The Riley's Story
A long, long time ago, in a garage far, far away, a great beer was brewed... Well, not right away; at first it was something that the dog wouldn’t even drink. Thank goodness for perseverance!
Before I was even born, my grandparents and parents were home brewing beer. Living on a farm, they had an abundance of ingredients to choose from, even growing some of their own hops. A lot of fruit beers and simple wheats became some of their favorites. By the time I was born, they had the home brewing process down.
I spent many hours of my life next to my grandfather while he brewed beer and he would tell me stories of his and my parent’s experiences. Not only did I listen, but I was even permitted to help bottle and brew.
Life had become busy with my time in the Army, as well as working with my parents in the family’s steel business, but my Grandfather and I remained close. As I grew older, my time was spent with him at his bedside where we discussed not only life and politics, but how to brew amazing beer, and with his expertise and experience, my own home brewing began to develop.
Five gallon batches were started on the kitchen stove and it was a process to figure out how to brew the right beer. My biggest critics would be my dad and Grandfather. Talk about no mercy! If it was a bad batch, they made sure that I knew it. So, with their guidance, I played around with recipes, brewing batch after batch in our kitchen.
I’m sure you can imagine how my wife “appreciated” my home brewing hobby. The mess. The smell. The chipped counters and stove. Let’s not forget the time that she called to inform me that one of the carboys that had been fermenting in the kitchen pantry blew its top, covering the walls and ceiling with fermenting dark beer! Thankfully, I was at work, my life spared that day. From that day forth, brewing was to be conducted in the garage, which of course, gave me plenty of room to invite friends over to help partake in the final results.
I began to have monthly brew-fests in our garage, inviting just a “few” friends over. We’d light up the barbecue or have pizza at these gatherings. It was a good deal for me because my friends would pay for the food, ingredients for brewing, and even helped with the brewing process. I was in a happy place; I was able to keep on brewing (thank you, Honey!), maintain my hobby at a near zero expense to me, and hang with friends on a regular basis.
The day finally came. The day that we were drinking more than we could brew in one brew-fest. Simple solution - have two brew-fests in one month! Our garage seemed to always be full of men laughing, cooking and drinking; my wife began to call them the “Testosterone Fests”. her way of escaping all of the testosterone filled air was to get away from the house.
One fateful day, a brew-fest day, she asked me to watch after the puppy. I, being the loving husband that I am, agreed to puppy-sit, while she went to work. After all, how hard could it be? All we had to do was keep the puppy out of the house. Imagine my surprise when my wife came home and proceeded to chew our butts out for letting the puppy in the house... and not back out again. How much damage can a 30lb puppy do in a couple hours, you ask? You’d be surprised my friends; let’s just say curtains, couch and carpet cleaning were involved. Needless to say, we were out with the dog. Our garage brew- fests were to become a thing of the past. It was time to find a new place.
Fortunately, I had just the place for us to continue our brewing; a 12,000 square foot empty building sat on my business property, Steel Structures Inc. We had lost our renters and the empty space was beckoning to me. Over a short time, the demand for my home brew grew; friends of friends were asking where they could pick it up. What to do, what to do? Build a bigger brewing operation of course! With welder in hand, I built what is now the 20 barrel brewery. As an ASME certified shop, Steel Structures Inc. built everything from the boiler to the bright tank. Fermenters and boil kettles were polished and ready to use. With that, Riley’s Brewing Co. was born and we were off; several thousand cases down, and only billions more to go.