Greetings friends, family, homebrewers, pro brewers, potential pro brewers, strangers, and Alex,
My name is Gary Gulley and I live in Chicago, an awesome city. I’m 44 years old, originally from Kokomo, Indiana. Please don’t start singing that song ;-). My wife’s name is Bridget and we have two boys, Gavin and Declan.
I graduated from Purdue University in West Lafayette, Indiana in 1990 with a B.S. in Civil Engineering with a focus on structural engineering. Two weeks after college graduation, I foolishly entered the job market by taking a position in the nuclear power industry. It was an awful job, the most boring I’ve ever experienced. Around the end of summer of that year, I was transferred to Fort Worth, Texas and stayed there for about a year and a half, from mid 1990 to early 1992. That seems like a very uninteresting event in my life. It was, but two things happened while living there which changed the course of my life forever.
First, I discovered real beer. Up to that point I hated “beer”, meaning Bud, Miller, Corona, etc, but it was while living in Texas that I somehow discovered Sierra Nevada Pale Ale and Celis White. I was very lucky to be living in the home state of Celis Brewery when it was still in existence and the first time I had Celis White, well my life literally changed.
The second thing that happened was that a coworker of mine began homebrewing – something I had never even heard of before. After hearing him talk about it and watching him brew once, I was hooked. I brewed my first extract beer in 1991. Back then we sanitized with bleach, washed bottles with dish soap, and poured the crappy dried yeast that came with the extract right into the wort. I don’t remember exactly what my first homebrew tasted like, but I’m sure it was awful but I didn’t care. I just remember being amazed that I could drink a beer that I made myself. Incredible. One of the first beers I made was a cherry pale ale. I don’t remember what I used for cherry flavor, but the beer tasted like cough syrup. That was either from chlorophenols or just a bad recipe.
I moved back to the Chicago area in early 1992 and continued to homebrew for a couple of years. I moved up to all grain brewing using Charlie Papazian’s “Zapap” lautering system. It was great. Then in 1994, for no particular reason, I stopped homebrewing. I was in my twenties and I was more interested in chasing women (which I did poorly) and getting drunk (which I did richly). I was still drinking shit beer about as much as craft beer, I have no idea why. Youth is wasted on the young.
Fast forward to early 2008. I had owned my home for 9 years at the time and had a full unfinished basement that I used for all my handy man stuff – table saw, mitre saw, hand tools, etc. One day, I started thinking about brewing again. I still had all of my old equipment shoved back in some shelf in a dark corner of the basement. Several months passed and the desire to brew just kept nagging at me. I had this awesome basement to store all of my equipment and the ability to build whatever I wanted. The conclusion was obvious. I pulled out my wort stained “Complete Joy of Homebrewing”, began to read it again to refresh my memory (I’d forgotten just about everything), and then boom! I was ready. In the fall of 2008 I pulled my old gear out of storage, gave it all a good scrubbing, threw away the 14 year old can of wheat extract, and went to my local homebrew store. I bought some fresh extract, some Wyeast, and made Papazian’s “Rocky Raccoon Honey Lager” converted to an ale. It was a great feeling. My wife loved the beer.
It took about 3 batches to get my confidence back and then I moved back into all grain brewing. I began reading many of the brewing books that had been published in the interim since I had stopped brewing in ’94 including John Palmer’s excellent “How to Brew”. It didn’t take long before I had a 15 gallon brew kettle, a mash/lauter tun made from a cooler and a homemade copper manifold, and an erlenmeyer flask for yeast starters. From there I went crazy. I began kegging (I’ve built two keezers, a chest freezer converted to a kegerator), I bought more flasks to do bigger starters, stir plates, lab equipment, refractometer, temperature controllers, heat wraps, the list goes on and on. I’ve built a wort chiller based on Jamil Zainasheff’s whirlpool chiller, designed and built my own whirlpool attachment for the brew kettle, designed and built a keg/carboy/kettle recirculation washer, a recirculation chiller for controlling fermentation temperatures in the summer, that list goes on too. I no longer drink shit beer. Ever.
As passionate as I am about craft beer, it’s completely meaningless to me without my wife and children. They are what life is truly about for me, but craft beer sure adds to the experience (especially when my children act up. Or my wife.). When I’m not brewing, I love to build and fix stuff. My house is about a hundred years old so I get plenty of time for building and fixing including carpentry, plumbing, electrical, tiling, you name it, I’ve probably done it. I also love in no particular order: wine (as much as beer actually), U2 (if you knew my kids middle names), vegetable gardening, sushi and saki, ethnic foods, KEXP and KCRW, Barack Obama, Apple products (I am THE Apple Fanboy), guitar playing, famous people’s graves, and “Spice Up Your Life” by the now defunct Spice Girls. I hate professional sports.
So that’s a little bit about me and how I got into this crazy craft beer thing. Today I’m a homebrewer who, like many before me, has begun the journey from hobbyist to professional. By professional, I mean opening and operating my own craft brewery, here in Chicago. Absolutely nothing is going to stop me from making this a reality. I’ve never been so focused and determined on anything in my life (see this post for more on that). Failure is not an option.
Thanks for taking the time to read my blog and please share this journey with all your craft beer friends, budding homebrewers, or anyone who’s been too scared to pursue their dreams. My hope is that this blog will not only help others who want to start their own brewery, but maybe help people, who like me, have been chained to the fear of corporate America and the “stability” it provides. Me? I’m movin’ on! Join me.