Brewery Showcase | Around the Bend Beer Co.
Twenty-one years ago, in his last year at the University of Minnesota, Dan Schedler took his first shot at home brewing. In 2015 he finally took his love of beer and brewing and turned it into Around the Bend Brewing Co. – Chicago’s newest brewery.
“I had a lot of free time on my hands and I was living in a house with a bunch of my buddies and I don’t even really remember how I got the idea to try brewing,” he said. “The first batch was passable but it was fun. I was already into cooking at that point and brewing was just another extension of that.”
Right out of college Dan began a career in the advertising world. For 20 years he worked for some of the largest corporations, but the itch to brew was always there. Even as he started a family, he hoped at some point he would be able to open a brewery.
“I always had it in the back of my mind that someday when I retire it would be great as a second career to start a brewery,” Schedler said. “About three years ago I got to a point where i wasn’t enjoying what i was doing, and I was at lunch with a mentor of mine and complaining about things and my mentor asked what I was waiting for. That was the kick in my ass to at least investigate and see if it would even be possible. I came to the conclusion that not only is it possible, now is the time. If I don’t do it soon that window is going to close.”
For three years Schedler continued his work in the advertising field, but on nights and weekends was working on his business plan for the brewery. He attributes his experience in corporate America for his success in preparing for the career shift.
“I probably wrote 300 iterations of the business plan,” he said. “I was fortunate relative to others trying to start a brewery that I had had 21 years of home brewing experience.”
After over two decades in advertising, on April 1st of this year, Schedler turned brewing into his full time job.
Around the Bend currently is contract brewing in a space shared by Ale Syndicate and Arcade Brewery off of Diversey Ave in Chicago. He currently has two forty-barrel fermenters, but hopes to add a third soon.
The first batch of Around the Bend beer was just finished in May and the draft-only beer started hitting Chicago bars May 17.
Schedler will tell you though it was no easy task getting to this point. Besides the early difficulties securing financing, the distribution process was one he was not prepared for.
Many small breweries decide to go the self-distribution route to help cut down on costs, however Schedler wanted to partner with an experience distributor.
“I didn’t anticipate that would take as long as it did,” Schedler said. “We came out in a great place with Lewis Glunz as our distributor. We intentionally decided not to self distribute because I didn’t want to staff up for that.”
In fact Around the Bend only has two-full time employees. Their head brewer not only doesn’t live in Chicago, he doesn’t live in Illinois. Head brewer, Joe Cuozzo, currently lives in Las Vegas and flies out to Chicago every other week to brew the beer.
Cuozzo has been the head brewer at several breweries on the West Coast, including Green Flash. He’s won several medals at the Great American Beer Festival so Schedler was happy to have him come on board.
“He’s taken my home-brew ideas and just made them exponentially better,” he said. “Joe started his own brewery that didn’t work out. He knew he was a better brewer than a businessman and there’s no shame in that. You have to know what your strengths are.”
Currently Around the Bend brews two flagship beers, with plans to add a third in the near future. Ghost of ‘Lectricity, a Kölsch and Silk Road, an American pale ale. While they are draft-only at this point, Schedler hopes to begin bottling in the next month or two.
Instead of putting out a bunch of different beers, Schedler worked hard for three years on three beer recipes.
“I really focused on those three beers and nothing else,” he said. “That’s not the way it’s normally done. Usually brewers are trying something every week. I spent three years on three beers.”
In the case of Silk Road, Scheduler uses a powerful spice called Galangal. It took him a long time to perfect the use of that spice. Eventually he took a big batch of Silk Road and split it into six smaller batches and added a different amount of the spice into each batch. Through this method he was able to figure out that in the forty barrel fermenter he only needed to add 10 pounds.
While there are definitely plans to bring in seasonal beers, Schedler is focused on making sure he gets his flagship beers perfect and out to the city of Chicago.
Naming the Brewery
Like most brewers, Schedler put a lot of thought into the name of the brewery.
“Around the Bend comes out of this notion that we feel it’s the most exciting time we’ve ever seen in craft beer,” he said. “You can keep pushing the boundaries of what’s possible with beer. You never know what’s around the bend. Each of our beers to a greater or lesser degree is meant to be viewed with experimental edge.”
“We want to take and balance tradition with experimentation. We don’t want to add crazy things to beer just to see what happens. We do think there are a lot of interesting things in craft beer because people are taking risks and experimenting and we want the brand to signal that to people.”
What Does the Future Hold?
With distribution now in full swing for Around the Bend, Schedler is looking to the big picture future for the brewery. He’s currently in the second round of financing and is finding it much easier the second time around going to investors.
“Now that we are more established and we have a real physical product it’s much easier going to potential investors,” he said. “A year and a half ago it was an idea and it was a tough sell.”
Sometime in 2016, he hopes he’ll be able to move out of the small shared space and move the brewery to Bedford Park.
He’s currently in talks with FarmedHere, the nation’s largest indoor vertical farm. They grow their products through the process of aquaponics. This process requires a lot of carbon dioxide to help stimulate plant growth. With half of their warehouse not in use, Around the Bend is hoping to move into the unused space and provide the carbon dioxide byproduct of brewing beer to the crops.
“We’ll be able to take the carbon dioxide from the brewing process and pump it into the plant room,” Schedler said. “It’s a win-win. We don’t need that much space right now, but it would allow us to grow in the same space.”
For this year, Schedler hopes to expand Around the Bend’s reach to all the bars and beer shops in Chicago. He finds himself most weekends pouring at beer festivals and events around the city looking to get in front of the craft beer community.
From a hobby back in college, to a new career today, Schedler’s story shows that it’s never too late to go after your dream.
Featured photo used with permission from http://brewerywerks.blogspot.com/.