Revolution Brewing: Fists in the Windy City, an Interview with Jim Cibak

Revolution Brewing, based out of Chicago, is a staple of the Chicago craft beer community and the hop devils of the Mid West. When you think of Chicago beer you can’t help but want to raise your fist in the air. Its growth over the past six years, as you will read in the interview below from Jim Cibak brewmaster at Revolution Brewing, has been a culmination of hard work and dedication from the fantastic team and its owners and operators Josh and Krista Deth. Revolution Brewing has indeed been a very fast growing brewery due to some very hard work but also due in part to the recent boom in the craft beer industry. I myself have seen a growth in as little as a year and a half. After my introduction to Revolution Brewing roughly two years ago, I was finally able to get my hands on some Anti-Hero IPA last year in February. This wonderfully designed can was nothing short of spectacular, and since then I have taken two more trips to Chicago and consumed copious amounts of beers from various breweries from around Chicago and some of the neighboring states. The out of state brewery I am speaking of is of course Three Floyds Brewing Co., which is actually one of Jim’s previous work places. Three Floyds Brewing Co. is pretty much considered local to Chicagoans, but more on that later.

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My recent trip to Chicago took place during Chicago Craft Beer Week which took place at the end of May. One of the events I attended during my 6 days there was Revolution Brewing’s Brew Cruise, or as I kept calling it for some off reason Booze Cruise, maybe because I had likely already downed about 10 beers before stepping on the boat. This trip was essentially my opportunity to leave the wifey in Montreal, and lay waste to the tap lines of Chicago’s craft beer scene. I would say it was a success. The brew cruise that Revolution Brewing organized was an absolute stunner! It was a joy stepping onto a river cruise and being offered all you can drink beer exclusively from Revolution Brewing.

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My journey into the world of Revolution Brewing has really only just begun, and being a two and a half hour flight away makes it that much harder for me to complete my Revolution Brewing cravings, but I will always be sure to hit them up on any future trip to Chicago. I was able to catch up with Jim Cibak, the brewmaster, over email and he was kind enough to answer some of the questions I sent over to him.

An Interview with Grand Moff Cibak, in charge of the construction of the Deth’s Tar. (P.s Han shot first)

Hopcitizen: Thanks for taking the time to speak with me, it’s an honor to have you answer some questions for me. Revolution Brewing is still a fairly young brewery and it seems the new wave of breweries around the world all started around the same time, what are your thoughts on the current beer explosion that’s been taking place and what do you feel contributed to Revolution Brewing to get that fist where it stands today?

Jim Cibak: It is my pleasure to answer your questions, Yes indeed the Craft Brewing Industry is growing by leaps and bounds and is stronger than ever.  One of the major reasons for this I truly believe is the comradery among brewers.  We are always sharing information, raw materials, equipment and procedures to help strengthen the the industry as a whole with a common goal of making the best beer we can!  You will not find this to be the case in most industries.

I feel that Revolution Brewing has come a long way in a very short period of time for many reasons.  We have an incredibly seasoned and dedicated brew staff both at the pub and  our production facility which has allowed us to brew great beers and ramp up production to where we are today!  However, we would never have been able to grow as quickly as we have without dedication and determination of our process engineer, packaging team, shipping and receiving department, maintenance staff, sales and marketing team and the managers, kitchen staff and crew at the brewpub.  Also, we would have never been able to get started as a company without the determination of Josh and Krista Deth (Owner/Operators of Revolution).  I think sometimes people look at our success and think it just happened overnight but Josh and Krista were working and planning for 10+ years just to get the brewpub started!  It has truly been a team effort and would not have been possible without a massive company wide effort.

Hopcitizen: Where do you see Revolution Brewing going next?

Jim Cibak:  We are finally in the last stages of our expansion by getting 4 new 800 BBL Ziemann outdoor fermentation tanks on line this week!  We are very much looking forward to dialling in our new procedures for our new 120 BBL brewhouse and brewing as much high quality beer as efficiently as we can.  We have never been able to supply the demand for our products so we are looking forward to that challenge with our new equipment.  We may also look into supplying beer into some new markets although Chicago and Illinois as a whole will always be Revolution’s primary focus.  We are very proud of the Chicago brewing scene and our place within it!

