After spending two decades playing in rock bands and touring the country, brothers Jason and Justen Parris both needed a new creative outlet.
They chose making beer from home.
When they started it 10 years ago, Jason Parris, the older brother by three years, liked that homebrewing involved a potion-esque process, “It was like magic. You could just add these certain things and you create beer.”
There was another immediate plus: “Of all the hobbies you could have in the world, this is the one to get your friends to love you.”
After years of practice, their hobby grew.
“We had the desire to make other than the standard beer you have on the market,” Justen Parris said. “The beer we were making was just as good — or better — as anywhere else.”
Wake Brewing, the micro-brewery on 5th Avenue in Rock Island that opens Saturday, is both an extension and result of their hobby. The brothers are the sole co-owners and brewers.
Joining the craft beer scene
Wake joins the Quad-City’s continually growing craft beer scene, which if you ask Jason Parris, isn’t yet overcrowded.
“This area could have another 10 breweries and be just fine,” Parris said.
As the talent buyer and host of beer of events at the Rock Island Brewing Company, or RIBCO, Parris, 42, has seen the “explosion” of craft beer in the market here over the last few years.
“It’s thriving,” he said. “The beer scene is the best it’s ever been here.”
But he said the additions of places such as Armored Gardens, the barbecue restaurant which features a bar with 100 beers on tap, Endless Brews and other beer-focused establishments such as Great River Brewery in Davenport has Rock Island positioned as the underdog.
“That’s why I wanted to open Wake here,” he said. “I think Rock Island has so much potential.”
Wake isn’t exactly located in a craft beer desert, either.
It’s less than quarter of a mile down the street from Bent River Brewing Company’s Rock Island location and about 1 mile from Radicle Effect Brewerks, which opened in 2012.
It’s not cause for competition, Parris said.
“It would be a great bike ride,” he said. “I don’t expect people to hang out here longer than an hour or two and go onto the next place. I just want them to experience the beers.”
Wake does stand out from other area breweries in at least one way: There are no plans of distribution out of the small-scale brew system, in part produced by Rock Island-based Crawford Company.
“I want to keep the beers being passed around at the bar so I can be there to explain it and answer their questions,” Parris said. “I don’t want this to turn into a factory.”
That’s part of why the brew system isn’t visible from the bar.
“I wanted to leave a little mystery,” he said. “It’s not glamorous back here. I don’t want you to have to see the mess of it.”
Instead, his brother, Justen Parris, an engineer at Exelon, said Wake is designed more of a place to have “one-on-one conversations with people.” Wake is without TVs, dart boards or jukeboxes.
“I think that’s something people are missing out on,” he said. “We wanted to open a place that’s somewhere we would want to hang out. You’re going to meet new people and socialize.”
‘All coming together’
Wake also likely won’t have one flagship beer. The goal is to have eight beers — representing different styles — on tap that are rotating each week.
“That will let us experiment with a whole bunch of different things,” Jason Parris said. “We’re not stuck with one thing.”
On Saturday, Wake will have four of their beers on tap including an American pale ale, called Autocowrekt, a saison called Uno (the brewery’s first beer), a porter called the Black Lodge (a reference to the TV show, “Twin Peaks”) and a northeast IPA called Frost Hammer.
Some of those beers were previously tested out at monthly film events at the Figge Arts Museum, called Cinema at the Figge. The Parris brothers concocted beers inspired by the movies screened at the museum.
“We’re trying to keep it artistic,” he said. “Making beer is an artform.”
The brothers, who are also best friends, won’t host live music events at Wake, but they do have their own instruments on hand in the back to kill time during the brewing process. They plan to brew once or twice a week, carving out time between their full-time jobs.
“What I want people to know is it’s just two brothers doing this,” Jason Parris said. “It literally is a family-owned and run brewery.”
Earlier this week, their parents arrived at Wake to unpack and fold newly-printed T-shirts ahead of the brewery’s grand opening event. Their step-father Norm Dvorak built the bar and tap handles and their mother Deb has helped with other last-minute details. They’ve both served as taste-testers along the way, too.
“It’s very exciting that it’s all coming together,” Deb said. “It’s something they’ve been wanting to do for a long time.”