone, all travelers must eat.

Eating is one of the great pleasures of travel. A hearty adventurer is always excited to try local fare, but sometimes a hearty adventurer is rewarded for his or her bravery with what may euphemistically be called traveler’s belly. Every part of the world has its own bacteria. A person might have the antibodies and the tough stomach to eat all kinds of things in their home country, but the tables turn quickly when that person steps off their home court.

In places where a traveler cannot drink the water, the question of eating becomes complex. It’s not simply a matter of not drinking out of the tap. Not drinking local water also means no ice, no cold soups, and no fruits or vegetables that may have been washed in local water. If, in your travels, you limit yourself to places where you can drink the water, you will keep yourself out of half the world. So, if you find yourself in a place where you cannot drink the water, or if you are not sure what you can eat and drink, it is a comfort to know that there are three things that are almost always safe to consume: beer, bread, and bananas.

Because bananas have a thick skin, their fruit is not washed. They are also one of, if not the most, popular fruits, so when traveling you can often find them.

Bread is heated in the baking process and is also not washed before serving, so it is generally safe. What is important to remember there is watching what you put on that bread.

All boiled drinks (like tea and coffee) are usually safe, but when you want something cold and you can’t have ice cubes, beer is often your best option. Beer is safe because in order to brew it, it must be heated and then sealed. Also, yeast needs to be the dominant organism in the beer during the brewing. If it is not, the water, grain, and hops never become beer.

Trip Tips (what to do when you can’t drink the water):

Iodine Pills

If you are taking a trip to more remote places and it is not possible to carry all the bottled water you need, it is a good idea to bring iodine pills, which can be used to kill bacteria in water. I have only used these in camping settings, but if you are in a place so remote that bottled water is not available, this may be a useful option.

Tooth Brushing

Brushing teeth is such an automatic activity that we often do it on autopilot, but the water that is used to rinse your toothbrush before and your mouth after brushing goes into your mouth and should come from a clean water source. Make sure you have bottled water handy for this.

When You Are a Guest

Food sensitivities are often an issue when you are a guest – just ask someone who has allergies or is a vegan. When traveling, these can be doubly touchy because what may be fine for your hosts to eat could be dangerous to you. In order to avoid embarrassing or awkward situations, try to inform your hosts of anything you might not be able to eat in advance. If attending a dinner, it may be wise to offer to bring something to share that you know you can eat.

Soups

Remember, hot, boiled soups okay. Cold soups, hands-off.

 

This article is available en Español

Previous Vámanos Galleries Friend of the Frugal Traveler

December 3rd Dinner Concert

Hear Ye Hear Ye
Thursday, December 3rd
7:15 PM
Dinner and Concert
2459 W. Wilson Apt#2
Featuring Singer Songwriters: James Farrell, Tom Fort, and Emily Clair Palmer
You’re Invited
Bring 10 Bucks to Cover Costs

Why a Dinner Concert

I love to feature local musician’s on the site.  I also like to bring you music in video and audio, but I always feel weird having somebody perform for me alone in my house.  Also, I have been talking about homebrew beer for month and been totally unable to share it.  I want to take the blog the people.

Enter the chef

All of this was in the back of my mind during a recent conversation with my friend Maren. After hearing that I was a home brewer my dear friend Maren Keeley suggested we host a dinner.  Maren is a cook at Uncommon Ground and an all around food ninja, capable of making all seasonal holiday-onal deliciousness.

After Hearing this I immediately hijacked the idea and suggested that North and Clark sponsor a diner concert.  Because there are a lot of musician’s I have been wanting to share with you guys on the blog.  They are…

The Entertainment

Our featured musicians are James Farrel, Tom Fort, and Emily Claire Palmer.  They are fantastic musicians who are described in depth in a previous post.

So Come on out

To cover the costs of dinner and other nonsense we are asking for people to pop for 10 bucks (I wanted to charge 20, but Maren insists).  Either way it’s a steal.

If this sounds good to you leave a comment or write me an email @ northandclark@gmail.com, but be quick about it cause we can only fit twenty five people and eleven of those spots have already been reserved.

So there are only 25 14 5 SOLD OUT.

See you there,
Casey

Running Stanley’s

I got a chance to talk with the man in charge at Stanley’s Kitchen and Tap last week.  Jack Binyon has been involved with a number of bars and restaurants around the city.  He has been in the business since before the Jordan days in Chicago and his family has been selling food, beer and spirits here since before the great depression when his father won his first restaurant in a game of backgammon.

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Oktoberfest in Milwaukee

Fred Brewer talks about Oktoberfest and his quest to bring it to Milwaukee.

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Photo credit: Nate Falendysz and Augustus F. Sherman

Drinking Larry’s Beer (Mini-Podcast)

This is a selection from my interview with Larry Coble, house brewer for the Brew and Grow store. Larry is a home brewer a story teller and the perfect person to talk beer with.  Not only is he endlessly knowledgeable on the subject he’s also approachable easy going and loves to share the beer love.  That day we shared a beer, critiqued it and he even gave me the recipe.

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If you want to here the rest of Larry’s interview or read more about homebrewing check out this and this

Beer Man, House Brewer, and Homebrewer: Larry Coble

Long time house brewer for Brew and Grow, Larry Coble talks homebrew, history and hops from a seat next to four five-gallon carboys of brewing beer.  We talk about how to drink, make and appreciate beer.

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India Pale, Belgian and Scotch Ale Right Here in Lincoln Park

Today, as promised, the recipes for the three beers that I am making or drinking right now.

First, a brief disclaimer: I didn’t come up with any of these recipes on my own everything I brewed was either suggested to me or at least tweeked by the good people at Brew and Grow (Lincoln Park’s friendly neighborhood brew place).

The beers are Walter’s Pale Ale (after the dog), Avers Avenue (after the street), and Toad Spit Stout (after what the guy who wrote that recipe named it). As I described yesterday beer has five primary ingrediants: water, malt, grain, yeast and hops. To give you a sense of some of the different ingredients we used here is a chart.
Read more

Homemade Beer

If you can make tea, read a thermometer, or a book you can brew beer.

When I first heard of homebrewing it was from a bio-chemist and I mistakenly assumed that it was some complex and technical undertaking that only the truely dedicated could bring off. Not so.

Beer is almost as fun and easy to make as it is to drink.

Beer is made out of:
-Water
-Malt (a kind of sugar)
-Hops (a bitter plant)
-Yeast (the fungus that makes bread rise)
-Grain (barley, wheat, or something else)
Read more

Old Town Ale House

If this blog is gonna be called North and Clark we ought to at least identify a place for somebody chilling on that corner to get a drink. Lincoln Park and Old Town have plenty of places to go, but if you can’t find your khaki shorts and Cubs hat and want to enjoy your beer in a darker danker room good dives can be hard to come by.

Don’t despair. You don’t need to buy a forty from the Shell station just yet. If you walk down North Ave a little past Wells you can stop in at the Old Town Ale House.

otahFRONT.jpg

Notable Features of the Old Town Ale House:

  • A long finger-nailed bouncer who calls you baby
  • Juke box filled with Miles Davis and Billie Holiday
  • A dirth of Dudebros and TVs
  • Quasi-graphic erotic paintings behind the bar

Like Austin sticking out in the middle of Texas, this is a welcome bit of weird in the middle of too much of the same.

Keep your nails long old town.