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Joe and Susan at their boiling kettle.

Well, not exactly…But our local Lithuanian American Club is blessed with craft “brew meisters” Susan and the Rev. Joe Eby.  Please join them at 2 p.m. (“Black Friday”) Nov. 25 at Obed & Isaac’s bar and restaurant downtown, where the Ebys’ special-recipe English spiced ale “£200 Windsor Ale” will be on tap.  

Each year the Prairie Schooners Home Brew Club, to which the Ebys belong, picks a beer to be brewed at Obed & Isaac’s. This year, the Schooners selected  the Ebys’ entry, and the brew-loving couple worked with Obed & Isaac’s Head Brewer Ryan Walker to make a six-barrel batch for sale to the public.  According to Susan, the member of this husband-wife team with a Lithuanian background, “Windsor £200” is “basically an English spiced pale ale based on a recipe from the late 1700’s – early 1800’s, to which we added caraway, coriander, ginger, grains of paradise, licorice root, and orange peel.”

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Joe and Susan with Obed & Isaac’s Head Brewer Ryan Walker (center).

To learn more about the Ebys and their home brew hobby (that was something of a survival skill for many of our Lithuanian ancestors who did not brew beer, but operated whiskey stills during the Roaring ‘20s), please read on. Susan is the granddaughter of Lithuanian immigtantsJohn Matekaitis and  Bessie Tolisiasus (sp?).

QuestionHow did you get started brewing your own beer—was it always a couple’s thing, or did it precede you becoming a couple?

Answer: We have enjoyed crafts beers for several years, but Springfield has not always been very big into the craft beer scene. Then we ran into the Prairie Schooners Home Brew Club out at Friar Tuck (out by Target then) on National Home Brew Day in 2012. We joined the club and enjoyed tasting their home brews and sharing unique craft beers we found on our travels. Then we started brewing with friends from the club, at their houses, with their equipment. In 2014, a couple in the club was moving out of state and asked if we’d like to have their home brewing equipment. And so, we entered into the wonderful world of home brewing.

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Joe Eby adding malted barley to crushing machine. The grain must be well-soaked so that it releases maximum sugars when crushed.

Q.What roles do each of you take in the brewing process—and who is the official “taster?”

A.We work together in the process from start to finish, from cleaning and sanitizing to brewing, transferring, and bottling. Often one of us is stirring while the other is measuring and/or weighing the next ingredient to be added. So, it’s a real team effort. When it comes to bottling, Susan is the filler and Joe is the capper. The brewing process steeps malted grain to extract the sugars from which the yeast makes alcohol. After the brewing has been done, Susan has enjoyed taking those “spent” grains, drying them and using them to make delicious breads, brownies, and cookies. As for tasting, we’re both into that. We usually taste our batch before the fermentation begins, after the fermentation ends, prior to bottling, and, of course, when we’re ready to open the first bottle of the beer.

Q. What is the home brewer’s most important goal, and what are the most important skills or talents required to succeed?

 A.The most important thing when home brewing beer is sanitation… sanitation… sanitation!  Making sure all your equipment is clean and sanitized is crucial to brewing good beer. Any bacteria that somehow gets into the system can spoil your whole batch. That being said, if you can boil water and follow a recipe, you can brew beer. Then as one gains more experience in the brewing process, it’s fun to imagine new beers with unique flavors and ingredients. For us, the most important goal is to brew a beer that tastes good to us and our friends.

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Susan making sure the mash is well-soaked and evenly covered.

Q. What defines a distinct brew—and which do you consider your most successful, and why?

A. We think that a distinct brew is defined by its many layers of flavors. Brews that emphasize the malts are sweeter. Those that emphasize the hops are more bitter. We enjoy and have brewed a broad range of beer styles. To date, our most “successful” brews have been the Windsor Ale we brewed at Obed & Isaac’s (more about that below)–and Joe’s Breakfast Stout. Joe enjoys oatmeal for breakfast just about every morning. His favorite thing is to have it with maple syrup and red pepper flakes. So we thought, “How about making an oatmeal stout and adding maple syrup and red pepper flakes?” It turned out great!!

Q.How did you come up with this year’s selection for the Obed & Isaac’s brewing opportunity? Do you get a share of the sales—or just the glory of your beer’s sales on Black Friday?

A.The beer we brewed at Obed & Isaac’s was a Windsor Ale. It’s an English spiced ale based on a recipe from the late 1700’s – early 1800’s. It’s basically an English pale ale to which was added caraway, coriander, ginger, grains of paradise, licorice root, and orange peel. Our beer was selected by the Prairie Schooners Home Brew Club through a blind tasting process. The reward is being selected is to get to brew a 6-barrel batch, have it for sale on tap, and share it with our friends – which we hope will include many of the Lithuanian Club folks – starting November 25 at 2:00 PM.

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Susan cleaning out the spent grain, some of which is used in her baking.

Q. Do you have any secret special ingredients—like maybe a special yeast that you nurture in some dark corner of the basement, like they do in Lithuania?

A. No special yeast strains, but lately we’ve been brewing some unique ales using various herbs, including mugwort, wormwood, rue, coriander, sage, juniper berries, and licorice root — but not all in the same beer!

Q. Do you have any interest in attempting an ethnic beer variety, like Lithuanian?  What do you know about Lithuanian beers, if anything?

A. Yes!  We hope to be brewing a Lithuanian-style or two (and sharing them with the Lithuanian-American Club) in the near future! We’ve enjoyed Lithuanian beers brewed by Svyturys, Utenos, and Rinkuškai. For reference, here are a couple links to good info on Lithuanian beers:

http://www.garshol.priv.no/download/lithuanian-beer-guide/book.pdf

http://draftmag.com/lithuania-and-its-peculiar-little-known-farmhouse-ales/

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Joe driving the forklift to move grain at Obed & Isaac’s.

Dear Ebys, don’t forget your promise to brew for our Lithuanian-American Club! See you at Obed & Isaacs next Friday….

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