It’s difficult to arrange a surprise opening of a 10,000 square-foot brewpub in a well-trafficked neighborhood like Lakeview, but that is what the owners of Smylie Brothers Brewing Company have been trying to do since the beginning of September.
They wanted to wait for a big opening, owner Michael Smylie says, until they were fully staffed. Nearly two months after opening, the new location, Smylie Brothers’s second, still isn’t mentioned on the brewery’s website or social media. But the lack of promotion still didn’t prevent crowds.
“For a quiet opening, we’ve been very busy,” Smylie says. “Which we love. The neighbors were watching the place getting built for two years, and we felt some pressure to open right away because of how long it’s taken.”
After eight years in Evanston, the Smylie wanted to bring the combination of small-batch beer, pizza, and Texas-style barbecue to a second location in the city; the menu in Lakeview would be similar to Evanston, with a few variations, like the addition of a baby-back and spare ribs combo platter and a menu of brewery-specific beer.
He chose the location at 3827 N. Broadway in East Lakeview because the area was full of young professionals in their 20s and 30s and got heavy foot traffic. Also, its proximity to Wrigley Field was appealing to Smylie, a lifelong Cubs fan.
Construction began two years ago. It had just reached the halfway point when COVID-19 hit and shut the whole operation down. When Smylie was able to start again, he had to hire new work crews. He also discovered that banks had put a freeze on lending, and since the brewery wasn’t open yet, it wasn’t eligible for Payment Protection Program (PPP) loans. “I just wanted to toss a match to the place and get out of there,” Smylie says. “But we really wanted to be in Chicago and we’d put so much into it already, we didn’t want to walk away.”
After all that, though, Smylie is pleased with the way the brewery turned out. There are three separate bars, one with a view of the brewhouse, and roughly 140 more seats spread out across booths and tables. The space, when Smylie Brothers took it over, was highly industrial, with high ceilings and concrete floors, but Smylie softened it by adding some color, in the form of tiles, accent walls, and wood and leather booths. Smylie is especially proud of the wall decorated with shou sugi ban, a Japanese wood-burning technique.
Now that the Lakeview brewery is fully staffed, Smylie is ready to announce its existence to the world: he’s in the process of updating the website and waiting for some equipment that was on backorder to arrive. The food menu is still a bit of a work in progress — though Smylie promises there will always be barbecue — and so is the live music schedule; happy hour and trivia night, however, are already established for the first part of the week.
“Our core product won’t change,” he says. “We’ll be producing some pub-only stuff. There’s always something changing in craft beer, and we’ll be able to do things on the fly.”
Smylie Brothers Brewing Company Lakeview, 3827 N. Broadway, Open 5 p.m. to 10 p.m. Wednesday through Saturday, 5 p.m. to 9 p.m. Sunday and Monday.