It’s like drinking in your friend’s basement. You come in through a side door. The bar is at the far end of a dim room with a dropped ceiling. The same guys who hang out here all the time tell you all about the dozen beers you could try, all brewed and fermented in the next room. If it’s nice out, someone reminds you about the patio and cornhole in the backyard. That’s the Brew Keeper — as homey, friendly and beer-geeky a microbrewery and brew-your-own spot as you can find. Two samplers still don’t get you through the brewery’s line of Mad Brewer beers on tap. Still, our research revealed some highlights: White Storm is an award-winning sweet and nutmeggy cream ale that reminds us a little of eggnog (in a good way). But beware! It’s 10 percent alcohol. The Hop Fusion is the top seller, and RBI IPA was created to suit the taste of ex-Indian Joe Charboneau.
Take it home: Mad Brewer beers are on sale in bottles at the brewery and a few West Side beer stores, including Minotti’s Wine and Spirits.
The Brew Keeper
Brewing Since: 1994
The old college try: When Wise and his three college roommates ran out of beer money, they decided they’d all pitch in a few dollars and buy their own brewing kit. Wise then took up brewing as a hobby for about 12 years. “After working different jobs that had me traveling all over the country, I decided to choose a family lifestyle over a bachelor lifestyle. [Being a brewer] was just a more stable option, so that’s how my job transpired.”
His favorite part of the job: “Just dealing with the people. You get to meet people from all different backgrounds and lifestyles and hang out with them.”
Favorite type of beer: “I don’t really have one. It depends entirely on the situation: What am I doing? Where am I? Who am I with? Is it summer or winter?” Wise says he goes for the “lighter, hoppier stuff” in the summer and opts for barley wines, stouts and the occasional spiced or holiday ale in colder weather.
Most Unusual brew: The Brew Keeper’s White Storm, an imperial cream ale with 11 percent alcohol. “We can honestly say that there’s no other beer like it. It has a taste all of its own. People often say it tastes like a caramel sundae.”
What he wishes more people knew about beer: “More of an understanding. When people come in and ask ‘What am I tasting?’ it’s hard to answer that question because everyone’s palate is different. So we try to be a stepping stone for education on beer, and try to get customers to describe what they’re tasting for themselves.”
— Anne Harmtan