We are excited about this week’s new brew. Pat Brophy, assistant buyer for specialty spirits and beer, as well as The Whiskey Hotline representative, puts our curiosity to rest about Ballast Point and the future of the beer industry.
Tell us about Sculpin.
I think it’s one of the best examples of the West Coast style IPA on the shelves. Nice malt balance, sticky and resinous hop profile and extremely bitter finish. The 7% ABV is barely detectable. It’s a world class IPA, expensive, but it’s in bombers too and is worth every penny.
How do you think Ballast Point will do in the Chicago market?
I think it’ll take off with a bang and then settle down after a couple of months. We see that with all new-to-market breweries. It adds to a growing list of powerhouse west coast breweries in Chicago. There are a lot of highly regarded, highly rated, sought after breweries from California that we don’t see in Illinois. People have been clamoring for Ballast Point for years and their beer is outstanding across the board, so I don’t see this as a brewery people will try once and not return to.
What’s your history with Binny’s?
Well, I started at the Buffalo Grove store about 4 1/2 years ago as a Customer Service Manager. A little less than a year later I went to the Schaumburg store as the Assistant Manager, then I went to Downers Grove for a few months after that in the same role. After a few months at Downers Grove I took over the St. Charles store as the General Manager, and then a little less than a year after that I joined the corporate buying team handling beer and specialty spirits. And the Whiskey Hotline of course!
Where do you see the beer industry in 5 years?
I see it getting more and more localized. We’re at a point where we have so many breweries, they are becoming hyper local. People in the towns and sometimes even neighborhoods with breweries are very loyal to their local beer, but everyone still likes to explore. That’s the real beauty of craft beer. We all have our favorites, I’m a particular homer about Chicago breweries, but there is always something new to experience in addition to the local favorites.
I also think breweries will have to continually innovate in a landscape that is now so full of breweries. It used to be you could open a brewery and make a pale ale, an IPA, an amber ale, and a Scotch ale or a stout and have fairly predictable success. But there are a TON of those styles that are great and readily available. The more breweries we have, the more they have to be different from the ground up.
What do you do for fun?
I do work a lot, and most of my spare time is dictated by my wife or 4 year old daughter. I try to get some video gaming in when I can, but you can’t exactly play God of War in front of a 4 year old. I like to get out to state parks and hike. I lived in Seattle for a while and fell in love with the mountains, camping, hiking, etc. but we just have a bunch of corn here.
My biggest hobby is homebrewing. I don’t think there is a better way to learn about, and understand beer, than making it. It’s a very rewarding hobby that I recommend to every beer enthusiast I meet. If you were at all interested in high school chemistry, accurate measurements and simple equations, things like that, then homebrewing isn’t very difficult.
What would you say is the best part of the job?
Wow, I love my job and there are MANY “best” parts. I suppose the opportunity to meet brewers/distillers/owners and sometimes travel to see their operation is way up there. Also getting to try EVERYTHING.
What’s your favorite memory at Binny’s?
We had all of our store beer buyers on a trip to several breweries in Michigan a couple of years ago. The night we were in Grand Rapids visiting Founders was great. We closed down the pub that night and then got to stay there and keep trying beers for another few hours. I’ll never forget walking around in the brewery pulling samples from oak barrels and fermenters at 3 AM.
That sounds incredible! Here’s a stumper: You can only drink one thing for the rest of your life… what is it?
Malort. Oh, you mean a beer? Well, I can’t get enough Revolution Anti Hero. Also, I hate to further hype up an impossible to find beer, but I think Cantillon Classic Gueuze is perfection in a bottle and it would probably be that ONE beer. We only get a handful of cases a year to spread around 29 stores. But I can’t help it, it’s perfect.
Malort… really? What would you say the most underrated beer in our stores currently?
Hanssens Oude Gueuze. So many people are constantly hunting for Cantillon and Drie Fonteinen lambics, but the Hanssens stuff is just as good, and most importantly it is readily available.
Any special talents we should know about?
Well, since Tom Bergman beat me to the punch with the Dr. Zoidberg quotes, I’ll go with negotiating better beer prices for our many Binny’s customers. Also 12oz. arm curls.
That’s pretty special. It’s obvious that you know your stuff. What or who do attribute your GRAND knowledge of booze to?
Well, my dad has always been a fan of great beer. He lived in Germany in the 70’s and we moved to Seattle in the early 90’s, so great beer was everywhere while I was growing up. I got an early start by getting into craft beer and good whisky at a younger age, but all my booze knowledge has really come from reading as much as I can, tasting as much as I can, and doing both as often as I can.
Pat Brophy, everyone. Have more questions for Pat? Give him a ring at The Whiskey Hotline!