Dovetail Brewery produces inspired German and Belgian-style beers using traditional brewing methods in Chicago’s Ravenswood Corridor
Filling an important niche within Chicago’s growing craft beer scene, Dovetail Brewery is located in Chicago’s Ravenswood Corridor at 1800 W. Belle Plaine. This sizable 22,000 square foot facility, owned by certified master brewers Hagen Dost and Bill Wesselink, produces a traditional German-style Lager, a Bavarian-style Hefeweizen and a Franconian-style Rauchbier. Special seasonal beers are also produced, such as the current Grodziskie, a classic Polish beer.
Filling an important niche within Chicago’s growing craft beer scene, Dovetail Brewery is located in Chicago’s Ravenswood Corridor at 1800 W. Belle Plaine. This sizable 22,000 square foot facility, owned by certified master brewers Hagen Dost and Bill Wesselink, is producing a traditional German-style Lager, a Bavarian-style Hefeweizen and a Franconian-style Rauchbier. In addition, Dovetail has produced a seaonal specialty beer, Grodziskie, a classic Polish beer.
Dovetail Lager, Hefewizen and Rauchbier are available to bars and restaurants. Initially, the brewery is self-distributing its beer in kegs, focusing on major beer venues in Chicago and other locations in the immediate vicinity within two miles of the brewery. There is a tap room on-premises where guests can sample and purchase the beers. The tap room is open Tuesday through Sunday.
The brewery also will produce Lambic-style sour beer, brewed using the traditional mashing and spontaneous fermentation methods of the Lambic brewers of the Pajottenland, Belgium. The first of the Lambic-style beers is being brewed now, but will not be available until Spring 2018.
A partnership of two certified master brewers
The two business partners formed their idea for Dovetail Brewery at the famed Doemens Akademie in Munich when these two Chicagoans, who were in the midst of working on their master brewing classes, discovered their common enthusiasm for traditional German and Belgian-style beers made by small, independent breweries in Europe. Their impassioned conversations evolved into serious business discussions, and then into a detailed business plan. “It was very clear that we were of the same mind when it came to brewing methods, philosophy and tastes,” said Wesselink. “We spent a great deal of time researching the business, sourcing equipment and ingredients, and developing a solid plan.”
When Dost and Wesselink first began talking all things beer in Munich, they realized they were equally passionate the beers of two unique regions, Franconia in the Bavarian region of Germany and the Senne Valley in Belgium. Dovetail Brewery is their way of replicating these beer making methods that are nearly forgotten in today’s commercial breweries.
“We share an enthusiasm for the small, independent, family-run breweries of Bavaria and the Senne Valley in Belgium” said Dost. “These breweries produce from 1,000 to 20,000 kegs per year, and when we researched the area, we found that there are 287 small breweries—quite a concentration. Famous labels from this region are Mahr’s Bräu, Schlenkerla and Brauerei Spezial.”
With this vision clear in their minds, the two began looking for space to house a commercial brewery, and fortuitously, they found a space in Chicago’s Ravenswood corridor. Then they scoured Germany for authentic brewing equipment, including open fermentation vessels. These have been in place since December. Having completed the equipment’s testing and calibration process, the first batches of beer were produced in April.
The brewery also has an attractive 1,700 square foot tap room, with a capacity of 99. The public is welcome to hang out, sample the beers and purchase them. The taproom will serve as a venue for previewing new seasonal releases and a rental space for private group events.
Dovetail’s philosophy: beer that delights all of the senses
Dovetail’s brewing philosophy is that great beers play on all of the senses. Beer that delights all of the senses sounds rich on the pour and is mouth-watering to view. The nose of the beer sets the scene: ranging from a flowery hop field to a butcher’s smokehouse. The mouthfeel establishes personality: smooth and creamy, or light and sharp, like Brie vs. Parmesan. Taste forms the complex core of the beer: sweet, bitter, sour and/or salty in orchestration. Lingering, pleasant aftertaste creates the desire for the next sip. Overall, the beer needs to be delicious: a sublime, fleeting experience that engages all of the senses and is greatly influenced by the food it’s paired with or the season during which it’s enjoyed.
