Illinois Brewing Insider: Black Lung Brewing’s Josh Grubbs on Mikerphone’s quality hazy IPAs, his own barrel-aged Belgian quad, Denver’s Bierstadt Lagerhaus and expanding one’s palate at Beer Bazaar
President and head brewer
Black Lung Brewing
2217 N. IL Route 83 in Round Lake Beach
115 Nippersink Road in Fox Lake
Favorite breweries: Years before I ever considered opening a brewery of my own, I was a huge fan of them. I’ve been to a couple hundred breweries around the country and had a great time visiting them. Here in Illinois, the first breweries that come to mind are Mikerphone and Metropolitan.
They are my favorites for very different reasons. They have always had delicious beers that are high quality and diverse. But they made very different beers. I love the dedication to lagers and fine beers that Metropolitan showed through the years before closing this winter, and the brewery was beautiful. MBC was an amazing place to have a brew, and it’s a shame we lost this gem. Mikerphone wrote the book on hazy IPAs in Illinois, and they continue to crank out diverse adjunct stouts and fantastic sour beers. I will pop in there whenever I am in the area just to see what they are working on.
Well, I believe this trend to be about the same for every brewer. Like most others, I have run the gamut from old-world beers to adjunct barrel-aged stouts, West Coast and hazy IPAs too. But these days, I seek out the perfect light lager. I love the delicate aroma of the grain and light noble hops. This, paired with the ability to drink several of them and still be comfortable, all while chatting with friends or playing a game, makes them my go-to beer.
I don’t get out much these days, so I’ve really been enjoying our new Lung Light, a pseudo pilsner with Hallertau Mittelfruh hops. It’s light and crushable with a great flavor, which is perfect for me. I also love the pilsners at Roaring Table, Goldfinger and Riverlands.
Recent beers that have caught your eye: Dark Poets Society is a schwarzbier by 9th Hour Brewing that we recently had on as a guest tap in our Fox Lake taproom. It was absolutely delicious. I might have drank as much of that beer as we sold. It has great dark chocolate notes and is nice and light. I feel like smaller, more delicate beers are coming back, and that is enjoyable to know.
If you tell Nader at Beer Bazaar what you usually drink, he will line you up with a few in your wheelhouse that you’ll love and that will expand your palate. We have a beertender like this at Black Lung too. It’s a wonderful skill to have.
What are you looking forward to enjoying on draft this winter: I look forward to trying our bourbon barrel-aged Belgian quad ale at Black Lung this winter. I love when breweries try something different or weird. I always want to try a weird beer, even if smaller light lagers are my go-to. I still love drinking barrel-aged sours and barrel-aged stouts. There is nothing better than a great imperial stout that’s well aged in a freshly dumped bourbon barrel. We have a Kentucky common ale, aged in a bourbon barrel with brettanomyces yeast, that I am very excited for as well.
Favorite beer bar in Illinois: My favorite bar to try new beers is Firkin in Libertyville. It’s a very cool hang. There is a lot going on visually there, which is great for my brain, and they always have new and sought-after beers on draft, which is great for sampling.
Intense commitments to one style or to a massive old building that’s off the beaten path don’t seem to work out much these days, but it looks as though it has for Bierstadt Lagerhaus in Denver. And that makes me happy.
Best brewery you’ve hit on vacation: This is an incredibly difficult question to answer. I love the Denver breweries, like Our Mutual Friend and Cerebral Brewery, and the breweries across Michigan, like Dark Horse Brewing Co. and Bell’s. They all have amazing beer and a great brewery experience. But I’d have to say Bierstadt Lagerhaus in Denver might be my favorite. I love the entire experience of the taproom and brewery, and their commitment to lagers is like no other. They have an amazing presentation, and the quality is always top notch. I believe they inspired the Lukr boom of 2021 around the country. Intense commitments to one style or to a massive old building that’s off the beaten path don’t seem to work out much these days, but it looks as though it has for Bierstadt. And that makes me happy.
These days, I seek out the perfect light lager. I love the delicate aroma of the grain and light noble hops. This, paired with the ability to drink several of them and still be comfortable, makes them my go-to beer.
Secret beer spot: I always end up at Beer Bazaar in Grayslake. Nader is the owner and a pal of mine. He has serious beer knowledge and knows what he likes and what others will like. If you tell him what you usually drink, he will line you up with a few in your wheelhouse that you’ll love and that will expand your palate. We have a beertender like this at Black Lung too. It’s a wonderful skill to have. I love Beer Bazaar for the huge selection, laid-back vibes and talking beer biz with my buddy Nader.