Brothers' beer/spirits business taking off

PAXTON — When Dallas Glazik and his two older brothers — Will and Clayton — teamed up with Ross Sorensen in giving out free samples of their homemade beer at last month’s sixth annual Paxton Swine ‘N’ Dine BBQ Contest & Festival, the feedback from the public was overwhelmingly positive.

“They were like, ‘Where can we buy it?’” said Sorensen, a Paxton attorney who brews his own beer as a hobby.

“Well, you can’t,” Sorensen would tell them.

The four men have to wait on that.

While Sorensen and the Glaziks were able to give out samples of their homemade beer at September’s festival — after the Paxton City Council approved  an ordinance establishing a “homebrewer special event license” for that very purpose — selling their product requires the removal of more red tape before it is considered legal.

But that is indeed the goal — at least for the Glazik brothers.

In June, the Glazik brothers founded their own company, Silver Tree Beer & Spirits LLC, with the intent of putting their locally made beer and vodka on the shelves of area bars and liquor stores. The vodka already is — and it’s selling fast  — and once they build their own brewery on their family farm five miles southeast of Paxton — an admittedly “ambitious” goal, Dallas Glazik said — the beer will be, too.

Sorensen, meanwhile, has no immediate plans to sell his own brew. Still, the rural Roberts resident does hope to continue supplying the Glaziks with the hops they use in their own beer varieties. That’s what Sorensen and his friend Nick Ruetter, a Gifford resident who works at Farmers-Merchants National Bank in Paxton, have been doing through their newly created hops-growing business, Landlock Hops LLC.

So far, the arrangement between Landlock Hops and Silver Tree Beer & Spirits is working out well, to say the least. It’s obvious based on the feedback at last month’s festival, when the public was able to sample Landlock Hops’ chinook in both Sorensen’s homemade Five Wise Guys beer and the Glaziks’ Ford County American Ale.

“We went through 20 gallons (of beer),” Dallas Glazik said. “We gave it out in 1- to 2-ounce samples, with a maximum of three per person. We ended up giving out over 1,000 samples.”

Getting started
The Glazik brothers — 23-year-old Dallas, 24-year-old Clayton and 26-year-old Will — have been homebrew hobbyists for years.

“We did kegs and bottles just to give to friends and stuff,” Dallas Glazik said.

This summer, they decided to turn their hobby into their own company. The idea to create the company came after they started selling some of the grain they grow on their family farm to Old Bakery Beer Co. in Alton.

The move turned out to be a good fit, with Old Bakery Beer Co. being a certified organic brewery and the Glaziks’ 400-acre family farm being an organically certified farm for the past 13 years. “Organic” means there are no synthetic chemicals or fertilizers applied, Dallas Glazik said.

“We were selling our wheat (to the brewery), and we’re like, ‘Ya know, we can make more of a profit on this if we start our own company,’” Dallas Glazik recalled. “So, since we were already doing homebrew, we decided to look into a brewing avenue.”

But the Glaziks were not able to immediately meet the legal requirements to sell beer in Illinois. So, they decided to start off by delving into the “craft spirits” market, which, Dallas Glazik noted, is not as saturated as the “craft beer” market.

Vodka sales ‘phenomenal’
The Glaziks got in contact over the summer with Stumpy’s Spirits Distillery in Columbia, Ill., and an arrangement was made for the Glaziks to pay the distillery to make vodka under the distillery’s license.

Under the arrangement, the Glaziks grow the wheat for their vodka on their family farm, then take it to a cleaning facility in Sibley — Midwest Organic Co-op — where the best kernels are separated. The wheat is then hauled to the distillery in Columbia — a drive that takes an estimated four to five hours — where it is ground up, mashed, fermented and distilled. Once that process if finished, the Glaziks return to the distillery, where they bottle and label their product before bringing it to their distributor, Anchor Distributions in Champaign.

“The vodka takes about three weeks to make,” Dallas Glazik said. “And that’s why we’re doing vodka, because you don’t age vodka — it’s an unaged liquor. So it’s easy to make and it’s an easy turnaround, because you can just make it, bottle it, and off it goes.”

The Glaziks’ vodka is called Down East Wheat Vodka.

“We came up with that (name) because our farmstead is west of the farm, so if we said ‘we’re going to the farm,’ we said ‘we’re going down east,’” Dallas Glazik explained.

Since two days before the Paxton Swine ‘N’ Dine BBQ Contest & Festival, the Glaziks’ vodka has been sold locally at five Paxton businesses — the Harvest Ale House, The Humble Hog, Paxton Variety Liquors, Cobblestone Hotel & Suites and Pueblo Lindo — as well as at The Isles in rural Buckley, Watson’s Shack & Rail in Champaign, Benny’s Beverage Depot in both Champaign and Bloomington, and Piccadilly in Champaign.

Sales have been “phenomenal,” Dallas Glazik said.

“It’s a new product that’s local, so we would expect it to go fast but then mellow out,” he said. “But within the first two weeks, we sold 40 cases just to Paxton (businesses), so that’s 240 bottles. And then, once we got more cases up here — 51 cases — that next day there was some that went to Benny’s — they took 10 cases — and then Ben Grice at the Harvest Ale House ran out that weekend, so he got more cases that next day, too.

“So we just went down (to the distillery) with more wheat (on Sept. 30) to start a full batch. The first one we did was only a half batch to see how it went. But this time we’re going to do a full batch, and that should bring between about 1,000 and 1,500 bottles.”

