Local brewers offer much to beer lovers

June 12, 2009 For years, the only local microbrew was Goose Island. Then a few years ago, along came three Floyd's from Munster, Indiana and the Two Brothers label from west suburban Warrenville. But more recently, three new brewers have begun producing high quality beers and spirits in the heart of the city, energizing proponents of local, artisanal brewing and distilling.

Doug and Tracy Hurst do pretty much everything themselves. From hauling and measuring roasted barley, to weighing the hops. But beer-making is their passion, and the Metropolitan Brewing Company is their outlet, allowing them to produce longer fermented lagers.

"A lot of craft breweries are making ales, we decided to do lagers because there was a niche available; there just aren't as many craft-brewed lagers," said Doug Hurst, of Metropolitan Brewing.

Their Flywheel Bright Lager is inspired by the lighter, hoppier Czech pilsners while the Dynamo Copper Lager is inspired by the Vienna style: maltier, richer and deeper in color.

"Lagering takes twice as long as ales to ferment, and it provides you with a nice crisp and clean kind of beer," Hurst said.

Next door to Hurst, another couple is busy at work, distilling wheat, rye, millet, oat and spelt into high-quality spirits, as well as a limited number of flavored liqueurs, such as Rose Hip and Ginger.

"But we'll also be having a cardamom orange liqueur, a chrysanthemum honey liqueur, strawberry rhubarb; most of these new liqueurs will be seasonal," said Sonat Birnecker Hart of Koval.

In addition to spirits and liqueurs, Koval will also begin making fruit brandies this summer.. part of a movement toward local, artisanally produced products.

"We feel that now, in America, it's wise to manufacture, it's wise to make products of high quality...and that's what we wanted to do," Birnecker Hart said.

Just a mile or two South, the Half Acre Beer Company recently set up a brewing operation that's still under construction. They produce a lager and an ale.. as well as a few new pale ales.

"We just released Daisy Cutter pale ale, which is a big, West Coast-style pale ale, that really focuses on aromatic quality of hops...it's really a great beer for anyone that's super passionate about hoppy beers," said Gabriel Magliaro of Half Acre Beer.

Magliaro says they can barely keep up with demand. It seems Chicagoans are eager to support local brands.

"People understand, hey this beer was thoughtfully made, with a ton of raw materials and maybe that beer wasn't, so it's a pretty cool thing to be a part of," he said.

Both the beers and the Koval spirits are becoming widely available at local stores like Binny's and in some of the better bars around town.

Metropolitan Brewing
5121 N. Ravenswood Ave.

Koval Distillery

available at:
Andersonville Wine and Spirits
5201 N. Clark St.

Drinks Over Dearborn
650 N. Dearborn Street, second floor

Binny's locations:

Half Acre Beer Co.
4257 N. Lincoln Ave.

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