It is a good time to be a beer geek in Chicago. Many of the breweries-in-planning that I have been writing about over the last year are starting to open their doors and I, for one, am ecstatic that thirsty Chicagoans are reaping all of the benefits. One recent member to the Chicago craft beer scene is Aleman, or Heavy Handed Brewing within homebrew circles. If that name sounds familiar it’s because they recently won the grand prize in the Iron Brew competition and will vacate the dreary Chicago winter for sunny San Diego and brew their award winning Dayman Coffee IPA with Two Brothers Brewing at Stone Brewing Company. This win is what nudged this group of guys to seriously consider opening up a brewery of their own so they have put together a Kickstarter campaign to acquire the capital needed to purchase brewery equipment. Below is an interview with Aleman/Heavy Handed co-founder William (Brad) Zeller who offers insight on how the idea for this brewpub came to be. Please consider donating to their Kickstarter page as more Chicago beer is better for all of us!
GirlsLikeBeerToo: How did you start homebrewing?
William Zeller: Jim Moorehouse, Nate Albrecht, and I all work at Rockwells Neighborhood Grill up in Lincoln Square. We’re a solid craft beer bar and we all had the common interest in learning a little more about what goes into the glass.
GirlsLikeBeerToo: How did the idea for ALEMAN come about?
WZ: Our chef, Chris Aldrich, is a good buddy of mine. He had planted the seed in my head a while back of a German/Latin fusion spot. As Jim and I started looking for locations, I couldn’t shake that idea. As soon as we saw the potential location we immediately thought brewpub. The word for “German” in Spanish? Aleman. It was almost too easy.
GirlsLikeBeerToo: You recently won the Iron Brew competition. When are you heading out to San Diego to brew the beer? When can we expect that beer in stores?
WZ: We are heading out to San Diego at the end of January. I think we can expect the beer to hit the market early March, just ahead of our projected Grand Opening.
GirlsLikeBeerToo: What can we expect from the ALEMAN brewpub? How will ALEMAN add to the growing Chicago craft beer community?
WZ: I think you can expect ALEMAN to be an unassuming place to enjoy fresh, high-quality food and beverages, whether with friends or complete strangers. Think German beer hall meets Mexican tequila bar. The craft beer scene is becoming a little too pretentious for my taste so we wanted to create something with more of a blue collar feel to it that can balance creativity and approachability seemlessly. In addition to brewing, we will also be butchering in house so there will be a lot of crazy ideas flying around and we want to make sure we stay true to a simple, rustic sensibilitiues. As for how we will add to the beer community…I think we all realize that education is a lifelong process and there is always more to learn. We would like nothing more than to collaborate with anyone who is up for swapping ideas and stories and to generally get other people’s takes on things we already thought we had figured out. That goes for the food, the beer, and the overlapping of the two.
GirlsLikeBeerToo: Where will the brewpub be located?
WZ: We can’t divulge too many specifics until we get this thing set in stone, but we’re looking at a spot the West Loop/University Village area.
GirlsLikeBeerToo: You are raising money via Kickstarter which has proven to be a successful fundraising site for local breweries. What will you use the money for?
WZ: We wanted to raise money for something concrete as opposed to the money going into some big operating pool – to make people feel like they are contributing towards something tangible. We decided that if we could raise the rest of the money elsewhere, we are humbled to ask people to help us assemble our brewhouse. $25,000 is bare bones to say the least, and we’ll make it work, but if we are fortunate enough to blow past our goal and have the ability to go a little bigger, so be it.
Be sure to visit their Kickstarter page and donate!