“There’s magic in the ivy and the old scoreboard
The same one I stared at as a kid keeping score
In a world full of greed, I could never want more.”
— Eddie Vedder ("Go All the Way," a tribute to the Chicago Cubs)
This song is the inspiration for Huss Brewing Company’s Magic in the Ivy, a pale ale and permanent varietal among the 20 taps in the unassuming taproom located at 1520 West Mineral Road in south Tempe. This tribute to the Chicago Cubs is also just one of many ways the brewing company pays tribute and stays connected to its hometown roots. Husband-and-wife owners Jeff and Leah Huss are transplants from the Chicago area, and they bring a Midwestern mentality to their production-based brewery. Their approach is traditional: keeping things simple and producing the best stylistic beers they possibly can.
How did the idea to open Huss Brewery start? What was the inspiration?
It turns out, both the Husses have quite the résumé to back up the idea of opening their own brewery. A love of craft beer and brewing drove Jeff Huss, who also acts as brew master for Huss Brewing Company, to the Siebel Institute in Chicago, then to Doemens Academy in Munich, Germany. From there, he worked as head brewer of BJ’s Restaurant and Brewery in Chandler for seven years.
Meanwhile, Leah — who is, at least according to Jeff, the real beer geek in the duo — spent 14 years running Papago Brewing Company in Tempe. While there, she educated herself on the ins and outs of brewery production, beer styles, and seasonality, as well as the ideas behind running a company.
Eventually, the two decided they wanted to start their own spot, and by August 2013, the Husses were on their way. They opened with little money and no beer of their own, so they started as a small bar, serving other breweries' beer. “We had a pretty good crowd for a while. Friends and supporters would stop in and grab a beer or two,” says Jeff. And two months later, they tapped their first beer: That’ll Do IPA.
The beer was meant to be a one-time offering and gained its name from their daughter Lola’s obsession with the movie Shrek. In the movie, there's a precarious crossing of a very high and unstable bridge, and upon crossing, Shrek bends down and pats the frightened donkey on the head saying, “That’ll do donkey. That’ll do.” The Husses felt the scene mirrored their experiences as new business owners and the popularity of the beer earned it a permanent spot at the brewery. It's also one of the three Huss beers that's being canned and distributed across the city, alongside the brewery's Scottsdale Blonde and Magic in the Ivy. It took a little over a year before the canning line was in full swing, but now Huss has contracts in the works to build a 20 tap-system taproom. The plan is to offer four permanent taps; one to two seasonal varieties; a barrel-aged beer or a one-off; a cider; two wine taps pouring of Arizona based wines; and the remaining taps set aside for guest beers.
How is Huss Brewing Company putting its stamp on Arizona?
Huss Brewing Company distinguishes themselves from other production breweries by having a small tasting room. Plus, between the two of them, Jeff and Leah have spent a serious amount of time educating themselves and gaining experience in the way of beer, brewing, food, taste profiles and running a business. “We’re just trying to make good beer and doing our best to let the beer speak for itself,” Jeff says.
Leah, a Scottsdale Culinary Institute graduate, believes that “food and beer just melt together.” She's the inspiration behind a lot of Huss' taste profiles, especially the seasonal varietals to which she credits her Midwest upbringing and her grandmothers cooking. Last years spring seasonal, Lemon Lush came from an actual dessert her grandmother used to make and this year's winter seasonal, Rice Pudding Porter — which is coming in mid- to the end of October — is based on a dessert she enjoyed growing up in the Midwest.
“It’s rare for us to make a beer just to make a beer,” Jeff says.
What can we expect in the future for Huss Brewing Company?
“Continued growth,” according to Jeff. “We have a lot of room to brew a lot of great beer and we’re just excited about continuing to grow into our space.” The brewery, located a little off the beaten path in an industrial area of South Tempe, supports 5,000 square feet of brewing capacity with 1,000 square feet up front being the tasting room. They also maintain a connected space of approximately 7,000 square feet, which is currently being used for storage of cans, kegs, and forklifts. The brewery houses four 30-barrel and two 90-barrel fermenters, as well as two 30-barrel and two 90-barrel brite or serving tanks, and a tasting room with twenty taps.
As far as the future of Huss beers go, a new tank is on its way, which will make nitrogenizing possible. For fans out there, that means Koffee Kolsch — a brew that's been growing in popularity with its surprisingly light, golden pour for a beer that also renders rich hazelnut coffee notes usually more distinctive of a porter — will become a mainstay, and the GABF 2015 bronze medal-winning milk stout, Husstler will be available on nitrogen.
Most Experimental Beer
21 Hour Sizzurp
Style: Imperial/Double Stout
A beer Jeff refers to as, “the weirdest beer we’ve ever done,” was a collaboration the Huss' made with Fate Brewing Company. For this beer, Adam Schmeichel, head brewer of Fate Brewing Company, made the biggest batch of wort he possibly could and boiled it down for about 10 hours. From there, it was pumped into kegs and brought over to Huss Brewing Company, where they in turn made the biggest batch of wort they could and pumped Fate’s syrup into Huss’ kettle. What they ended up with was an incredibly sugary solution of wort. In the end, what they had was a thirteen percent alcohol imperial chocolate stout to which they added cocoa nibs and then put into Colorado whiskey barrels for about six months.
“It’s about the thickest thing you’ll ever drink,” Jeff says. It was a popular beer, according to Jeff, but one to enjoy in moderation – about 8 ounces at a time.
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Most Inspired Beer
Magic in the Ivy
Style: American Pale Ale
A beer that Jeff considers his favorite was inspired by and made for the spring training season. It was a beer they were only going to make once, according to Jeff who just wanted to make a great beer as a tribute to the Chicago Cubs and his years as a devoted fan. The beer — the name of which, as mentioned earlier, is derived from lyrics to "Go All the Way," a Cubs tribute song by Eddie Vedder — is now one of the brewery’s most successful beers, earning its place as a permanent tap and distributed canned variety.
At this time, you can find Scottsdale Blonde, Magic in the Ivy, and That’ll Do IPA canned across metro Phoenix, as well as select taps at local breweries in town. For a full selection and a chance to try seasonal varieties such as Rice Pudding Porter and this year’s GABF bronze medal winning milk stout, Husstler, you'll have to head down to the tasting room located at 1520 West Mineral Road in Tempe.
For more information check the Huss Brewing Company website.