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Meet Bruce Dir of Tighthead Brewing Company in Mundelein

Today we’d like to introduce you to Bruce Dir.

Tighthead Brewing Company was founded in 2010 by Owners Bruce and Molly Dir. Like most brewery adventures, the dream goes back many years and has uncountable iterations. The final version came down to one man finally finding the heart, with a little shove, to drop out of Corporate America and follow what is every brewers dream…opening your own brewery!

In 1993, Molly gave Bruce a homebrew kit for Christmas based on a suggestion by Bruce’s brother Doug who had already caught the homebrew bug. Already an avid gardener and canner, Bruce found a new platform to expand his deep seeded creative personality.

Brewing became the main focus of Bruce’s attention outside his day job as a Human Resource professional. After moving to Mundelein to start a family, Bruce quickly involved himself with a group of local homebrewers who eventually founded and became the BABBLE Homebrew Club of Lake County. Bruce was passionate about reading books and periodicals on brewing; he became a certified beer judge and started judging and organizing local homebrew competitions.

In 2009, after 20 years in Corporate America, an opportunity presented itself in the form of being reorganized out of a job. Bruce immediately began writing a business plan and dreaming with his wife Molly fully supporting and encouraging him to start a business and be his own boss. This was just the push Bruce needed and began to plan for a production microbrewery and tap room in his hometown of Mundelein. Bruce supplemented his 16 years of brewing experience by attending the world-renowned Siebel Institute of Technology Brewing School in Chicago. He also honed his professional training by assisting Brewmaster Art Steinhoff at Flatlander’s Brewing Co. for a year.

Production began in the Brewery in October of 2011. At that time, Billy Oaks, a local Homebrew supply shop manager, prolific brewer and friend of the owner, was hired and become a partial owner in the company. Billy is a graduate of the American Brewers Guild Brewing School and apprenticed at the Ram Brewery in Wheeling, IL. Billy manages all aspects of the Brewery Operations and is the Head Brewer responsible for all the great tasting Tighthead beer!

Oh yeah! The name Tighthead… Bruce played Rugby for 13 years, mostly in the position of Tighthead Prop. The explanation is too long, but I encourage you to research Rugby and understand the origin of the name and become a fan of a great sport!

Has it been a smooth road?
Starting any business is never a smooth road, however, we have had a pretty steady growth and have been profitable since the beginning. There was a learning curve for me on distribution and the industry playing field in general. I came from a business background and I understood beer, brewing and brewing chemistry, but getting it out to the people was a challenge and is still a challenge today.

We’d love to hear more about your business.
We are a production Microbrewery and Tap Room in Mundelein, Illinois. Our main focus is distributing 6 year-round and numerous seasonal beer to bars, restaurants and packaged goods stores throughout Illinois and recently in Wisconsin. Our Tap Room is a very comfortable space where you can come in and hang out and drink a pint or two, play pub Trivia on Wednesdays or hear live music every Thursday. He typically has up to 16 beers on tap, but as a manufacturer in Illinois, we are only able to sell beer and has to be beer made on-premise. You can order food to be delivered, bring food in or buy from an occasional food truck parked outside the tap room doors.

We brew on a 15 bbls brew house with 9 – 30 bbls fermenters and 2 – 15 bbl fermenters and can produce up to 6,200 bbls a year. We are currently on schedule to produce around 4,500 bbls in 2017.

Our Head Brewer, Billy Oaks, is a very talented brewer and we tend to do hoppy beers very well. We cover a wide range of seasonal beer styles and do them all very true to style and very clean and drinkable.

Is our city a good place to do what you do?
I think Chicago and surrounding suburbs is an excellent place to own a business and to start a brewery. When I got into the business 6 years ago, we were one of a handful of breweries in the Chicago area, and the growth in that 6 years has been phenomenal! I think there is a variety of business models out there today, so we have not reached saturation, but I think it is getting close.

At this stage in the industry scene, I would likely direct someone to a Brewpub concept and do it well. I think the production and packaging market is going to get harder and harder to break into at a level necessary to sustain a healthy business.

Contact Info:

  • Address: 161 N. Archer Avenue
  • Website: www.tightheadbrewing.com
  • Phone: 8479709174
  • Email: bruce@tightheadbrewing.com
  • Instagram: @tightheadbrew
  • Facebook: @tightheadbrewing
  • Twitter: @tightheadbrew

Getting in touch: VoyageChicago is built on recommendations from the community; it’s how we uncover hidden gems, so if you know someone who deserves recognition please let us know here.

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