4 Paws Brewing: An Exclusive Interview! (Part 1)

Image: 4 Paws Brewing

Are you getting tired of the influx of breweries in the Chicagoland area? Me neither! I am of the belief that the more breweries the merrier, and this creative (and delicious) trend continues to promote Chicago as the best beer city in the country. One of these emerging breweries is 4 Paws Brewing, currently located in the Andersonville neighborhood, and I was fortunate enough to hang out with owners Matt and Meghan Tuesday night at Hopleaf. I am excited to see what this duo will bring to the table and, I’m not gonna lie, I am excited that there is a female in the mix!

The hubby and I arrived around 7PM and Hopleaf was already bustling (really? On a Tuesday???) but we were able to obtain one of the booths in the front bar area. We ordered beers (a very refreshing Three Floyds Gorch Fock for me, a malty Great Divide Hoss Rye Lager for hubby) and I reviewed my notes while awaiting Matt and Meghan’s arrival. It was at this point that I realized that I didn’t know what either of them looked like. This led to a series of awkward stares and gestures towards arriving Hopleaf customers in an attempt to inform possible Matts and Meghans of my whereabouts. Thankfully, Matt and Meghan arrived a little early, sparing me additional humiliation. We exchanged greetings and they immediately began perusing the beer list with meticulous attention, going over every bottle and draft offering before making their selections. My kind of people! Meghan chose a Maredsous (I followed her beer suggestions for the remainder of the night) and Matt went with a Kwak. The hubby went up to the bar to get our new friends the beers and we proceeded with the evening’s festivities.

Matt and Meghan were huge beer fans in their own right before meeting each other while attending Loyola. They started brewing together and advanced pretty quickly from extract to all-grain to developing their own recipes. Meghan, an avid baker, is hesitant to stray from recipes while Matt is more inclined to take poetic license and improvise. This seems to be advantageous for their brewing; it’s a nice mix of logic and experimentation. They are still going through their test-batch stage, tweaking recipes in an effort to obtain consistency across batches.

Both history buffs, Matt and Meghan enlightened me about Chicago brewing history. Apparently, Chicago used to be a beacon of all things beer but prohibition (and something about a fire) destroyed many of the breweries that were profitable at the turn of the 20th century. “We want to make Chicagoans aware that this is not the first time in Chicago history that breweries have flourished,” says Meghan, nursing a Triple Karmeliet. In fact, their Know-Nothing Hefeweizen is named after the political party that raised taxes on the Chicago Northside German brewers. All of their beers are inspired by these historical breweries and events that occurred during that time in Chicago history.

Both Matt and Meghan are excited about joining this new era of Chicago brewing history and have received support from more established brewers. They both gushed about brothers Jesse and Samuel Evans, owners of the soon-to-open New Chicago Brewing Company, who have been providing guidance and assistance. I commented on how much I love that Chicago brewers tend to all be very supportive of each other, whether attending events or collaborating on a special brew. Meghan agreed, stating, “If there is a city where people aren’t going to compete, it’s Chicago … It’s a very midwestern mentality.” Agreed! And Matt and Meghan are looking forward to giving back to the community in the form of an educational component, including internships and bike tours of Chicago breweries (can’t wait for those!)

They want to make beer that will appeal to all individuals, regardless of where they fall on the beer-preference spectrum. “We want to make beers our friends like,” says Meghan, explaining that they have friends ranging from experienced beer geek to those that have just recently given up Mike’s Hard Lemonade. According to Meghan, beer is “like wine. You might like white at first, then move on to a light red, then move on to a more robust red. It’s the same with beer.” I couldn’t agree more. I know with my own beer journey, I have progressed from maltier to hoppier beers. Tastes change, and 4 Paws will assist you with that transition with gateway beers like their Hefeweizen to more “challenging” brews like their Pioneer Red.

As with any brewery upstart, cost is an issue. They are accepting donations and offering some pretty sweet gifts depending on the amount donated. They have even partnered with Chicago-based Stodgy clothing to offer high-quality, made-in-the-USA sweatshirts for certain donations. While they are currently working with a stove-top setup, they are scouting locations for their future brewery. This process is moving pretty slow as they don’t want to sign a lease and waste money on an empty building until everything is figured out. They do, however, want to stay in the community where they live so they are only looking at locations in the vicinity of Andersonville. Once enough money is raised and a location is secured, they hope to have a 15-20 barrel brewhouse with 6-7 fermentation tanks.

Throughout their brewing adventures, their mascot and muse is Sadie, a pup they adopted in May 2010. She had a really rough start (her owners were wanted by the police and skipped town, leaving Sadie behind in an abandoned house without food) but she recovered well and has been great ever since. Matt, clearly enamored with Sadie, says, “You would think with all that, she wouldn’t like people, but she loves people, she loves other dogs… We had to have her as part of the brewery, with her 4 white paws.”

From speaking with Matt and Meghan last Tuesday, it was clear they were passionate about many things: beer; their dog, Sadie; sustainability; biking. Oh, and each other. A future husband/wife run brewery, the couple will be married in November. For more information about this brewing duo, to learn about their progress, or to donate, visit their website at 4pawsbrewing.com. As this brewery is aiming for a 2013 opening and are brewing very small batches, I, unfortunately, was unable to taste any of their beer on this occasion. But a second meeting is already in the works so I can try some! Stay tuned for part two!

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