Tighthead Brewing Company. Quality Brewing In Mundelein, Illinois.

Bruce Dir owns the Tighthead Brewing Co. in Mundelein. The company opened about a year ago

Bruce Dir owns the Tighthead Brewing Co. in Mundelein. The company opened about a year ago

Libertyville Review Sun-Times Media

By Kevin Beese | Contributor December 4, 2012 8:55AM | Updated: December 5, 2012 10:16AM

MUNDELEIN — One 1993 home-brewing kit has helped Bruce Dir produce 1,000 barrels of beer in the last 12 months.

The kit, a gift from his fiancée Molly the year before they wed, put Dir on a path that led him to open Tighthead Brewing Co., a production brewery located a stone’s throw from the Mundelein train station.

“I enjoyed brewing. I became a certified judge and I judged competitions in the area,” Dir said.

In 2009, after he was reorganized out of human relations jobs – his career path for 20 years – Dir was looking to be his own boss. What emerged was his idea for a production brewery, the first in Lake County since the 1950s.

“I wanted to do something I loved, and what I kept thinking of was beer,” Dir said.

He got a business plan in order and financing lined up. He went to the Siebel Institute of Technology, America’s oldest brewing school. He eventually became a brew master.

Tighthead – the name comes from tighthead prop, the position that Dir played during his more than 13 years of rugby – was founded in 2010.

Beer offerings change frequently at the 4,000-square-foot establishment that has only three standards – Comfortably Blonde, Scarlet-Fire and IRIE IPA. Dir promises beer aficionados something special.

“We do quality, traditional ales and lagers. We are not going to do something off-handed, put some wild ingredient in,” Dir said. “We do traditional styles and do them with great quality. We offer a very clean-tasting beer.”

Except for the three standards, when a craft beer at Tighthead is gone, it’s gone. Dir said that keeps people intrigued and coming back on a regular basis.

The 1,200-square-foot taproom at the front provides an area for drinking and socializing. When Dir says his focus is on beer, he’s not kidding. The taproom doesn’t even have a pub menu of food offerings, although customers are allowed to bring in food.

“Some people have pizzas delivered,” Dir said. “We have limited snacks available.”

Currently, Tighthead has a 60/40 breakdown between distribution and taproom sales. Dir hopes to shift to 80 percent distribution and 20 percent tap sales going forward and will offer packaged sales of Tighthead beer soon.

Bill’s Pizza & Pub in Mundelein carries Tighthead’s Comfortably Blonde on tap. Brian Jensen, a bartender at Bill’s, said people come in asking what Tighthead beers the eatery offers.

“I would say, except for Miller and Leinny’s (Leinenkugal) Red, Tighthead is our third or fourth most popular beer,” Jensen said.