2018 Chicago Rising Star Brewer Brian Taylor of Whiner Beer

2018 Chicago Rising Star Brewer Brian Taylor of Whiner Beer
May 2018

Whiner Beer
1400 W 46th St #104
Chicago, Illinois Chicago


In his senior year of college, Brian Taylor needed a part-time job. Enticed by the prospect of pay plus free beer, he joined the bottling line at Flying Dog Brewery in Boulder. Though Taylor enjoyed the job, it was Flying Dog brew master, Eric Warner, that pushed him to explore the science of beer making. It was only then that Taylor, who happened to be a biology major, was officially hooked.

Later, Warner also connected Taylor to the Siebel Institute in Chicago, where he received his formal education. From there, Taylor spent a few years as a lab technician at Boulevard Brewing in Kansas City, and another few at Goose Island Brewing, first as a sort of lab technician and cellar liaison, and then moving strictly to the cellar. Taylor experienced Goose as a free-forall when it came to innovation and appreciated how the company provided its brewers plenty of opportunity to play with different styles. His own interest in barrel-aging began to crystalize.
Taylor then met Ria Neri, a Chicago beer influencer, who has developed some of the most highly regarded beer programs in the city. The two formed Whiner Beer Company in 2015. The South Side brewery was developed on a zerowaste sustainability model and focuses on barrelaged French and Belgian-style beers, aka sours. 

Interview with 2018 Chicago Rising Star Brewer Brian Taylor

Caroline Hatchett: How did you get your start?

Brian Taylor: I started working as a professional in the brewing industry when I was a senior in college, but I wasn’t super interested in beer at the time. I was biology major at a college in Denver, Colorado, and I needed a part-time job and wanted free beer, so I got a gig on the bottling line at Flying Dog. I finished my senior year in college while working there, and I really enjoyed myself. Eric Warner, the brewmaster, got me interested in the science behind brewing. I spent a few days shadowing the brewers, liked it, and decided to pursue it further. Eric got me in contact with the Siebel Institute in Chicago, which specializes in brewing science. I studied there, as well as at its sister program in Munich, and got my degree in brewing science.

After getting my degree, it was tricky going back to Flying Dog. They were moving to Maryland, and I didn’t want to be on the East Coast. I got a job at Boulevard Brewing Company in Kansas City, worked there as a brewer, and transitioned into a lab tech job. I was a liaison between the brewers and the lab and spent my time testing media and plating samples. I worked there for three years before getting a job with Goose Island, where I worked from 2007 to 2015. I started in the lab; then a head cellar position opened up. During my eight and a half years there, I honed my brewing skills. I was getting interested in brewing with wild yeast while I was still working at Boulevard. At Goose, it was a free-for-all with innovation; I was able to do a ton of barrel aging, so I and a couple guys started a wild beer program. I wanted to start my own place, but early in my career, there wasn’t a craft beer craze like there is today. It was never the right time, and I never had the right people around me. When I met Ria [Neri] and Kevin [Eisner], we really clicked. After that, it just happened. 

CH: Tell me about your brewing style.

BT: Ria and I knew what we wanted the first time we had a conversation about brewing. We both wanted Belgian-style beers at the forefront. They’re the beers we both enjoyed making and drinking. I’m also addicted to sour beers— lambics and things like that. It’s all I did at Goose, and there’s a niche for it. It was super easy to think of styles, so after we decided on those, we focused on organic growth. What Ria did with branding and what I did with beers melded together perfectly.

CH: How many beers do you have in Whiner’s line-up?

BT: We have 12 to 14 beers rolling, 10 on draft, and two to four on rare bottles. I’d like to drive more tap lines, and I definitely have the beer to do it. We always have two barrel-aged wild ales that are 100 percent barrel fermented. We’ve started our cool ship [wild fermentation] program as well. We made the walls [of the cool ship] out of barrel staves, so the wood would harbor bacteria and yeast that lead to fermentation. The first batch was last October and it’s delish.

CH: How many barrels are you on track to brew in 2018?

BT: 3,000 

CH: What kind of system are you brewing on?

BT: A 30-barrel Sprinkman system. We had to spend extra money on the build-out because you can’t do a turnkey system in a building like this. Ours is a three-vessel system with lauder tun, mashtun, and kettle/whirlpool. We can our beers in-house. We do a lot of cans—it’s 50:50 cans to kegs—because people like our cans so much. Even in bars, they love drinking Le Tub out of a can.

CH: What’s your five-year plan?

BT: We want to grow. Right now we’re in Ohio and all of Chicago. We’re going to Nashville tomorrow. Breweries need to grow to succeed.

CH: What do you think is the most over-rated beer trend?

BT: I got a negative review on Untapp’d for not having an IPA. So, IPAs.

CH: What advice would you give to your younger self?

BT: Be calm. It will happen eventually. I was so upset in the late 2000s because a bunch of breweries started popping up and I had hoped to build my own place by then. It all worked out in the end.