Thursday, December 22, 2005

Beer me, Chicago St. Louis!

Last summer, while traveling around western Canada, I discovered yet another reason why Chicago is so much lamer than just about anywhere else. I made the discovery at the bar of the hostel I was staying at in Victoria, BC.

"Do you have anything local?" I asked the bartender, pointing at three taps with unrecognizable labels.

"All three of these are local," he replied. "Here, try this one." He poured me a pint and told me one of his favorite beer stories. The tiny microbrewery (name unimportant because I forgot it) was started a few years back by two friends with a passion for making beer and two credit cards. They maxed out the credit cards on equipment and ingredients, brewed some pretty darn good beer, and today sell enough to make a decent living. The other two beers at that bar had similar stories--small local companies distributing their craft beers to the regional market.

This is what separates Chicago from the rest of the world. While just about every place I visit has several local beers doing decent business, we have very few microbreweries. And now, with Anheuser-Busch possibly looking into buying an ownership stake in Goose Island, it looks like we'll have zero true Chicago-based regional beers. Correct me if I'm wrong here, but I can't think of a single Chicago beer brand other than Goose Island that's sold at Osco or my corner liquor store, but there are plenty from California, Michigan, and the East Coast. Why is it that Chicagoans identify themselves with Miller or Budweiser products, and sometimes jokingly with Old Style?

What we need is an entrepreneur with a dream and a credit card, someone willing to risk years of debt to pump out some quality beer. And what that brewer will need is customer support for a local product. Is that possible?

I say of course it's possible, but what we really need is a good brand name. I've never loved the name Goose Island (because even though I get the reference, it still doesn't sound like Chicago to me). I've never been a huge fan of Honkers either, even though I do love their current seasonal beer, the dark and creamy Christmas ale. Anyway, I promise to love the beer if the company uses one of these names:

* Big Shoulders/Big Bellies Beer

* The Slats Grobnik Beer Company

* Gentrified Neighborhood Beer

* Reversed River Brewery

* Patronage Special

OK, maybe this is why I don't work in marketing, but can you do better?


Anonymous art attack said...

Well, you're always looking for something to do, you can start this up with your credit cards.

Just brew, don't blog.

And there is Bergoff's downtown. They brew their own and have been doing so for many years, but you are correct, there are no real microbrews in Chicago.

9:02 AM  
Anonymous Mr. Molitor said...

There are 2 reasons why microbeer does not do well here

1. Politics......There is a huge monopoly on liquor distributorship here in the city. The main one (maybe only one) is run by none other than Bill Wirtz the Blackhawks owner. Another political connection.....Aneheuser Busch's local chicago distributorships are run by the sons of Jesse Jackson. I wonder how they obtained their exclusive distribution rights....

2. Microbeers do better in smaller markets. example. New Glarus Beer from Wisconsin (my favorite beer by the way) used to have distribution all over the midwest. The beer became so popular that instead of increasing capacity they decided to restrict sales to within the state of Wisconsin. Now you have to drive across the border.

I guess an important question to ask is when does a beer go from a microbeer to a major beer ala Sam Adams?

9:10 AM  
Blogger ap said...

"New Glarus Beer from Wisconsin (my favorite beer by the way)" ... just a friendly tip to those of you who haven't finished your Christmas shopping!

10:23 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I think the prefect beer for Chicago should be call "Da Brew". It could be made out on those water pumping islands on Lake Michigan by dwarfs (I know a few) and I could be their Willie-Wonka. But because my name is Rufus I would be called Willie-Ain't-No-Wonka-(or Plonka)Rufus. Since the water is free the beer would be cheap. We could have a gold label contest which would create such an international sensation that they would have to lower the national drinking age to 12(14 in New Mexico). I have already started collecting money for this cause (I'm a professional bell ringer) and should be up and running by August 2006. Earlier if someone could lend me a boat. Peace.

12:07 PM  
Anonymous jenska said...

I like Da Beer! The ad campaign could riff De Beers' diamond ads...same music, silouhetted beer-bellied men pounding bottle of beer, maybe punctuated by a belch.

12:47 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I think you should brew your own beer and open your own tiny movie theatre on the north side somewhere and call it, Windy City Brew and View. Art and I talked about opening up ourselves and call that the HaiArt Cinemas. SImilar places out this way are the Pyramid Brewing Company. Or the Parkway theatre so fairly proven models. Or even easier, just order and sell microbrews from around the country just to get started.

Screw the monopolized distribution system and sell your own home brew right out of the movie theatre.


12:48 PM  
Anonymous kevin said...

Chicago is not the only major city beseiged by Buttweiper beer. When Ken & I were in Dublin about 8 years ago we were excited to sample the local Guinness brew. Although the stout was noticeably better over there, we felt like tourists ordering it because it seemed like all the locals were drinking Bud!

Perhaps AP & H20 had a different experience on their more recent trip?

5:42 PM  
Blogger ap said...

I do remember hearing at least one local lad say that Guinness is an old person's drink ...

6:24 PM  
Blogger GrandOverseerPickle said...

How about: Genunine Daley Draft.

10:47 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Does anyone know where the AA meetings are?

11:01 PM  
Blogger ap said...

Not at the Horseshoe tonight, that's for sure

11:17 PM  

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