Rahr North Star Pils in the Brewhouse: Revolution Brewing, Rev Pils
The Big Hurt. His Royal Airness. Hurricane Ditka. Rev Pils. Chicago icons, one and all. Joining us today on the BSG Blog is Jim Cibak, Brewmaster at Revolution Brewing and noted expert on golf-course beers. He’s here to talk about the latest trade buzz in his brewhouse, where they’ve recently swapped out their former base malt for Rahr North Star Pils™, one of the best around. Let’s kick things off.
BSG: Hi Jim! What’s going on?
Jim Cibak, Revolution Brewing: Busy day. We’re releasing Double Barrel VSOJ and Boss Ryeway today at Rev. People are stoked. We have a bunch of heavy hitters and variants too. It’s a good day to be here.
BSG: What’s your background at Rev Brew?
Jim: The brewpub opened on Milwaukee Avenue in 2010, and I was the first brewer at the pub. The first beer I brewed was an English Dark Mild. Then our Kedzie production facility opened in 2012. Over time I’ve kind of rotated out of the full-time brewing shift. Now I’m focusing my time on recipes and product development, raw material acquisition, and making sure our recipes are dialed in for the brew size. We’ve worked hard to have something different for everyone, with drinkable lagers for the brewers so they don’t riot.
BSG: Speaking of lagers, let’s talk about Rev Pils, Chicago Pilsner.
Jim: Rev Pils was designed from the beginning from a brewer’s point of view. We wanted a nice crisp Pilsner. We dry-hop it at 2 lbs./bbl with Select and Saphir hops for that floral character. It’s crisp and aromatic at 5% ABV and 40 IBU. It has a straw-like malt character, and just enough of that struck-matchstick sulfur note. We use the centrifuge to clarify it and get it as bright as possible for true pilsner clarity. We lager it 3-4 weeks depending on the season.
BSG: [Drooling] What drove your decision to change the base malt?
Jim: Our BSG rep John, with his brewing background, he saw how we were struggling with timelines and getting malts here [when we needed them]. He suggested North Star Pils as a cost-effective, local option with less uncertainty around shipping times. This change allows us more flexibility in our brewing schedule.
BSG: You already had some familiarity with North Star Pils, correct?
Jim: Yeah, last year was the first time we made our Oktoberfest with Rahr North Star Pils in the brew. And it worked great. And we use so much Rahr Malt otherwise. Rahr Pale, Rahr 2-Row, Premium Pils, Old World Pils. We’ve worked with Rahr a long time and tried so many of their products. It’s not a big stretch to make this switch, and I felt real confident pulling the trigger to incorporate it fully into Rev Pils.
BSG: How’d everything turn out?
Jim: I’ve tasted the beer and it tastes great. No problems with conversion, runoffs, extract, clarity of finished beer. I mean, everything went great. No one even noticed it until we hadn’t ordered the previous base malt in a while. “Don’t we need to be ordering that?” “No, I made the switch two brews ago.”
For flexibility’s sake, ease of acquiring it, being able to get it in super sacks, bulk loads, or 55-lb. bags depending on where we’re brewing, how much we’re brewing – it’s a really great option to have. Schedules change. Brews get added. We have to react quickly. It’s great to have the flexibility and know this malt is a week away if we need it. That’s taken a lot of stress out of my life, in ordering and sourcing grain for beers.
BSG: What else takes stress out of your life, Jim?
Jim: Being outside, on a patio. On the golf course. Personally, Rev Pils is my favorite golf-course beer. I’ll put that in a little cooler and bring it out on the course, much to the Pro Shop’s chagrin. But I don’t care. I’m too old to care.
BSG: If Rev Pils were a Chicago athlete, who would it be?
Jim: Oh, I’d have to say… gosh, I’ll have to think about that, that kind of caught me by surprise. That’s a good one. I haven’t been this stumped in quite a while. If this was a job interview, I’d be screwed.
BSG: We’ll come back to it. What else is on the horizon for Rev?
Jim: Infinity Hero IPA. That’s a new year-round IPA using Rahr 2-Row as a base malt. There’s a little red wheat in there as well. 7% ABV. Infinity Hero walks the line between American IPA and Hazy IPA – there’s some light color in there, some Gambrinus Honey Malt in there for a faint orange hue and malt character. Nuances of Clear IPA and Hazy IPA, it’s a fun one. Trying to extract all those nice aromatics from hops while cutting back the bitterness. Smooth and easy drinking.
BSG: Is it any good on the golf course?
Jim: I might crack it on the 15th or 16th hole if I’m struggling, but I’ll be sticking with Rev Pils out there. That one’s 5%.
BSG: OK, back to Chicago athletes. If you could share a Rev Pils with a Chicago athlete, who would it be?
Jim: If I could drink a Rev Pils with a Chicago Sports Star, I would say Jim McMahon, the QB from the ‘85 Chicago Bears. He is a bad ass, great golfer and you never saw him ever do a slide on the field. He wasn’t down until he was tackled!
BSG: Sounds like a Quarterback you could set your compass by. Thanks for sharing your time with us, Jim!