The owners of Band of Bohemia, the world’s first Michelin-starred brewpub, want to build a taproom that follows in the footsteps of fellow breweries along Malt Row in Ravenswood. Co-owner Michael Carroll said it was time for new ideas as the funky culinary brewpub, an Eater Chicago 38 member, celebrates its four-year anniversary this week.
Last month, ownership launched an online Kickstarter fundraising campaign to convert 1,400 square feet of neighboring space into a taproom. Friday is the final day of the campaign, which Carroll and co-owner Craig Sindelar hope will help draw investors to reach a $50,000 goal. If all goes well and Band of Bohemia raises enough money, ownership roughly estimates the taproom could open in November 2020.
Carroll and team began to talk about a taproom in earnest about a year ago, he said. The project is described on the fundraiser page as a way to “extend our platform to our loyal beer drinkers by adding a place to get away from the hustle and bustle of a Michelin-starred restaurant to a more cozy, dare we say Snuggery, boasting a den like feel perfect for imbibing upon unique brews, both in-house brewed classics and some local favorites.”
Customers could sample five beers on taps and some snacks like charcuterie. Carroll envisions beers from guest breweries on tap, too. It would have a few TVs and a pinball machine. Band of Bohemia’s bar draws customers, but some beer lovers can feel timid walking into a Michelin-starred restaurant just to drink, Carroll said. They might be concerned that they’re not dressed appropriately. The new taproom will be more welcoming: “Most breweries are more laid back,” Carroll said.
The Kickstarter awards are unusual. The highest level is $10,000. For that price Carroll and head brewer Brian Schnell will work with the winner to make a beer — from brewing and naming to the bottle design. They’ll also create a meal centering on the beer and serve it to the winner at the brewpub’s chef’s counter. Carroll pointed out that the Alinea Group also used the site to raise funds for its cookbook, which brought in more than $400,000.
When Band of Bohemia opened in 2015, it sought to merge fine dining with craft beer. The restaurant features a unique menu with suggested beer pairings on each page. Sindelar worked as the sommelier at Alinea, Chicago’s only three-Michelin-starred restaurant. The brewpub’s other co-owner, Carroll, worked at Half Acre Brewing Company, the acclaimed beer maker with locations in Lincoln Square and on Balmoral.
In recent years, nearby breweries including Begyle and Dovetail have helped draw crowds of beer lovers to the Ravenswood area dubbed Malt Row. Over the weekend, crowds stuffed Begyle for a special beer release. The brewery’s barrel-aged “Imperial Pajamas,” an oatmeal stout, took home a gold medal this year at the Great American Beer Festival in Colorado. The honor means Begyle brews one of the best barrel-aged stouts in the country, bringing further notoriety to Malt Row.
Band of Bohemia has evolved since 2015, bringing in new chefs and attuning itself to the neighborhood along the Metra railroad tracks in Ravenswood. Its dedication paid off in 2016 when Michelin inspectors awarded the restaurant a star. That made Band of Bohemia the first Michelin-starred brewpub in the world and it has retained its one-star status since. The brand will also be part of the Time Out Market food hall opening later this month in Fulton Market.
There seems to be a growing thirst for the combination of fresh beer and fancy food in Chicago. Moody Tongue Brewing last week opened its new brewpub with a tasting menu near McCormick Place, for example.
Stay tuned for more news on Band of Bohemia’s planned new taproom.