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Chicago’s Black Beer Makers Are Making Waves

Also: what does a $150 to-go cocktail taste like?

Turner Haus Brewery co-owner Steven Turner (left) and consultant and Alulu Brewery and Pub head brewer Jason James are photographed at Alulu Brewery and Pub in Pilsen.
Turner Haus Brewery co-owner Steven Turner (left) with Alulu Brewery and Pub head brewer Jason James poses while at Alulu Brewery and Pub in Pilsen.
Anthony Vazquez/Sun-Times

It’s fall and as Chicago beer drinks are shifting away from lighter lagers toward stouts, Black beer makers are making headlines around town.

Fortune has a piece on Logan Square’s Pilot Project Brewing, part of its series on startup companies. The publication mentions this month’s debut of a new Black-owned brewery called Funkytown Brewery, owned by childhood friends Richard Bloomfield, Zachary Day, and Gregory Williams. The Tribune had a story on the friends earlier this month.

Both the Trib and Fortune mention the lack of Black beer makers across the country. Fortune cites an interesting stat: less than 1 percent of the nearly 8,500 craft breweries in America are Black owned.

The Tribune story also mentions Moor’s Brewing (not to be confused with South Asian-owned More Brewing Company, which has locations in suburban Huntley and Villa Park). Crain’s caught up with Moor’s Damon Patton and Jamhal Johnson. The company launched on Juneteenth.

Chicago’s Black beer makers have been making more noise of late. Last week, independent craft beer maker Jay Westbrook launched a special cream ale at West Loop’s Haymarket Tavern. Westbrook’s Black Beer Baron Twitter account has helped generate interest as have others like beer blogger Chalonda White (Afro.Beer.Chick). Another intriguing Black-owned beer operation is Turner Haus Brewing, which has two upcoming breweries on tap. The Turner Haus team will this month release Queen’s Legacy, a Caribbean-style stout produced in collaboration with Tennessee Brew Works and famed Black-owned whiskey brand Uncle Nearest. The beer will launch at the brewery’s OkTurnerfest event on Thursday, October 28 at Sip & Savor in Rosenwald, 78 E 47th Street. An updated opening timeline is not yet available as the team navigates the rezoning process.

Happiness comes in bottles

Three cans on a wooden bar. They are brown with different colored labels to indicate the flavors.
Goose Island’s lineup of canned craft cocktails.
Goose Island Brewery

These are thrilling times for those who prefer drinking their booze from a can or a bottle in the privacy of their own home. First — and most dramatically — is the Gold Fashioned, a bottled limited edition cocktail from Apologue’s Robert Haynes that retails for $150. (Technically, the bottle contains 12 two-ounce pours, which comes out to $12.50 per drink.) It’s made from an eight-year bourbon from a distillery in Bardstown, Kentucky, that prefers to remain anonymous, blended with rye from MGP distillery in Lawrenceburg, Indiana, but the real reason for the cost is the rare and expensive ingredients in the bitters, which include saffron and Tahitian vanilla beans. Josh Noel of the Tribune tasted it and reports that “On the palate, Gold Fashioned is a journey — a very tasty, very deft, very interesting journey.” But also, “Can someone who enjoys a quality cocktail live without it? Well, yes to that, too.”

Meanwhile, Goose Island last week introduced its own line of craft cocktails in cans, which also feature MGP spirits, this time bourbon. There are three options: Blackberry Smash, Old Fashioned Highball, and Whiskey Sour. And finally, Revolution Brewing last week announced a four-year marketing deal with the Chicago Fire that will make it the team’s official craft brewer. The first result of this agreement will be Hazy Pitch, a hazy pale ale that is scheduled for release early next year.

More Halloween treats (no tricks)

Meg Galus, the former executive pastry chef at the Boka Restaurant Group, is setting into her new gig at Cocoa + Co. in Old Town by preparing a limited edition Halloween pastry box that includes black and white marble-frosted sugar cookies, charcoal black cookies and cream croissants, black sesame pumpkin doughnuts, and ghostly rum and vanilla bean caneles. The boxes are available for pre-order starting today for pickup Halloween weekend. The cafe will also feature other pumpkin-flavored and Halloween- and Day of the Dead-decorated treats.

More Brewing Company

13980 Automall Drive, , IL 60142 (847) 310-7530 Visit Website

Pilot Project Brewing

2140 North Milwaukee Avenue, , IL 60647 (773) 270-5995 Visit Website

cocoa + co.

1651 N Wells St, Chicago, IL 60614

Sip & Savor Chicago

528 East 43rd Street, , IL 60653 (773) 855-2125 Visit Website

Haymarket Brewery & Taproom

9301 Red Arrow Highway, , MI 49106 (269) 266-5050 Visit Website

Revolution Brewing

3340 N Kedzie Ave, Chicago, IL 60618 (773) 588-2267 Visit Website

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