Dost and Wesselink believe that there are three keys to making sublime, delightful beer: old-school methods, patience & brewing expertise. To this end, Dovetail Brewery is equipped with authentic old style brewing and fermenting apparatus that is rarely seen in modern breweries. The coolship and cold fermentation processes are a return to the small batch foundations upon which great German and Belgian beers have been produced for centuries.
“Today’s breweries have moved away from these early brewing methods, not because they want to produce better beer, but because they want to simplify the process and save money,” said Dost. “Bill and I agree that our methods produce the finest beers and even though it takes more time and requires more patience, the quality, flavor, body and overall beer-drinking experience are completely worth it. That’s why, as we’ve told our story to Chicago beer enthusiasts, they have responded with excitement. They understand that our brewing methods produce simply the best beers, and they can’t wait to taste them.”
A product line that bridges the gap between tradition and modernity
Dovetail Brewery produces the best of the regional styles from Franconia and the Senne Valley. Their Lager is unfiltered, golden, malty, rich, creamy and complex, with aroma of malt and fresh hops. An easy to drink, full-bodied 4.8% ABV with a lingering pleasant after-taste and foam that stands like a cloud above the rim of the glass with lacing at every sip. It is produced using cool fermentation temperatures and a patient 4-to-5-week cold maturation.
Dovetail’s Rauchbier (5.3% ABV) is dark with reddish tones and an off-white head with a rocky foam standing above the rim of the glass. Produced using 95% beechwood-smoked malt it gives the impression of eating a bar of chocolate in a smokehouse, full and rich with generous hopping to balance the flavor of beechwood smoked bacon.
Dovetail’s Hefeweizen (4.8% ABV) is easy to drink with a lingering, pleasant aftertaste -- A rich, yolky-orange wheat beer, featuring the aroma of clove and fruit in perfect balance; refreshing on a warm day, with a hint of mandarin-orange-like acidity; huge effervescent head; Thick lasting foam that leaves an attractive lacing after every sip.
The fourth beer in the lineup is a Belgian Lambic-style beer brewed using traditional mashing and spontaneous fermentation methods of the original Lambic brewers of the Belgium. “In Belgium, the Senne Valley is known for its unique beers—Lambic and Gueuze—which are ‘spontaneously fermented’ beers,” said Dost. “They are slightly sour and acidic, with low carbonation and complex flavor profiles. Lambic beers are barrel fermented for six months to two years and blended, often with fruit, to achieve their final character. Gueuze beers are a blend of 1, 2, and 3 year-old Lambic beers that are bottle fermented, similar to champagne. Best known are the Kriek beers, which are deep red Lambic beers re-fermented with cherries in wooden barrels and then fermented again in champagne bottles.”
Wesselink and Dost are quick to point out that Dovetail Brewery is more than simply an homage to old beer-making tradition. “We are blending traditional brewing methods with modern creativity,” said Dost. “We believe that brewing should be fun. We will develop new beer recipes that bring out the best of traditional brewing methods but inspire and surprise our customers with their unique flavor, nose and mouth feel. We think beer drinking should be a sublime experience that engages all of the senses. Our beers will reflect the season in which they are enjoyed and the food they are paired with.”
Brewers who follow their passion
By launching Dovetail Brewery, Wesselink and Dost joined the ranks of adventurous individuals who followed their passion to found a new business. Wesselink gained his master brewer certification from the World Brewing Academy program of the Siebel Institute of Technology and the Doemens Akademie in Munich, Germany in 2012. He acknowledges his cousins as his major source of inspiration. “I received my first beer education in my late teens from my beer-enthusiast cousins. They would travel the country discovering the history of beer in America, and would bring me back “Breweriana” and various regional beers. During family get-togethers they would share these rare beers and the stories behind them. They taught me to appreciate only good, flavorful beers and ever since, I have enjoyed craft beer and its history, hoping one day to make my own.”
Dost has had a successful engineering career throughout his adult life, but beer-making has been his personal passion. He decided to pursue this craft seriously a few years ago, and graduated with his master brewer certification from the Siebel Institute of Technology in Chicago and Doemens Akademie in Munich, Germany in 2013. He has developed recipes for delicious Lagers, Kriek-Lambic and Hefeweizen beers. He is fluent in the German language and has spent a great deal of time visiting numerous German breweries, manufacturers and suppliers to gain full understanding of the German brewing process.