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Flossmoor Station welcomes new brewmaster

Longtime Flossmoor Station brewmaster Ryan Czaja, left, has been succeeded by Jake LaDuke, right.
(Nick Ulanowski/H-F Chronicle)

The brewmaster at Flossmoor Station Restaurant & Brewery has changed. After nine years of brewing beer at Flossmoor Station, Ryan Czaja has been replaced by Jake LaDuke. This was marked by a going away and welcoming party at the brewery on Oct. 5 that about 50 to 75 people attended, according to Flossmoor Station owner Carolyn Armstrong.

“It’s time to move on and let Jake step into the role and see what he can do – and then see what I can do outside of brewing or inside of brewing. I haven’t really decided,” Czaja said.

A brewmaster not only makes the beer, but also maintains the equipment and orders the ingredients. They also relay information about the beers to a server to answer a customer’s question.

Additionally, the brewmaster at Flossmoor Station comes up with recipes for new beers to serve. The six house beers that are on draft all year every year are the brainchildren of Flossmoor Station’s original brewmasters, Todd Ashman and Matt VanWyk.

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LaDuke, a Tinley Park resident, was previously a brewer at Werk Force Brewing Co. in west suburban Plainfield for eight years. Flossmoor Station is a significantly shorter commute – going from being over an hour-long drive to less than 15 minutes, LaDuke said. 

LaDuke said that he’s feeling great about his new job. He said he was only doing about “95% to 99%” of the brewing operation at his previous job but now he’s completely in charge of it.

Czaja said in the last few weeks, he’s enjoyed spending more time with his dogs. He said this is the longest amount of time he’s had off in a long time.

“Stress levels are down. […] It’s nice not to have to worry about the small things day in and day out,” Czaja said. “I haven’t touched a thing about beer. I thought about it but then I was like ‘I don’t want to bring this home.’ So, no brewing. No drinking of beer. Just kind of sitting back to relax and kick my feet up and see what the future holds.”

At the going away and welcoming party, many customers throughout the years attended – as did LaDuke’s and Czaja’s friends and family. Attendees celebrated by drinking the first beers brewed by LaDuke. The party was both inside the building and outside by the caboose. 

“It was a beautiful night. It was a nice event for both of them,” Armstrong said.

“We haven’t really done anything since COVID hit. We kind of scaled back on doing parties and stuff like that – as far as beer releases. So, it was great to see everybody I haven’t seen in a couple of years come out and celebrate me going,” Czaja said. “It was bittersweet but a nice party to go to, for sure.”

LaDuke, 35, said he’s been brewing beer since his early 20s. He said it first appealed to him because it was a cheap way to acquire a lot of beer. But since he started doing it, he said brewing has always been one of his ways to be creative, adding that he loves “the science of it.”

 “One of the first beers I ever bottled was a jalapeño IPA,” LaDuke said. “I was always drawn to the creative out-of-the-box stuff. For my wedding, I brewed a huge batch of butternut squash saison that went over pretty good.”

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