John J. Hall, a senior brewer who designed the recipe for Goose's biggest-selling beer, 312 Urban Wheat Ale, has signed on to be brewmaster at 5 Rabbit's still-under construction brewery in Bedford Park, just south of Midway Airport. His last day at Goose will be Sept. 7.
He will take on a far smaller operation, but his responsibilities will grow, encompassing virtually every aspect of production, from securing ingredients to brewing to the bottling line.
"It may be a smaller brewery, but my job is much larger now," Hall said. "It's quality beer and I want to make it as good or better than it already is."
5 Rabbit co-founder Isaac Showaki said Hall was "our No. 1 choice by far" when the search for a head brewer began about four months ago.
"He's super experienced, he's won a lot of medals for his beer, he's extremely methodical and he's incredible with quality control," Showaki said. "He'll make all the recipes better."
Hall will work heavily with Randy Mosher, a legendary beer author and home brewer who is a minority owner of 5 Rabbit and has written the brewery's recipes so far. Those recipes have led to a stable of beers unlike what most other craft upstarts produce, leaning heavily on Latin flavors and spices like passionfruit, chiles, sage and piloncillo sugar.
"John is very creative, and we need a creative person to complement Randy," Showaki said.
By October, Showaki said, all 5 Rabbit beers will be made at the new brewery, including four year-round brews (5 Rabbit golden ale, 5 Vulture dark ale, 5 Grass pale ale and 5 Lizard wit beer), along with rotating seasonal and one-offs "when there's time." Since launching in May 2011, 5 Rabbit beer has been brewed under contract at half a dozen breweries in three different states. Showaki said 5 Rabbit will hire two or three assistant brewers to work with Hall (who is no relation to Goose Island founder John Hall).
Having a brewery and head brewer on board has happened faster than Showaki and partner Andres Araya expected, but Showaki said they're pleased.
"Having our own ingredients, using them the way we want and being able to tweak the recipes to make them better every time will help get things to be the way we always envisioned," he said. "When you're in control of it you can take more care of it."
A tasting room is planned for the brewery in early 2013, which will include at least eight taps pouring the standard 5 Rabbit beers, seasonals and one-offs.
According to Hall's biography on Goose Island's website, he worked in the audio/visual industry until getting a home brewing kit for his 30th birthday. Two years later, in 1997, he was hired by Goose Island as a full-time brewer.
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