Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Keven Jelic & the Art of Freestyle Brewing

If Reinheitsgebot is a word you cherish, you may want to look away.

Homebrewer Keven Jelic makes beer that would send a Purity Law enthusiast into convulsions. His ingredient list alone is dizzying: kiwi, pomegranate, papaya, chili peppers... And if that doesn’t get you, the strength of his brews will. “A 7% beer is light for us,” he says.

Keven, a member of the Society of Oshkosh Brewers, started brewing in 2006 and from the start he’s been going his own way. His first batch was his own interpretation of a Weizenbock, hardly the kind of beer most first-time brewers attempt. But it worked. The beer, named Zeven-Bock, for his son Zeven, “met with rave reviews.” After that he was hooked. From there the beers only grew bigger and more distinct.

Plenty of homebrewers go down this path at some point. They get caught up in the unlimited possibilities of homebrewing and start concocting beers that would be impossible to brew outside the realm of small batch brewing. A lot of it turns out wretched. Keven’s got a knack for it, though.

I recently tried a “Belgian inspired” beer he makes named Clowns & Jugglers. The beer comes in at a hefty 12%. Among other things, it includes ginger, mango and red chili peppers. It wasn’t what you’d expect from the recipe. For all it’s bombast, the beer was surprisingly drinkable. The alcohol, though distinct and present, didn’t burn. The body was light and slightly fruity. The peppers came in at the end giving off a touch of heat that clears the palate in a fashion similar to the hop bitterness found in an American pale ale. It’s a complex beer, for sure. Better yet, it’s a good beer.

His success with this kind of brewing results from the way he approaches his recipes. He isn’t just throwing together whatever he finds lying around. “I research everything before I make a beer,” He says. And his goal isn’t simply to flout beer styles. “I’m not trying to be outrageous,” Keven says. Instead, he’s trying to “make beers that interest me.”

If you’re interested in trying some of Keven’s beer, you’ll find him pouring at the Hops & Props festival on March 6th at the Society Of Oshkosh Brewers table. It’s a rare opportunity to taste the sort of beer you’re unlikely to find anywhere else. Or, for that matter, ever again.

To keep up with Keven and his brewing adventures (and to see some of the great bottle labels he makes) check out his Twelve Steppe Brews page on Facebook.


  1. Give a guy a six pack and he will drink for a day.

    Teach a guy to brew his own beer and Lord knows what he'll come up with. :)

  2. i have had kevens beers and every one of them is great! He is a master of the brew.

  3. Is that a shameless plug for Tostitos...Keven your corporate wh**e! The Las Fallas burns my insides...in a good way.