You can’t have any of this beer … yet

September 17, 2009 at 9:10 am

Tom Keith

“Damn you. Why are you writing about … teasing us with … beers we can’t even get, yet?”

Maybe it’s because I’m just bored.

Or maybe it’s because Revolution Brewing shows so much promise that Local Beet readers deserve a pre-emptive heads-up. Logan Square could well be the home to the next important beer destination in the Tri-State area (that’s not NJ-NY-Conn – take that, you New York-a-philes).

Naw, it’s not that. I’m just bored. I need something to write about. And Josh Deth was kind enough to humor me.

Josh and a couple of his brew kettles, which he got from a Pontiac, Michigan brewpub that decided to quit brewing.

Josh is a homebrewer, a former brewer at Goose Island, and is the primary mover and shaker behind the beer-and-bicycle friendly Handlebar in Wicker Park. Now he’s also moving and shaking in Logan Square. (Actually, he has a long history of actively supporting his home neighborhood. But that’s another story.)

Based on his plans and vision, Revolution Brewing is going to be something really important, for the slightly rough stretch of Milwaukee south of Fullerton, in Logan Square.

When I arrived, I saw a warren of workers, tools, and construction noise.

It was a busy place.

I asked where Josh was. “He’s down in the basement, “ said one of the guys, working on installing a wall. He made a hand gesture, that, shall we say, suggested that Josh may have been extensively “sampling” some of the test brews. That’s okay. After all, it was a few minutes after noon. (He wasn’t. He was putting up the walls of a storage room, along with his chef and his brewmaster.)

After a few minutes, he came out and gave me a quick tour of his work in progress.

Josh: “As you can see, it’s a big undertaking to do a restaurant and brewery. Lots of zoning and city code issues and money issues.” He speaks quickly, in a staccato fashion, which suggests there’s a lot of thinking going on in that noggin, beyond just answering questions.

I won’t go into detail about all those challenges he’s faced – and to some extent still faces – to get Revolution Brewing off the ground. I could never write anything as good or detailed as Josh’s long, highly readable blog detailing what it’s taken.

But what can we look forward to once it gets going?

“We’re going to have 16 beers on tap at any one time – probably eight to ten of our own, and six to eight guest beers, that vary by season.”

Josh and his brewmaster/friend, Jim Cibak, are planning four permanent brews: Bottom Up Witbier, Cross of Gold Blond Ale, Iron Fist Pale Ale, and Working Man Mild – the latter being particularly interesting as an option available all the time, since the relatively low alcohol brown ale isn’t a common style these days. (As late as 1960, milds accounted for over 60% of the English beer market; by 1980 that share was down to 14%. Thanks to Randy Mosher’s new book, Tasting Beer, for that factoid.)

And for the beer Neanderthals, he’s also promising to offer Old Style.

In addition, “We’re going to be making mostly ales – that’s what I prefer, and they’re quicker to make. We’ll be making IPAs, stouts and porters – we’ll be having fun with the stouts and porters. Not wedded to the same ones all the time. Strong beers, summer beers …”

“We’ve got four fermenters, ten serving tanks right now. That’s probably enough to serve our on-site business. But we’ve got space, unlike most brewpubs – built-in space – to do some wholesale. Draft wholesale (i.e kegs), probably not any bottling, initially.”

It will be an impressive space, with original tin ceilings, a window framed with antique stained glass to view the gravity-feed brewing system, bourbon barrel staves – formerly used to age beer – as wall coverings, and lighting fixtures made from the metal hoops that held those bourbon barrels together.

“We bought the building – something most people don’t do. We’ve done a lifecycle rehabilitation of the building.” What Josh didn’t mention is that, by buying the building, it gives the operation an extra layer of financial stability. He’s planning for this place to be around for a long time.

In a former life, the building was the headquarters and printing facility for a local newspaper.

So, who’s the target audience? “Neighborhood folks. Beer ho’s. It’ll be a destination for people from all around the Midwest coming through Chicago. Getting off the El from O’Hare.” (It’s about a block and a half from the Blue Line’s California stop. So anyone with a longish layover at O’Hare can make it there easily.)

I mentioned that it sounded a little like what Goose Island has been doing for years. It’s an obvious comparison, especially since Josh used to work for Goose.

“Generally, the biggest difference is we’re in the neighborhood; I live two blocks away. Our chef lives two blocks away. (Our brewer lives really far away.) Lots of people will walk here – no one walks to Goose Island. They’ve got a nice little parking lot. It’s a nice place to go. I was out doing shopping down there, I stopped in for lunch. Here, we’re right by the El, part of an old-time neighborhood culture on Milwaukee Avenue. Old historic buildings. A bunch of other cool businesses going in. It’s just a nice neighborhood feel around here.”

“Goose Island started as a small pub. We’re probably similar to what Goose Island was a long time ago. It was an upstart, figuring out things, which beers people like. You don’t know what beers you’re going to make until people start drinking them and tell you they like it or not.”

Why did he decide on the name Revolution? “It’s a nice, evocative name … it’s decently open-ended … you can make what you want of it.” Also, “It’s a tribute to what’s happened in craft beer … the last twenty five years have been nothing short of a revolution – you know how beer used to suck, and now it doesn’t.”

On the food side, the menu will feature basic gastropub food – pizzas from a stone hearth pizza oven, fish and chips, mussels, some burgers, sandwiches …

It’s an ambitious operation. I’ll be fascinated to visit once it opens.

I’m not bored anymore.


One Comment

  1. Josh says:

    Nice article Tom. I’m sure lots of Lincoln parkers walk to the Goose, so I’ll eat those words before someone eats me up. Cheers.

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