Down East Wheat Vodka is the “house vodka” for the Harvest Ale House, Dallas Glazik noted.

“So if you go in there and say, ‘I want a vodka with cranberry,’ it’s going to be our vodka added into it,” Dallas Glazik said. “Unless they say a different type of vodka, they get Down East.”

The Glaziks have no plans to add any flavors to their vodka at this point. However, they are looking into getting their own whiskey recipe created.

“But (whiskey) takes three years to age, so that might be a while  (until it is on the market),” Dallas Glazik said.

Back to the beer
The Glaziks hope to someday start selling their beer, as well, but they know it will take time to get everything legal to do so.

They hope to eventually build a brewery on the family farm — a project that they hope to have completed within 10 years. But in the more immediate future, the Glaziks are considering using an area brewery to make beer using their own recipes — similar to the arrangement they have with Stumpy’s for their vodka.

If the Glaziks end up building their own brewery someday, it could be the first in Ford County.

It is not just an idea, Dallas Glazik said, but a plan.

“We’re starting to crank down and punch numbers right now,” he said. “The hardest part is working with the legality issues of building the structure. Getting (a brewery built) is one thing, but making sure that structure is legal is a completely different thing.”

In addition to building a brewery for making beer, the Glazik brothers hope to also build their own distillery on the family farm, where their parents, Jeff and Rita, live.

That way, they can do everything in-house.

The Glaziks have currently created five beer recipes: (1) The Racing Finney, a barley wine named after a friend of Dallas Glazik’s who regularly accompanies Dallas to the Kentucky Derby; (2) The Wood Duck, an Irish stout; (3) The Pilot, an amber ale and the first recipe Dallas Glazik came up with; (4) The White Pine Lager, which Dallas Glazik said is not a finished product just yet; and (5) the Ford County American Ale, which Dallas Glazik described as a “nice, light, refreshing” beer.
More are yet to come.

“We’re working on another one — an English brown ale called The Mayflower,” Dallas Glazik said.

The beer varieties are posted on Silver Tree Beer & Spirits’ Facebook page. Clayton Glazik, who works for a Chicago-based graphic design firm, draws up the labels.

As home-brewers, the Glaziks complete the process of making their beer all on their family farm — including bottling it and labeling it.

Although they cannot legally sell their bottled beer, they can still sell the wheat they grow on their family farm to breweries in the area. The Glaziks currently sell their wheat to Old Bakery Beer Co., which offers its Old Bakery Citrus Sweet —  the variety containing the Glaziks’ wheat — on tap at Paxton’s Harvest Ale House.

Landlock Hops
The Glazik brothers use chinook produced by Landlock Hops in all of their home-brewed beers.

Sorensen said he and Ruetter started Landlock Hops toward the end of last year, after Sorensen first experimented with growing hops by his home in rural Roberts.

The operation has since expanded to land just west of Lake Iroquois.

Because their hops have yet to fully mature, the harvest so far has not produced enough hops to sell to the commercial market, Sorensen said. However, Sorensen has at least been able to use his product, giving some to the Glaziks for their homemade beer and a few others who make their own beer. Sorensen has also given some of his hops to Monarch Brewery in Monticello, which, he noted, “has a small enough system that they can use small amounts of hops.”

“You can go to Monarch right now and have their beer with our hops in it,” Sorensen said.

Currently, Landlock Hops is growing hops on 1 acre of land. Starting next spring, however, Sorensen and Ruetter hope to add about 4 1/2 acres to their hope-growing operation. They also hope, by next August, to build a shed featuring a system in which the hops they grow can be dried, milled into powder and then turned into pellets before being bagged.

“From there, we just want to be able to manage growing that many acres,” Sorensen said. “If we can grow that and if cash flows well, we might expand it if there was demand for it.

“I expect there to be (enough demand).”

Sorensen said that, eventually, he expects to be able to produce at least 1 pound of hops per plant, “which would give us about 5,000 pounds” per harvest. That would be enough to supply a small brewery with enough hops for perhaps one seasonal brew, Sorensen said.

Sorensen said his hops stand out because they are fresh.

“There will be no storage,” he noted. “We’re going to harvest them, process them and try to get them in the beer as far as we can. But for the rest of the world that does this on thousands of acres, it might be six months or 18 months or two years before a hop goes from the harvest to making it into a beer.”

“And I can vouch for that one,” Dallas Glazik said. “The homebrew, the first one I did with (Sorensen’s) hops that were three days old from being picked, they just brought out a difference — I like to call it a ‘snap.’ The hops just ‘snap’ within the beer differently ... than if I would have bought them from Friar Tuck, already prepackaged. They were just better.”

About the Glazik boys
The Glazik brothers are all graduates of Paxton-Buckley-Loda High School. While making vodka and beer takes up quite a bit of their time, all three also work full-time jobs, with Dallas an administrative coordinator and resource conservationist for the Ford County Soil & Water Conservation District, Clayton a graphic designer in Chicago and Will a crop consultant for Brucker Crop Services in Arrowsmith.

Dallas Glazik hopes that, in due time, their company takes off and he can devote his full time to it.

Their parents are proud.

“Mom was a little iffy at first, I think just due to the fact it’s alcohol and it scared her a little bit,” Dallas Glazik said. “Dad’s all right with it as long as our wheat’s being used. They definitely see the progression (in the business) and are probably our biggest clients.”

For more information about Silver Tree Beer & Spirits LLC, people can visit www.silvertreebeerspirits.com.

Categories (3):News, Miscellaneous, Business
Location (3):Local, Paxton, Ford County

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