The struggles of draft beer have been well documented as COVID-19 forced taprooms and bars across the country to close. Sales of beer in cans and bottles surged during the pandemic, but it’s not enough to make up for the losses suffered by beer makers. So, suffice to say, this isn’t the opening Greg Shuff had imagined for Crushed by Giants, his new brewpub in Streeterville, at the corner of Rush and Ohio streets.
“Not a chance,” Shuff says if Friday’s opening is what he and his investors envisioned. “I think everyone in the restaurant industry is sort of hoping for the same idea, which is that this is a singular event in time and won’t redefine the industry.”
Downtown is in a craft beer limbo with few choices for the devoted beer drinker. Crushed by Giants aims to fill that niche as Shuff says its hazy IPA, Neon Werewolf, is among the best beers his crew has ever made. Shuff owns three other brewpubs, all in Lakeview — DryHop Brewing and neighboring Roebuck, as well as Corridor Brewery and Provisions on Southport. Crushed By Giant’s food is from chef Pat Sheerin, formerly of Trencherman and City Mouse. While the area may be a haven for steakhouses and tourist traps, Shuff says that won’t alter his approach. He’s using the formula that’s made his brewpubs successful. There won’t be a $50 steak on the menu. Instead, there’s a focus on tacos, with tortillas made on premises. Shuff’s partial to the charred tuna tostada. He suggests pairing that with the 9 Table Kolsch for a taste of summer.
It’s the neighborhood’s first brewery; tourist stalwart chain Rock Bottom Brewery in nearby River North has remained closed since March. For Shuff, Crushed by Giants — which occupies the second-floor space that once housed chef Jimmy Bannos’ Cajun restaurant, Heaven on Seven — marked the first brewpub in an aggressive expansion plan. He had hoped to open several brewpubs in Chicago and elsewhere. The pandemic’s changed that, as Shuff says he has no clue when they could open their next venture.
Crushed by Giants will operate with 16 socially distant tables, which is about 1/3rd of the brewpub’s capacity. There’s also a holding pen in the lobby between the escalators that lead up to the AMC 600 Michigan movie theaters. Folks could sip a pint there while waiting for a table.
It’ll have plenty of experimental beers on tap to satisfy beer nerds, but Shuff isn’t catering to beer tourists. There are four groups that will make up the brewpub’s customers: Locals, movie-goers, tourists, and downtown workers. COVID-19 has decimated three of those four groups, Shuff says, but he’s confident that the neighborhood can sustain the brewpub. But he worries coronavirus could spike.
“If [Mayor] Lightfoot slides us back to Phase Three, Crushed By Giants will be in a lot of trouble,” he says. “There’s no question about that.”
The brewpub does not offer outdoor seating, but Shuff feels they’ve created an airy space to make customers feel safe. He’s looked at opening a patio on Rush Street, but that’s not a priority right now.
July might not be the ideal time to open, but Shuff points out he doesn’t have many alternatives. Real estate is pricey, and there’s only so much relief creditors and landlords can provide. Opening the doors will at least help pay for some bills as restaurant owners hope a vaccine is soon on its way.
Look around the new Streeterville space below. Crushed by the Giants opens at 4 p.m. on Friday.
Crushed By Giants, 600 N. Michigan Avenue, (312) 544-0322, open 4 p.m. to 10 p.m. on weekdays; 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. on Saturday; 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. on Sunday.