The beer industry sometimes shows disregard for social issues when it comes to the names of its products, and a new brewery on the North Side of Chicago is under fire this week for its moniker. Seven months ago, Urban Renewal Brewery moved into the Ravenswood space once occupied by Metropolitan Brewery; Metropolitan left last year for a new home along the Chicago River’s North Branch. After reading a profile on Urban Renewal published on Monday by Block Club Chicago, many readers were left disgusted as “urban renewal” conjured up images of pushing out families from neighborhoods. Federally funded initiatives displaced thousands in the mid-1900s in Chicago as developers have used the phrase for decades to sugarcoat efforts to further marginalize vulnerable populations, especially people of color.
Besides the brewery’s name, Urban Renewal also has a “Razed IPA” — complete with an excavator on the label. “Urban renewal,” while tied to gentrification, isn’t exactly the same. Nonetheless, the effects are similar and an increased number of restaurant and bar owners are realizing their roles in changing neighborhoods such as Logan Square and Pilsen.
Urban Renewal hopes to open a taproom by October at 5121 N. Ravenswood Avenue. Brewery co-founder and head brewer James Moriarty told the Reader he was unaware of the phrase’s meaning when naming his business. Chicago journalist Natalie Moore quickly connected the dots on Monday after reading the profile.
you named your brewery 'urban renewal?' https://t.co/PeZJHUTLaL— Natalie Y Moore (@natalieymoore) July 30, 2018
The ensuing Twitter thread produced many quality one liners from urban planners, beer drinkers, and Chicagoans.
“excuse me, bartender? can i get a white flight?”— hot take jake (@jakeguidry) July 30, 2018
Their NIMBY pale ale is bitter and lacks balance— Benjamin Lipsman (@blipsman) July 30, 2018
Moriarty has spent the last few days defending his brewery’s name. He told the Reader that he didn’t want people to “harp on the past.” The name was meant to strictly reference his company’s attempt to revitalize the 4,500-square-foot space, he said. He told the Tribune that any detectives making the connection to the phrase had a “lack of knowledge” of the people behind his 7-month-old brewery. The phrase, at least in Chicago, has been around since the mid-1950s. The Block Club story also mentioned that the brewery didn’t have much “name recognition yet.”
Social media wasn’t very impressed with Moriarty’s response on Wednesday.
" not harp on the past"....yes because the implications + material consequences of urban renewal are relegated to the past— Amanda Kass (@Amanda_Kass) August 1, 2018
Ill-advised beer names have frequently been the subject of scrutiny for sexism and racism. The craft culture the brewers sprung from has been traditionally full of white men. As the Tribune noted, a Lakeville, Indiana brewery recently apologized after releasing beers with such names as “Black Beers Matter” and “Flint Michigan Tap Water.”
- Will beer names bring the right kind of attention to new Lakeville brewery? [South Bend Tribune]
- Newly opened Urban Renewal Brewery in Chicago lands in tweet storm over ‘loaded’ name [Tribune]
- Natalie Y. Moore [Twitter]
- Urban Renewal Brewing’s cofounder says the controversial name ‘has nothing to do with urban redevelopment’ policies [Chicago Reader]
- Chicago’s Urban Renewal Displaced an Astonishing Number of People in the 20th Century [Chicago]
- How Restaurants Feed the Gentrification Debate in Pilsen and Logan Square [Eater Chicago]
- New Feminist Beer Challenges Raging Sexism in the Beer Industry [Eater National]
- Small But Mighty Urban Renewal Brewing Plans To Grow In Ravenswood [Block Club Chicago]
- The White Lies of Craft Culture [Eater National]