Melissa Elsmo

Pouring En Bier #3, Kinslahger Brewing Company co-owner, Keith Huizinga, instructs me to note the color and taste the difference between his lager-fermented wheat beer and other wheat beers I’ve sampled in the past. 

“Yeast and spice predominantly drive the flavor in most wheat beers, but our brewing process really lets you appreciate the bready nature of pure wheat,” says Huizinga of the third in his series of experimental beers, “and this beer is likely to become regularly produced at Kinslahger.”

His instructions encouraged me to reflect on the taste of a tall Hefeweizen adorned with a lemon slice moments before sipping En Bier #3; the contrast between my memory and new reality slapped me in the face. En Bier #3 evoked the smell of bread dough and its pleasant bitterness lured me to continue sipping. My brief education on enjoying the nuances of a single beer made drinking (sorry, I meant sampling) it more of an experience than a means-to-an-end.

My curiosity piqued.

The large wall clock freezes time at 3:11 p.m. in the well-appointed Kinslahger Tapoom on Roosevelt Road to honor the production brewery’s opening day in 2106. The moment represents the moment Huizinga and his business partner’s dreams of brewing beer for a living came true.

River Forest resident and Michigan native, Huizinga traveled to the Netherlands during his college years. While there he lived with Dutch students who exposed him to a new world of beer. A typical college student, Huizinga, drank whatever was cheap and available when he was state-side, but exposure to artfully crafted beer proved to be transformative for the young man.

“We are living in a completely different beer world today,” says the brewery-owner, “there is an amazing array of beer styles just lining grocery store shelves today; that was not the case in 1991.”

Upon returning to the United States the lack of variety in the available beer had Huizinga feeling a beer void of sorts. He knew what was out there, but couldn’t get his hands on it. To combat this longing, the curious student began brewing his own beer. 

A career in finance supported Huizinga’s brewing hobby for years; his passion even led him to become an certified beer judge. These devoted beer-aficionados are the sommeliers of the beer world and work tirelessly to train their taste bubs to recognize subtle flavors and differences between beers. The goal of any beer judge is to support and inform other home-brewers on how to brew better beer.

“I had spent 25-years in finance and all I wanted to do was talk about beer and I realized not everyone wanted to hear me talk about beer,” laughs Huizinga. He made it is mission to find a place where everyone wanted to talk about beer.

Five years ago the Home-brewers Club of Oak Park introduced Huizinga to Steve Loranz and Neal Armstrong. Friendships emerged and the three passionate brewers began to discuss making their shared hobby their full-time life. Dreams turned to conversations and those conversations morphed into concrete plans. Armed with a strong collective knowledge and clearly defined roles, the trio opened Kinslahger Brewing Company on March 3rd, 2016. Loranz serves as chief brewer, Armstrong handles the finances, and Huizinga spreads the word about Kinslahger unique products. 

In today’s market, logic dictates producing IPA’s or stout beers would lead to success, but Kinslahger runs counter-culture by solely producing lager-fermented beers. Huizinga and his co-owners saw the craft-beer market was so saturated with IPA’s and IPA variants that it had become difficult to find a good, locally-produced, lager beer.

The production brewery opted to carve out a niche through limitation; Kinslahger beers balance tradition and creativity by relying on a slower fermentation process. The resulting beers have a less yeast-forward flavor profile. Lagers are prized for their fresh flavor and appreciated for bringing malt and hops to the forefront on the palate.

Today, despite Kinslahger’s limited footprint, the production brewery sells the bulk of their product through wholesale distribution and hopes to have an even broader reach in the future. The Kinslahger tasting room, however,  is reserved for our local community.

“We really wanted the tasting room to be an asset to the community,” says Huizinga of the public space in the brewery. The Kinslahger Taproom features an array of housemade sodas and beers on tap. In addition to being a “a bring your own food” sort of establishment the brewery offers nibbles for purchase from local hot spots like Spilt Milk and Carnivore.

Huizinga’s personal love of beer exploration of beer, led him to self-educate on a deep level, before taking the leap to to make is passion a priority. While he firmly believes “there are lots of people” who do what he does, it is clear Huizinga brings unique passion to Kinslahger and has established the spot as both a business and great local gathering place where beer lovers can learn, sample, and socialize.

Kinslahger Taproom

6806 Roosevelt Road

Oak Park, IL 60304

(844) 552-4437 x0

Hours

  • Mon – Tue: CLOSED
  • Wed – Thu: 3 p.m. – 10 p.m.
  • Fri: 3 p.m. – 12 a.m.
  • Sat: 11 a.m. – 12 a.m.
  • Sun: 12 p.m. – 5 p.m.

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