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Homaro Cantu's Brewery Project Rechristened With Matthias Merges Onboard

They're aiming for a summer opening for Old Irving Brewing Co.

Old Irving Brewing Co.
Old Irving Brewing Co.
Ashok Selvam is the editor of Eater Chicago and a native Chicagoan armed with more than two decades of award-winning journalism. Now covering the world of restaurants and food, his nut graphs are super nutty.

More details have emerged about Old Irving Park Brewing Co., inside the Northwest side space where the late Homaro Cantu planned his Crooked Fork Brewing. Management of the tweaked project now includes Cantu's friend from the Charlie Trotter's days, Matthias Merges (Yusho, Billy Sunday), as chef-partner. The Tribune delivered a thorough overview of the emotions involved over opening up a business at the address where Cantu took his life almost a year ago. Former Moto and iNG colleague Trevor Rose-Hamblin sought and received the blessing of Cantu's widow, Katie McGowan, to go forward with the project.

Jeff Linnemeyer is the third partner and will handle the fiscal side. When it comes to brewing, one of Cantu's science-driven ambitions was to develop a hangover free beer, and he mentions that in the footage for "Insatiable: The Homaro Cantu Story." The documentary screens on March 13 at the SXSW Film Festival for its world premiere. In the movie, he also talked about how he didn't want the brewery to be his main focus; he wanted to concentrate on his work in the lab.

Merges is effectively fulfilling Cantu's role in the project at 4415-4419 W. Montrose Ave. He teased his involvement in the project in January when he posted blueprints via Instagram. Here's the key takeaways from the Trib article as it pertains directly to the project:

  • Originally, Crooked Fork was to be an inexpensive taco joint without table service. Cantu is Mexican, and the menu would remind folks of the food Cantu's grandmother fed him in Oregon.
  • Worried a cheap Mexican spot wouldn't make enough money, they've changed Old Irving Park's menu to "South American inspired." Keeping up with Chicago food trends, there will be a focus on meats cooked on a wood-fired grill.
  • Instead of focusing of beer distribution, the majority of Rose-Hamblin's beers will be consumed onsite.
  • The goal is to open by early summer.
  • There are no plans to memorialize Cantu onsite. The partners feel they are continuing their friend's work by continuing the project.