A True Small-Town Brewery

Marine, Illinois

Reprinted from the Spring 2005 issue of The Breweriana Collector
Written by Kevin Kious and Donald Roussin.  

The village of Marine, Illinois, so named because a number of its early settlers were former sea captains, is one of the smaller towns in Madison County, and seemingly an unlikely spot to have ever had a brewery. But the town had grown to several hundred residents in the decade of the Civil War and after, and was able to support a surprising number of industries, including a brewery operated by Rudolph Nicolay. In his wonderful historical booklet "A Walk Through Marine", the late local historian Ronald Loos said, "there is no way can prove that there was some type of brewery operating at or close to Marine in the 1850s. But I get small bits and pieces of information indicating that it was probably true." There was indeed a brewery, and it was located in the heart of town, as can be found from census records and the old land records preserved in the bulky bound volumes kept in the county recorder’s office.

The Village Brewer
On July 18, 1856, Rudolph Nicolay, a resident of St. Louis County, Missouri, purchased four lots of land in Marine. For $1050, he received from Adam Weber title to lots 5,6,11 and 12 in Block 4 of the village. The selling price would indicate that there were already improvements on the parcel, perhaps a house if not a brewery. Within the next few years Nicolay must have constructed or improved a brewery on the site, for the 1860 census for "Marinetown" lists him as a brewer, forty years old, and a native of Hesse, Germany. His real estate was listed as being worth $2000, his personal property $200. His wife Louisa, nearly two decades his junior, was from Baden, Germany, while their three young children had all been born in Illinois, presumably Marine. Living with the family was John Sinthrimer, a 22- year-old from Frankfurt, Germany. He also listed his occupation as brewer, indicating that the Marine brewery was at least a two-man operation.

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Alpha Brewing Company – Homebrew Contest

Homebrew Contest Fall 2013 and Spring 2014

Congrats to our own Andy Sanders for winning the last contest with his American Roggen Weizen.

Alpha Brewing Company

Alpha Brewing Company is having another contest due in little over a month. Its an anything but pumpkin Squash Ale. Basically they are looking for a squash beer, but no pumpkin. That contest is for this winter. Due October 26th.

The second contest is for Spring 2014. Its a 100% Brett Brux fermentation beer.

Check out the site for more details and entry forms.

http://www.alphabrewingcompany.com/home-brew-contest/

I Love You Beer, Worts and All

Last Drop
By Dave Carpenter
Reprinted with permission from Zymurgy Magazine.

A year after I started all-grain brewing, as I was diagnosing a string of curiously hazy homebrews, I found that my thermometer had developed a bit of a negative bias. Advantageous, perhaps, for a future in politics, but of little use to the serious brewer. I discovered modest, yet tolerable, inaccuracy at water’s boiling and freezing points, and splendid, glorious unreliability in the range of temperatures critical to mashing. Bother. An optimistic scale I might indulge (more hops!), but a dishonest thermometer I would not tolerate. So I went out and purchased an obscenely accurate and marvelously expensive model.

My beer cleared up straight away. But I began thinking: friends, family, and I had enjoyed with absolute sincerity every one of my murky, mis-mashed beers. Had our naïve appreciation been wrong? Did a new thermometer and bright beer suddenly invalidate our earlier experiences?
Of course not. Taking pleasure in a handcrafted, artisan product is the essence of our obsession, and infectious enthusiasm for our own little objets d’art can compensate for many a technical flaw. We enjoy myriad approaches to our hobby but share a common desire to create and savor. Sure, we’ll endlessly debate how to get there, but I think we’re all ultimately in it to quench a primal thirst for something satisfying, distinctive, and uniquely ours.

When I brewed my very first Belgian dubbel, I broke every rule of fermentation (I didn’t know there were rules) and turned out something so lavishly fruity that I promptly christened it Carmen Miranda’s Hat. But, you know, my girlfriend, my buddies, and I downed every last bit of it. It was neither what I’d set out to brew, nor a remotely faithful representation of the style, but it was beer, and something to be proud of. I delighted in those initial batches of stovetop extract beer every bit as much as I do the triple-decocted, first-wort-hopped exercises in madness that I create today with the help of assorted Rube Goldberg contraptions.

I don’t suggest that we stop improving how we brew, but rather that we always honor why we brew. And there are as many reasons as there are brewers. For some, it’s a way to relax on the weekend, a few hours spent not worrying and savoring several of one’s past efforts. For others, it’s an endless pursuit to nail the perfect example of a BJCP description. It’s even rumored that some save money by crafting their own beer, though I firmly believe Sasquatch will be positively identified well before these individuals. But we all brew to create something unique, and regardless of our particular approaches, we share a most satisfying goal.

So enjoy the journey. When next you lie awake, obsessing over yeast or hot side aeration, try visualizing and counting airlock bubbles. You’re a homebrewer, and a little uncertainty is OK.

Unless it’s a Bavarian lager. The Reinheitsgebot allows a handful of ingredients, and imprecision isn’t one of them.

Dave Carpenter is a writer and recovering engineer from Fort Collins, Colo. In addition to homebrewing, he enjoys hiking, skiing, traveling, and other gerunds. Follow him online at www.quaffablequips.com.