Percheron, a strong-bodied farm cider from Virtue.
From Goose Island going national to the Revolution Brewery–set indie film Drinking Buddies, Chicago has established its reputation as a craft beer town to be reckoned with, as new microbreweries are sprouting up across the city. In Bedford Park, 5 Rabbit Cervecería founder AndrésAraya is proud of the creativity of new seasonal releases like Ki’Chun, a Belgian strong ale “with tons of chanterelle mushrooms,” as well as the imperial porter Yodo con Leche, a riff on café con leche. But he’s most excited for the spring reintroduction of 5 Rabbit’s Paletas series (Spanish for “popsicle”), three-and-a-half or four percent beers combining a creamy wheat base with familiar and exotic fruits—think mango and tamarindo—and a hint of spice. “These are meant to be fun, fresh flavors that are grown-up and elegant,” Araya says of the Paletas series, “even though they take you back to being a kid.”
Another throwback comes courtesy of Baderbräu. In addition to its mainstay Chicago Pilsener, the craft beer company is celebrating the new Lawnmower Lager, a hop-forward IPL with fruity, floral notes against a German malt backbone. Originally founded by the Pavichevich Brewing Company in Elmhurst in 1989, Baderbräu was recently revitalized by Rob Sama, who fell in love with the craft beer as an undergraduate student at the University of Chicago. “It’s difficult to overstate the psychological effect Baderbräu had on people who were drinking better beer at the time and hoping for a better beer culture in the US when, really, there wasn’t one,” reflects Sama. “It was always a relief to walk into a bar and see a Baderbräu tap handle, because you knew that there’d be good beer to drink that night.” And on the burgeoning cider front, Stephen Schmakel and former Goose Island brew master Gregory Hall of Virtue Cider have just released their latest installment, the Estate Series. A salute to local farmers, the Estate Series showcases fruit exclusive to regional growers including Nichols Farm & Orchard, a favorite of the Green City Market set.
Even non-Chicago-based breweries are jumping into the city’s beer scene. Case in point: California-based Lagunitas Brewing Company, whose founder, Chicago native Tony Magee, is opening a 300,000-square-foot facility in Pilsen (1843 S. Washtenaw Ave.). “It’s absolutely massive,” says head brewer Mary Bauer. “[Magee] selected this facility so he could expand in it, so we’ll have room for up to 120 750-barrel fermenters.” A native of Aurora and an alumna of Anheuser-Busch in Saint Louis and Pepsi in Minnesota, Bauer is eager to bring Lagunitas’s signature IPA and wheat based Little Sumpin’Sumpin’ back to her hometown as well. “My education was in chemistry and food science, and usually science is very straightforward,” she notes, “but brewing gives you that outlet to design your own recipe.”