Celebrating five years

The Brew Dude has recommended 571 beers in five years. 

This might come as a surprise to readers, but this will be my last column for the Daily Journal. I have written for the Daily Journal for more than five years, and I have enjoyed writing for the fine people of Kankakee.

I started this column because I was in the middle of working with an agent in the process of publishing a novel that didn’t ultimately get picked up. I had fancied myself a writer at that time, so I reached out to the Daily Journal for writing opportunities.

I spoke with Rachael Reynolds-Soucie, and we worked together to create this column. It felt as though this was something she and I did together those first couple of years, and since then, I have worked with a number of editors.

During the course of this column, I hosted a Christmas Gift List Giveaway, in which breweries from all over the country donated things I had recommended as gifts for readers of the Daily Journal to enter to win. I loved doing this and hoped to restart it once things normalized after COVID.

I also enjoyed traveling to all of the different Illinois and out-of-state breweries during the years and writing up brewery crawls and trying to package together which breweries were stand-outs in certain areas and what to try when you got there.

The last big one of these was in the moments right before the COVID lockdown went into effect in March 2020 — a big trip with Derek Yarno to the Western Burbs at places such as More Brewing and Noon Whistle.

I enjoyed attending the beer festivals I could recommend here and report back to you about. I had some spectacular times and met some of you at these events.

Obviously, these things have halted in the meantime, but I’m looking forward to seeing what this industry can do to bring back some of these events in the coming months and years.

I cherished the chances I had to interview interesting people along the way. Recently, I had the chance to interview Laurin Mack, of Conrad Seipp Brewing, about the restoration project she has undertaken to bring back a family legacy of brewing.

I interviewed Averie Swanson, of Keeping Together, before the lockdown happened last winter, which was probably the last significant sort of brewery experience I had while things still were operating.

The thing I will miss the most is the opportunity to gather with my friends and fellow beer writers I met along the way. Nkosi White, of Chicago Beer Pass, and Chalonda White, of Afro Beer Chick, and I became close friends and have remained in touch during the pandemic.

Tom White and Jack Muldowney, formerly of The Hop Review; Mike Zoller, of Porch Drinking Chicago; Ryan and Craig, of ABV Chicago; and plenty of others have become friends.

I didn’t know when I started this what the future would hold. I was featured in Forbes as the Illinois Beer Expert (for reasons that still escape me), which is something I could not have foreseen happening.

I was a part of organizing local events such as The Hoppy Pig’s New Year’s Eve party for the previous two years. All of this work I did as an extra thing on top of all of my other responsibilities. During the time I have written this column, I became a father, I got my second master’s degree and changed jobs a dozen times.

I realized at the first beer event I attended I knew the very least about anything that was happening in that room, and even after five years, I still largely feel that way. I am grateful for the opportunity to write for you and to have gotten to know many of you along the way.

I still will be at Brickstone Brewpub or The Hoppy Pig or Paul’s Place whenever it is safe again to resume that practice. I still will see you at Festival of Barrel-Aged Beers or Beer Under Glass whenever those events open back up. If you ever see me out, come over and say hi, and I still will give you a beer recommendation if you are looking for one.