MEET THE BREWMASTER
Going from finding an old homebrewing kit in the attic of my future in-law’s house, to Head Brewer at
Flossmoor Station is still pretty strange to me, but it’s a life path I (Jake LaDuke) am so unbelievably grateful to have chosen. To be honest, if I could go back and tell early 20’s Jake, brewing in the backyard in an igloo cooler and 20-gallon pot, that your new hobby would turn into an obsession and eventually a career? Zero percent chance that kid believes his “Ghost of brewing future.” But I’m glad it all went the way it did. The people I’ve met, the experiences and memories I’ve made have been a wild ride, and I wouldn’trade it in for anything.
A little bit about how I got here. Working in IT in my early 20’s, I knew that wasn’t who I wanted to be in
life. A stuck-in-the-mud job, in a soul draining industry, and commuting an hour to a 9-5 desk job. It just
wasn’t for me. I have an itch for creativity, and it’s a muscle I need to keep active. I had been
homebrewing for a few years and felt like I was getting pretty dang good at it. When I got married, I
even bottled a giant batch of homebrew to serve at my reception. And it went over really well! That was
the first indication that maybe I had a sliver of a shot to make it into the brewing industry.
During a lunch break at my desk job, I was scrolling social media and saw that Chicago Brew Werks was
hiring a retail position. At the time, CBW was THE homebrew shop in the Midwest and a place I
frequented regularly, for both my brewing supplies and excellent craft beer. CBW had just a year prior
launched its own small brewery called Werk Force in the back of the shop, and I immediately fell in love.
I knew that if I ever wanted to get into this industry, I needed to get my foot in the door any way I could
and cut my teeth the hard way. I wasn’t going to just walk into a professional brewing job as a
homebrewer. So that’s what I did. I continued working my 9-5 during the week, and on the weekends
would work at CBW stocking shelves, milling grain, serving beer, and putting together homebrew kits. I
took it as a learning opportunity and absorbed all the brewing knowledge I could. It was the perfect
place to learn and grow. On top of that, during my regular work week I would help out in the Werk Force brewery in the wee hours of the morning, usually around 4am, assisting with brew days and soaking up all that knowledge.
Eventually, the owner Brandon Wright finally asked “Hey man, do you just want to work full time for
me? We need an assistant brewer.” YES! After 6 months of working 7 days a week I could ditch that IT
job and take a leap of faith to a new career in an industry I loved. I asked my wife Mary what she
thought, knowing full well it would be a tough sell to take a pay cut and start over. But she couldn’t have been more supportive. She gave me the go ahead, and the rest is history. I worked at Werk Force for 8 years brewing, cellaring, packaging, barreling. You name it, I did it.
But the page always turns, and my Flossmoor Station chapter has begun. I am extremely excited for this new opportunity and can’t wait to bring over what I’ve learned and who I am to Flossmoor. A nerdy guy who loves brewing beer, playing D&D, telling stories, board games, and just enjoying life with his family. So that’s why I’m here. Adventure. To begin this new quest, roll high on my attack rolls and charisma checks, and hopefully bring some glory to the land of Flossmoor! Cheers everyone!