Oh, Boil! A 5 Rabbit Brew Day

Last month, Matt and I cashed in on our Iron Brew Challenge prize, and got to help brew Super Pils at 5 Rabbit Cerveceria in Bedford Park, IL. It … was … awesome, exhausting, memorable, hilarious, fascinating, educational, and absolutely pure fun.

I call this double brew day double vision. Here are two, really excited people all up in the 5 Rabbit brewhouse!

Brief backstory: we entered 5 Rabbit’s home brewing competition and WON (!!!) with our “Mole Desayuno,” a subtly spicy mole stout brewed with coffee, cocao nibs, and sour orange. Our award was “brewers for the day” at 5 Rabbit with brewmaster John J. Hall. Ours was a double brew day – meaning we brewed two batches – of Super Pils, a 7.2% ABV hoppy pilsner that is fermented with ale yeast at a reduced temperature. Essentially, by fermenting in this way, the yeast is tricked into behaving more like a lager yeast and develops flavors as such in the ale as it ferments. You know, for science reasons. Pretty cool stuff.

In honor of the occasion, I illustrated this sassy rabbit clutching a glass of Super Pils, above which floats a few visual tasting notes that represent the beer. If you squint, the beer and its associated flavors looks like a carrot, I think.

Sassy rabbit with a Super Pils pint

5RabbitI learned a lot of things on our big brew day, most of all that I have a lot to learn. Plus, when you’re used to brewing 5 gallons of beer at a time, it’s pretty daunting when you realize you’re brewing well over 600 in one go. Yipes!

In other ways, the day was very much like a home brew day. There was a lot of standing around, sipping beer, and chatting, and-then-moments-of-frantic-flailing-about-when-you-have-to-remember-to-do-stuff and then it’s time for another rest. Phew.


I remember the day mostly in quotes from John J. which are surrounded in my mind with hilarious or weird or really cool moments. Therefore, I think the best way to sum it up will be in a Top 5 list of memories, as follows:

5) “THIS is why you add hops to beer.” We got to taste the wort in various stages; first, second, and final, and before you add hops to the mix, you have a completely sickly sweet liquid. John J. spoke about how people who drink wine often complain about beer’s excessive bitterness, but without the addition of bitter hops we’d be left with a completely unbalanced beverage–the sweet wort needs bitter hops!

4) John shared with us his brewing spreadsheet of abundant details, which he fills out with addition times, temperatures, gravity readings as he executes a brew, so that “if I die of a heart attack, another brewer can walk up, step over my dead body and continue brewing right where I left off.” And seeing my initials written in a few of the “brewer” blank on the brewing spreadsheet was pretty dern neat.

3) “Watch out!!! Boil over!” This one was a bit scary. John had run downstairs for some reason, leaving Matt and I to eye the kettle as it boiled. Lo and behold, a hot frothy monster succeeded in escaping out the top hatch! At the home brew scale this is a terrible mess, an inconvenience and a disappointment. At this level, it was absolutely frightening! Hot, boiling liquid in waves bigger than my head (this is how I remember it, people!) splashed and grabbed at us from the tank as we backed away. Matt yelled for John and before we knew it he was spraying the boil down into the kettle with a hose. The tank got up to 214 degrees, and John J. was pretty amazed since he’d never seen it get that hot before.

2) Yodo con Leche, 5 Rabbit’s latest release, was in the fermentation tank while we were brewing, and we got to taste a small pull from the tank. It wasn’t carbonated yet but the chocolately, coffee goodness was already there. Yum!

1) JJ told lots of interesting anecdotes from his days gone by at Goose. He was there for 15 years, after all, so he had a great collection of tales to tell. Oh, and his favorite version of Bourbon County is, without question, the original.

When our brew day was done, we rejoiced not because it was over, but because we had truly gotten the most out of the experience (and, ok, maybe a little because we could sit down and relax). Thank you to everyone at 5 Rabbit and to Kim Leshinski of Hail to the Ale for organizing such a memorable day. Matt and I are truly grateful to have been given the opportunity, and we really did have loads fun.

And finally, just a few more photos. “Huzzah!”
IMG_4305IMG_4267IMG_4265IMG_4277Thanks for reading. Cheers, everyone. 🙂


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