Hopcitizen: Apparently I hear Revolution Brewing is a huge fan of wrestling, if you had a match between Galaxy Hero and Citra hero, who would win? Think in terms of beer!

Jim Cibak:  I would say that the Citra Hero would win!  Citra Hero has a higher ABV% and IBU than the Galaxy Hero and the Citra Hop is extremely flavourful and aromatic!!  In the 2016 Citra Hero we used the Citra Hops that we went out and selected last year in the Yakima Valley so they are super fresh, with a layers of pungent fresh citrus aroma and flavour with an underlying hint of fresh mint lurking in the background!  Citra Hero has a massive Dry-Hop with these freshly pelletized Citra hops to infuse all those amazing citrus flavours and aromas into the finished beer.  Citra is a hop  that can definitely stand up to and hold it’s own up against just about any hop variety out there.

Hopcitizen: You guys have an extensive list of beers to offer and a wide variety of styles, which style do you feel is the torch for Revolution and what beer was your first focus when starting out?

Jim Cibak:  I.P.A.s have definitely been the torch for Revolution Brewing and they have driven our fast paced growth.  However, the very first beer we ever brewed at our brewpub to test our system was an English Mild Ale called “Working Man Mild” which is about on the opposite end of the spectrum from an IPA.  Although we love brewing IPAs and Pale Ales we also enjoy brewing a broad range of traditional beer styles which are extremely important in the history of brewing and must never be forgotten about.

Hopcitizen: Which beer from the line up would you consider your most precious gem?

Jim Cibak: We have brewed so many different styles of beer here at Revolution it is very difficult to choose a favourite.  However, two beers I am the most proud of would be Rev Pils and Fist City Pale Ale.  I just think that they are two styles of beer that are extremely flavourful, aromatic and drinkable no matter what time of the year it is.  Also, I think the can design is fantastic!

Hopcitizen: Any special surprises to come in 2015/2016?

Jim Cibak:  In 2016 were moved our entire Hero Series of IPAs into cans which we are super excited about!  Also, in 2015 the Kedzie Brewstaff collaborated on brewing our Batch 1,000,  an Imperial Brown Ale that is currently aging in Bourbon Barrels as we speak.  Our plan is to bottle 2 different variants of this beer and have several other experimental variants on draft! It is a big strong beer at approximately 13.7% ABV but it is a smooth drinker and we are excited to provide different versions of this beer for the fans of our Barrel Aged Beer Program – The Deep Woods Series.

Thanks again Jim for talking out the time to speak with me! It was a pleasure to hear more about Revolution Brewing.

Below are some of their fantastic offerings and my thoughts on them. You can see another Revolution Brewing review coming later in the fall of their amazing deep wood series beer Deths Tar. And I look forward to trying their Very Mad Cow, Straight Jacket and many others next time around!

Anti-Hero IPA

IPA || ABV: 6.5% || IBU: 70

I first consumed their flagship IPA, Anti-Hero, on a random trip to Chicago in 2015. It was Valentines Day, love was in the air, wife in one arm and in the other a six pack of Anti-Hero IPA. We danced and sang as the cold Chicago winter breeze rushed over us and she tasted so good! Oh… I’m talking about the beer there by the way, stop being so dirty. So during this time of love, I encountered a beer bursting with  hop flavors and aromas.

This IPA a wonderfully hoppy IPA with a nice crisp bitter finish. Compared to other Chicago IPAs it does tend to lean more on the bitter end and tends to open way to a malt profile. The Anti-Hero is an IPA you would want to consume as fresh as possible to really get that kick of hops. But the malt profile balances well with the intense hops to create an all American Midwestern IPA. You can not claim to have had a Chicago IPA without having tried this one!

