By Tony Forder
"You say you want a Revolution"....well, now you can get one in New Jersey.
The fast growing Chicago-based craft brewery just added the Garden State to its East Coast distribution map of Massachusetts and New York states.
If you like IPAs (who doesn't these days), you're going to love Revolution's hop-forward beers. Anti-Hero, their flagship, "aromatic, crisp and drinkable" features a blend of Centennial, Crystal, Chinook and Citra with a little Warrior thrown in for extra bitterness. Different versions of Anti-Hero evolved the League of Heroes 12-pack featuring four different versions, each highlighting a different hop. As well as Anti-Hero, Galaxy Hero, originally brewed for the Chicago Comic Con five years ago, is joined by Citra Hero and Mosaic Hero.
Revolution chief Josh Deth describes his beers as balanced and drinkable; the IPAs are all in the 6.5-7% range. This spring the brewery debuted Sun Crusher, a hoppy wheat ale at a crushable 5.3% with Apollo and Mosaic hops and dry-hopped with a blend of Crystal, Amarillo and Mosaic. "Just another excuse to use a lot of hops," said Deth.
While Revolution is having fun with the new hop varieties – the new Tropic is features an experimental hop that doesn't even have a name yet – they're stopping short of the northeast haze craze, even though Deth is a Boston native. "If I asked them to make a hazy IPA, my brewers would quit, said Deth. We're a clear beer brewery; we centrifuge, not filter, and we use a ESB yeast which is very flocculent (read hungry)."
Seeds of Revolution: Enticed by the brewing world, Deth landed a job at Chicago area Golden Prairie Brewing cleaning kegs and scrubbing tanks in 1995. Showing up for work one day, the head brewer was gone and the owner put Josh to work, helping him brew. "There I was, age 20 and a brewer."
Josh worked with Goose Island for a few years as cellarman and brewer at Goose's Clybourn brewpub location. He dreamt of opening his own brewery, but his first efforts didn't pan out so with his wife Krista and a few friends he opened a pub instead –Handlebar – in 2003.
He didn't give up on the brewery idea however and Revolution Brewing finally came to fruition in February 2010. He invited a Goose Island cohort Jim Siback to be head brewer and another Goose guy Matt Brynaldson (who went on to Firestone-Walker) provided a lot of inspiration. Interestingly, Revolution's current pub brewer is Will Turner, who succeeded Josh at Clybourn. "We have a lotta geese in exile who flock over here," said Josh.
Revolution has grown rapidly, opening a good-size production brewery 120-bbl Newlands brewhouse) and taproom in 2012 and adding capacity ever since. Last year they cracked the BA's top 50 list at 75,000 barrels. With Goose Island, owned by AB-InBev since 2013 and the newer-to-town but large Lagunitas selling out to Heineken, Revolution can lay claim as Chicago's largest independent brewery. It's a word that Josh likes to use – even more than craft. Sure he's been approached – a lot, but as he says, "I didn't get into brewing to sell it."
He admits the brewery grew crazy fast – 50% for a couple of years – but he sees growth leveling off, and it's not a bad thing. "It provides more stability, more sustainability," he said. As important as independence, or maybe more so, freshness is key to Revolution, according to Deth. "We can get from the tank to the East Coast in two days." he said. The conditioning tank is all-important. My brewer Jim calls it a deep freeze. It stays fresh. When we're ready to ship we package." Packaging used to be bomber bottles, but now it's all cans (and kegs of course) with a million dollar KHS system on order.
Although they perceive themselves as fairly strict to style, there's plenty of innovation, especially on the 15-bbl pub system in their original pub. The food is all hand made from scratch too. "We bake our own bread and we make our own sausages – we ordered three pigs for next week," Josh noted.
If you're in Chicago you should have no trouble finding a revolution, and now you can find one in the Garden State.