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The Brew Crew

Marshall, Offerman perfecting craft at Naperville brewery

Matt Offerman and Tim Marshall, both Minooka Community High School graduates, stand among the different batches of brew that are housed in old whiskey, bourbon and wine barrels.
Matt Offerman and Tim Marshall, both Minooka Community High School graduates, stand among the different batches of brew that are housed in old whiskey, bourbon and wine barrels.

NAPERVILLE, Ill. — A Minooka native is the crafter behind a Naperville brewery that is selling its unique beer faster than it can make it.

Minooka Community High School graduate Tim Marshall, now of Romeoville, Ill., is the head brewer at Solemn Oath Brewery, 1661 Quincy Ave., Suite 179, Naperville, Ill. He and the brewery’s newest hire, a fellow Minookan, Matt Offerman, are the hands and tastebuds behind the brewing.

The idea of the brewery itself came from owners, brothers John and Joe Barley. Before they entered the business together, the Barleys and Marshall were strangers.

“I didn’t go to any brewing school. You can also become a brewer by accidentally falling into it,” Marshall said. “I took a job at a brewing pub as a waiter. I liked the idea that we were brewing in house, the shiny tanks and the smells. So I ended up coming in and asking the brewer if he needed any help.”

From there, he kind of became an assistant brewer at Rock Bottom, and it turned into an apprenticeship. With there being so many brewing schools now, learning through an apprenticeship is not so common anymore, he said.

“As long as you have a good eye for detail and love beer, you can be a brewer,” Marshall said.

In fact, his love for beer, well at least craft beer, didn’t come until he started brewing.

“I drank domestic, watery beer,” Marshall said. “Then I started working at a brewery and saw what American craft beer can taste like, and it’s like, ‘forget that other stuff.’ The flavors have integrity instead of being watered down as much as possible.”

Marshall and John Barley had a mutual friend who knew Barley was looking for a brewer for his upcoming brewery. The two met, and after five interviews, Marshall was offered the position.

“I wanted to make sure John wasn’t cashing in on a fad for two years,” Marshall said.

Turns out, John Barley is in it for the long run. His parents had lived in Belgium for sometime, and, therefore, he grew up with beer connoisseurs, he said. John visited his brother Joe in California, where they visited about 15 breweries. During his flight home, he started writing a business plan. About a year after, Joe Barley joined the business.

“I was searching for a self-sufficient person who had a focus on Belgium brews and wood aging,” Barley said.

He found that in Marshall.

Once Marshall joined the team, it was time for real estate. Their location used to be an auto shop, which they signed onto in December 2010. They started the build out in January 2011 and began brewing that April. They opened for business in May 2011.

The industrial building has a tap room in the front where people can stop in to try their beers. The brewery has had up to 10 beers on tap at a time, said Marshall. They have brewed more than 50 beers since opening. The tap room is more popular than they ever expected.

The tap room is complete with a “Beer for Friends” board where a patron can buy a beer for a friend not currently there. The list has gotten into the hundreds.

“Naperville has been kind to us,” Marshall said.

But it has been more than just Naperville that has run with their product. They started with 20 accounts, and now they are serving about 180, Barley said. And they have a waiting list.

“We can’t make beer fast enough,” Marshall said.

In the fall, the company will be expanding into the neighboring space of their industrial building in order to fit more equipment to brew more beer.

They have already added equipment in their current space to increase production, and they needed another full-time brewer. Marshall’s friend from his hometown, Matt Offerman, was hired this month to fill that job.

Offerman, also a MCHS graduate, comes from a woodworking background, another very detail orientated job.

“There are a lot of similarities between woodworking and brewing — it’s a craft,” Offerman said.
Plus, there are perks to working in a brewery.

“(Marshall) is like, ‘I’m trying this new thing, can you taste this?’ I’m like, ‘OK,’” said Offerman as he rolls his eyes in a joking manner.

The closest Solemn Oath has gotten its beer to their hometown is Joliet and Plainfield. But the way they are growing, Marshall said they will get to the Minooka-Morris area sooner rather than later.

——— WHAT'S ON TAP ———

Beers on tap at Solemn Oath:

• YARNBOMB: Light body with banana yeast notes. Citrus American hops, with notes of grapefruit and pineapple.

• CHUBGUTZ: Toasty, bready, caramelly and nutty malt flavors with subtle notes of apricot.

• SKINNY JEANS ARE RIDICULOUS: Aggressive American hops with strong grapefruit citrus notes.

• KIDNAPPED BY VIKINGS: American IPA light, malty sweetness to balance the dominant pine and citrus hop presence.

• BUTTERFLY FLASHMOB: Piney, citrusy, American hops in this full-flavored Belgium IPA.

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