If you are even remotely interested in the ever-expanding beer scene in Chicago, you have heard or read about New Chicago Brewing Co, the sustainable endeavor dreamt up by brothers Jesse Edwin Evans and Samuel Evans. I’ve written before about my high opinion of the supportive business practices of the Chicagoland brewers and this sentiment is embraced by these newcomers. Case in point, on the day of our meeting, they shared a link on their Facebook page of a CBS 2 Chicago News article touting the success of Pete Crowley, brewmaster at Haymarket Pub and Brewery. Now, in every other business this would be unheard of; when have you ever seen a Ford commercial hyping the benefits of driving a Chevy? And these guys are taking this collaboration to the next level by embracing nano-brewers, aspiring brewmasters, and wannabe beer bloggers and welcoming
us them into their in-the-works brewery.
Last Friday afternoon, the hubby and I got on our trusty bicycles (I didn’t feel right about driving a car to a building that touts sustainability) and traveled to The Plant, a self-sustaining vertical farm in the Back of the Yards neighborhood of Chicago, to get to know these brewers and share a growler of Mr. Crowley’s Antipathy Double IPA. We rang the buzzer and Jesse Evans opened the door to welcome us to New Chicago Brewing Co. He escorted us into what will soon be the brewhouse and introduced us to his brother, Samuel, who was gathering clean pint glasses. One of their volunteers was hanging out and playing guitar, offering a soundtrack for the meeting.
Samuel poured us all pints of Half Acre Gossamer from their Chicago flag-clad kegerator and began the tour.
New Chicago Brewing Co will occupy the entire first floor of The Plant with the exception of the building’s lobby. I was surprised; I didn’t realize this brewery was going to be so big! They are going for complete transparency with most brewery functions visible to visitors and passer-bys through huge glass windows. There will also be a vast tasting room where imbibers can have a beer while looking in on the day-to-day operations of the 15 barrel brewery. In addition to their own beers being on tap, they will showcase the brews of other local breweries, nano-breweries, and home brewers. They also want to be able to have a space where brewers can brew on-site. Jesse explains they want to build competition for themselves by providing a system for other brewers to practice on. The goal is to have brewers come in and brew 95 gallons for distribution, talk with the Evans brothers about the importance of the relationship with a distributor, and find out what it takes to build a brewery.
At one point during the tour of the tilapia farm and moving on to the hydroponic garden, the hubby turned to me and mouthed the word “Awesome.” And it truly is. The entire building is quite a sight to see and I could not possibly do it justice here. The next time there is an open house, an event, or a scheduled tour, do yourself a favor and go. It is one thing to read about this place in a newspaper or magazine but it is quite another to actually see tilapia at various stages of development, view a hydroponic garden, and taste a fresh tomato from the rooftop garden.
After the tour, we sat down in the soon-to-be brewhouse and shared the growler that the hubby and I brought from Haymarket. The one question that I have been dying to ask is if there is any sibling rivalry. I mean, I love my brother; he’s a great guy and all. But I don’t think there is anything in the world I would like to do less than start a business with him. Jesse explained to me that the current set-up is a little less involved as previous arrangements, like when they lived in California setting up their previous brewery. During that time they lived together, worked together, and would also hang out after work. And then they would do it all over again the next day! They’ve worked together in a pretty tight capacity since 2005 and they assure me there is no rivalry between the two.
They plan on going to market March 4, 2012 and will only distribute within Chicago city limits. They like the idea of establishing a “city beer,” which historically was unpasteurized and didn’t travel well. As we were getting ready to leave, the hubby and I were asked to sign a large green door; everyone that visits the brewery signs it and it will (eventually) be the front door of the brewery. I can’t wait until I can walk through this heavily autographed door and enter a fully functioning brewery.