4.5/5

Eugene Porter

Porter || ABV: 6.8% || IBU: 28

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I am a hop head as most know me, and for those that don’t, it is quiet apparent I love hoppy beers through my untappd and my blog. But I absolutely adore porters. A good porter to me is exemplified by the boasting roasted malt flavor and smooth combination of tobacco and coffee notes. I almost always enjoy a good porter. Just thinking about it makes me want to grab a Brasserie Dunham Lapatt Porter or Pit Caribou’s Porter from my local beer shop. This was consumed as a half pint at Howells and Hood at the source in Chicago. Aroma gives off a nice light airy roasted malts, there is a bit of a watery taste to it, mixed in with the roasty malts and a very strong bitterness. The taste doesn’t match the nose as much for me, and as far as porters which I prefer it’s not really nailing it. Still a decent porter out in the market, and probably one of the better Chicago porters!

I also consumed a variation of this beer called Turn Blue at Welles Craft Festival, and that was an absolute stunner.

“After sitting in bourbon barrels for a year, we added Brettanomyces and a bacterial culture isolated from a renowned Belgian brewery to our Blue Gene Porter, then waited another year.” – Turn Blue

Turn Blue is an 8.5% abv Eugene aged in bourbon? Yes please. It has a great light porter feel and a very nice mellow sour kick with a very balanced use of the bretts.

4.25/5

3.75/5

A Little Crazy

Belgian Style Pale Ale || ABV: 6.8% || IBU: 35

My dive into Belgian IPAs came with some resistance, it seems these days beers is running some crazy trends and mixing some crazy styles of beers and at first it’s one of those cronut type fiasco. Mix a croissant and a doughnut? Who does that?! But then you eat it and your like “….” then your like “Damn.”

Aroma gives off a nice subtle hops with some notes of a spicy belgian ale. This ones actually great! Has a nice hoppy taste with a great pilsner malt flavor. Think of a nice pilsner but hoppy with some great saison yeast flavors that pop around your palate. It has a whole mix of flavors and there isn’t one flavor that sticks out, it’s a nice mix of everything all together and has a very strong finish.

4.25/5

Double Fist

DIPA || ABV: 8.3% || IBU: 90

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Aroma gives off a strong hoppy red ale, a very strong red caramel in color. It’s very malty, it’s hoppy, but has red ale style sharp malty bitterness at the end. The malty flavors gets a bit more bearable towards end but it’s a very malt forward IPA, only for the bold!

3.5/5

Hero Series attack

Galaxy Hero

IPA || ABV: 7% || IBU: 80

Aroma is nice and hoppy, with a sharpness too it. The galaxy hops don’t shine as much as they should. But it’s a good typical mid west IPA. Has a pretty strong bitter finish and is dry but quiet intense. Not too easy to drink but still very enjoyable to drink. From the galaxy hop you expect a crazy tropical attack and a strong tropical nose, which I did not get from this beer. As far as a enjoyable and refreshing IPA, I would drink few of these whilst visiting Chicago again that is for sure.

4/5

Mosaic Hero

IPA || ABV: 7.5% || IBU: 75

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This beer is an IPA utilizing the wonderful mosaic hop. It taste slightly hoppy with a malt finish, has a lack of tropical notes like the Galaxy Hero, but a very nice overall experience drinking this beer. The true experience was to share this local IPA in Chicago in the West Loop with a very old friend. That is the true essence of the craft beer culture, drinking good beer, with some great buds and sharing thoughts and connecting with the feeling of drinking a good craft beer. When you can see how your friends eyes light up after taking the first sip. It’s a good view of what maybe you look like when you consume something spectacular that sends a rush through your bones!

4/5

Cystal Hero

IPA || ABV: 7.2% || IBU: 80

Crystal Hero has a nice hop forward hit followed by a strong yeastyness. The beauty of this beer is the minimal bitterness considering it has an 80 IBU.  It’s very easy to drink, very smooth considering the abv, and is not a tropical hop bomb, but it’s a very lovely IPA and probably one of my favorite form the Hero Series thus far, second to Anti-Hero of course.

4/5

Revolution Brewing is a staple for the Chicago beer scene and they are always brewing some amazing beers, I have yet to open up my bottle of Deths Tar sitting in my cellar, and I’m sure it will flow like a dream. If you have not had a chance to get to Chicago to try some of Revolution Brewing’s beer, it is a must do!

An Article by Hopcitizen. Photography by Hopcitizen.

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