The Beer Drop: Around The Bend Maui Gold

Just in case that gray, rainy weather last weekend planted the ‘winter is coming’ seed in your mind, this week’s Beer Drop should get us all back on the right track – Around The Bend‘s sunny Maui Gold! A hint of pineapple makes this session IPA a fresh, crushable option to toss in the cooler for the rest of the summer. 

I recently had the chance to catch up with Dan Schedler, Around the Bend’s Founder/Head Brewer/Chief Bottle Washer, to talk all things Maui Gold, ATB, the worst brew day of his life (don’t worry, it all turned out okay), and what’s next for the brewery as they continue to carve their niche in Chicago and beyond. Read on for our full conversation!

Tell us about Maui Gold!

Maui is a session IPA brewed with 100% Citra hops. The grapefruit and lemon/lime flavors imparted by the hops are the star of the show. We underpin those flavors with a hint of pineapple elevating the complexity in a style that can sometimes come off as sort of one-note. 4.5% ABV means you can have a couple during these hot summer months without gettin’ yourself into too much trouble.

Best served? 

Cold – drink right outta the can!

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On Around the Bend

When did Around The Bend first start brewing?

We sold our first keg in May of 2015, so it’s been just a little over three years that we’ve been in business. It was three years before that when I started writing the business plan, brewing the pilot beers and raising funds with investors. So, it’s been about a six-year process since I really got serious about bringing ATB to life.

Where’s the name from?

A lot of folks ask us if we’re from South Bend or Bend, Oregon. I tell them the name has nothing to do with geography. Rather, it’s about a state of mind. We believe that if you don’t keep pushing boundaries, experimenting and trying new things, then you never know what’s Around the Bend! So, that’s the ethos for what we do. Most often we like to take traditional styles and play around with them to see if there’s something new and exciting to be done. Sometimes though, what’s next might be brewing a forgotten or underappreciated style and just playing it straight. We’ve got plans for a few things like that in the future.

What’s the story behind your labels and branding?

Pushing off that core notion of experimentation, we wanted our labels to communicate broadly what it is we are trying to do. Not that everyone is going to get it from every label, but we decided to use Steampunk as the visual language for the brand. We’re trying to take traditional styles of beer and imbue them with an experimental edge, right? Well, Steampunk is Victorian-futurism so, the old-meets-new aspect of that works really well as a metaphor for what we’re trying to do.

How do you come up with beer names?

Well, I don’t know really. They just come to me. That and a little recreational chemistry.

What neighborhood does the brewery call home? How are you involved in the community there?

We started out as a contract brewery. For those who don’t know what that means, essentially, we take our own recipes and go to another brewery that has excess production capacity and we make our beers there. This has meant that we didn’t have to drop a million bucks on day-one to build a physical space (which I didn’t have $1M burning a hole in my pocket) and we’ve been able to gain access to a lot better equipment right away to make the best quality beers possible. So, right now we’re brewing down on the far south side of the city in the Pullman neighborhood. Soon, however, we will be making a move to the western edge of the West Loop, setting up shop next spring at the corner of Ashland and Hubbard. Where we’re at now is production-only, so not a lot of interaction with the community there. The new space will have a taproom and food service, so the community piece is going to change dramatically. This is something we’ve been working on since day one, so I can’t tell you how excited I am about that. Until we have the taproom up and running, our community involvement will continue to revolve around our social channels, the festivals we pour at and all the various bar-events we host. We’ve usually got three or four events going in a typical week so people can always come out and hang with one of us somewhere. 

What’s your favorite thing about ATB? And would you say you have a niche?

Boy – that’s a big one. I could go on and on, but I think my favorite thing has got to be the small, but mighty team we’ve put together so far. I am so proud of the hard work that everyone has done to get us to this point and I can’t wait to grow that second family of mine even more, so that we can bring more of the beers we love to the best beer drinking town in America! As far as our niche, I’d say it’s thoughtful experimentation. We’re not trying to do the wackiest things, but we are trying to be different in our approach to brewing. Sometimes the differences are really subtle, like with Ghost of ‘lectricity, our Kolsch-style. We use a first-wort hopping process, which increases the hop profile slightly and balances the sometimes overly sweet finish you get with some other American Kolsches. It’s subtle, but imparts a really great character to the overall mouth feel and flavor.

