Jared Saul, Emporium Arcade Bar's Beer Buyer and I are sitting at the bar in his Logan Square location in the dark, two days after the conclusion of Chicago Craft Beer Week. With the 11-day marathon that tests the patience and stamina of nearly everyone in the industry over, we're reflecting on the week, the massive industry-only party Jared just threw and what it says about our community.
What are you drinking?
A super fresh, ice cold tall boy of Diet Coke, perpetually! As far as beer goes though, these days I'm soaking my liver in the sour spectrum of the craft scene. Specifically the lighter, traditionally German style sours. Off Color Troublesome and Marz Ruby's Tears are delicious and well executed examples of the Gose style. If I'm looking for something with less salinity, I'll go for a Berliner Weisse. Perennial's collaboration with Hopleaf, Tart Hopfentea is tasting really nice right now and is made, non-traditionally with a tropical tea blend. Perfect for the start of Chicago patio season.
What's something we can't Google about you?
Don't tell anybody, but when I first moved to Chicago nine years ago, I used to think Blue Moon was craft beer! The horror! I've since cultivated a true disdain for anything parading as "craft" that isn't actually deserving of the distinction. With the exception of a properly poured Guinness or a cold bottle of High Life, my beer consumption these days is almost purely craft. I have a happy palate now.
How do you explain your job to your mother?
Aside from telling her how thrilled I am with what I do, I just tell her I am a buyer for the two Emporium's. My family actually just came to visit a few weeks back and were finally able to check out my bars and were really impressed, which is a testament to our company and the environment we've been able to cultivate. They aren't exactly "bar folk" and don't really drink at all, so to them, the bars were just a fun place to hang out, which they really are. We've got a good thing going at both of our locations, which really makes my job a lot easier. All in all, Momma Saul is just happy her son is doing something he enjoys.
What makes the beer industry so special?
The people. From the very top of the craft beer edifice to the ground level beer consumer, the people behind every aspect of the beer industry are what make it so special and so successful. Everybody plays an integral part in the continued success of our wonderful industry. As beer professionals, it is very easy to forget about the consumers -- the lay people -- but they are the driving force of this magically delicious industry we have the pleasure to be a part of.
What makes the beer industry so frustrating?
Simply stated, bad beer. Just because you can make beer, doesn't mean you should make beer your career. In my opinion, the popularity of craft beer is also its greatest weakness. There are too many new breweries opening that are seemingly rushing to produce beer to get their foot in the door. While I think that we all would love to see these small businesses succeed, we also want to see good beer going to market. It is frustrating to me as a buyer to see so many new operations popping up that are just not putting out good liquid. With the 'craft beer bar' distinction, it is imperative to our success to carry a solid product and not simply jump on board with every local brewery that wants to get their product out there. Saying no to a new brewery is one of the hardest parts of my job, because I truly want all these folks to be successful and put out amazing beer to represent our city. Chicago is one of the great beer cities of the world and if these new kids on the block don't have the right stuff, they won't make the cut.