A massive new multi-brewery hub and taproom inspired by the flexibility and open-minded approach of independent recording studios opens to the public this week in Logan Square. Pilot Project Brewing from co-owners Dan Abel and Jordan Radke is slated to open Friday at 2140 N. Milwaukee Avenue featuring 24 draft drinks from a range of home brewers, brewery startups, and established brands, as well as cookies from Chicago sweets queen Mindy Segal.
A longtime member of the music industry, Abel said the incubator was born of his passion for independent recording studios that give a range of artists opportunities to hone their craft. “They work with artists of all backgrounds who don’t need to be signed to a major label or have millions of dollars backing them,” he said. “We can work with home brewers who want to test their chops on a commercial scale, startup breweries, and ‘nomad brewers’ who don’t have a physical location and are out there begging and bartering for tank space.”
Abel anticipates hosting larger brands who need to keep up regular production and don’t have in-house space to experiment or collaborate with other purveyors. Pilot Project head brewer Logan Helton will also serve as a beer consultant, he said, and participating breweries can bounce ideas off him and benefit from his scientific perspective on the brewing process. If the Chicago space is a success, Abel and Radke are open to opening Pilot Project locations elsewhere, they told the Chicago Tribune.
Pilot Project’s opening lineup features an innovative selection of brews. Local women-owned hard kombucha brand Luna Bay Booch will offer flavors like palo santo blueberry and hibiscus lavender. Selections from Culinary Brewers, a project focused on integrating global flavors, include “Mañana de Mallorca,” an IPA brewed with Majorcan tea (melon, hibiscus) in lieu of water, and Japanese-inspired “A Little Idiom,” a yuzu and plum kettle sour. Customers can also anticipate brews from Humboldt Park Nordic-style brewery Ørkenoy and beer-and-wine fusions from Tethered Vines. Helton will brew a range of Pilot Project Brewing-brand beers to balance some of the unusual and “wacky” offerings, Abel said. He wants to keep number the “resident brewers” to four or five so the brands can appear on several taps simultaneously.
Pilot Project will also offer plenty of carbs in edible form, including a cookie flight from Segal (Hot Chocolate) created to compliment a handful of different beer styles. The menu also includes “artisanal” waffles, charcuterie, and cheese plates with ingredients from local farmers and purveyors.
Abel describes the enormous 142-seat tasting room as “West Coast meets French industrial,” and likened the atmosphere to a comfortable coffee shop or living room. The bright, airy space includes a walnut bar and chevron tables with brass fixtures and blue, black, grey, and white tones. A local artist created a wave-like sculpture above the bar with steam-bent 12-foot strips of white pine. The space was designed for flexibility, according to Abel — brands can transform the taproom for events with a few splashes of color and design details. Pilot Project also offers a huge patio that seats 150. “It’s not some banging frat bar, but the city was generous with our capacity,” Abel said.
Pilot Project Brewing opens in Logan Square on Friday. Stay tuned for more news of the opening.