Where do you see your brewery operation going from here?

It’s definitely world domination in the 5-7 year timeframe. But to get there I think we’ll focus on the taproom I mentioned earlier, continue to grow our distro lineup in Chicago and work to strengthen the foothold we’ve just started on over in Ohio this year. The reception for the beers there has been amazing. We’re also working on distro in Vegas right now. So, we’ll see.

How do you measure success?

Have we done our best today? Did we try our hardest? Did we make the right decisions based on the information available to us? Did we strive to better understand the challenge before just acting? Did we provide a great experience for our customers? Being able to answer yes to those questions is how we measure success.

Hot Hop Takes

Your coming of age brewery story:

Aw geez, there are so many things that have passed these last few years, it would take forever. The one anecdote that sums up the dedication of the team happened during one of our first ever brew days – we were working out of a space over in Logan Square (that brewery is no longer in business). Our head brewer, Joe Cuozzo, and I were still learning the system. One of the things we didn’t know was that when we knocked-out after the boil, the water being used in the heat exchanger was routed to the HLT. So, we had a lot of water in that HLT at the start of the knock-out and then kept sending more water into it until it began to overflow. Now the other thing to know about this space was that the drains kinda sucked; couldn’t keep up with a high flow rate like we were now generating, but to stop the knockout and let the hot wort sit there until the drains caught up would have jeopardized the quality of that batch. So we just pushed on through. Joe kept an eye on the knock-out and I grabbed a squeegee to try to keep the rising water level at bay. Long story short, we were there ‘til 2AM cleaning up the little flood we created. And we got an earful from the owners of that space. Worst brew day of my life. But we did what was right for the beer and that batch turned out great! That’s the kind of commitment to quality folks can always expect from ATB. We may not always get it right, but if ever we fall down, we’ll do what it takes to make up for it.

Biggest beer pet peeve:

Poorly described beers. If you’re just hinting at a flavor, say that so I don’t expect that to dominate the profile. If you say it’s an ESB, gimme something light and lively, not a Porter-esque bomb.

Favorite craft beer festival:

Beer Under Glass. Every year. Love the setting and it feels like Brewer’s Prom with all your friends getting together in the spring to share our beers with the public.

Describe the stereotypical hop head:

Lovely people who need to expand their horizons. It’s a big ol’ world of beer out there. I love me some good aggressive hops sometimes. But a Grisette is a wonderful change of pace. A Leichtbier can be a revelation. A roasty dry-Stout hits the spot sometimes. Variety will do you good.

Favorite beer other than your own:

Not to cop-out, but it depends on what I’m doing, what I’m eating, what the weather is like… I’m a very a situational drinker, so I may reach for a Two Hearted when I come off the river in the U.P. or I might grab an Orange Sunshine if I’m at a summer outdoor concert. If it’s September and I’m in Munich, I’m definitely drinking Augustiner.

Breweries you see as a measuring stick for what you’re trying to do:

DogfishHead is certainly on that list. They were one of the progenitors of experimental brewing. Avery is a model I look to in terms of the breadth and quality they’ve achieved in their portfolio. New Glarus is shining example of what can happen when you’re true to your values. The list goes on and on… But definitely not Alarmist. Those guys are the worst! 😉

Pick a character from history to drink Maui Gold with:

Jerry Garcia because, Jerry. Duh.

Favorite beer quote:

“My favorite beer is the one I’m drinking right now.”

Biggest beer fad right now:

I don’t do predictions like that very well. It’s so hard to tell which fads will turn out to have staying power and which will go the way of the Black IPA. I’d rather just enjoy playing around with as many styles as possible, making the best beers I can and let our fans tell us what to keep doing and which experiments to leave by the wayside.

Next big beer trend:

I’m hoping it’s Brut IPAs because we’re making one of those right now!

Last thoughts/fun facts you want to leave us with:

Even though I’ve got a lot of grey in my beard I’m still younger than that old fart Gary Gulley at Alarmist. (suck on that Gary!)

Huge thanks to Dan for taking the time to catch up with us! We’re eagerly awaiting the taproom opening, but in the meantime, be sure to pop over to ATB’s Facebook to stay updated on all their comings and goings at various events around town!

1,210 check-ins and counting – toast (or roast) what Sean’s been drinking here. Have a beer or brewery you think should be our next drop? Hit us up ✉