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Influential Brewer of Oberon Beer Will Be Sold to Australasian Corporation Behind Kirin

Meanwhile, star chef Don Young to leave the French restaurant in Carbide & Carbon building downtown

A woman wearing a mask pours a draft beer out of a branded Bell’s Brewing tapper.
Bell’s Brewing helped lay the foundation for Chicago’s craft beer scene.
Bell’s Brewing

Bell’s Brewery, the Michigan-based craft beer maker behind massively influential brews like Oberon Ale and Two Hearted IPA, will be sold for an undisclosed amount to Australasian beer company Lion and its parent company, Japanese beer giant Kirin. The sale was in large part prompted by the retirement of founder Larry Bell, a Chicago-area native who last year was hospitalized with renal cancer, according to the Tribune.

Founded in 1985 in Kalamazoo, Michigan, Bell’s is widely regarded as a key player in the development of Chicago’s craft beer scene. “Combing my brain for a more important non-Chicago brewery to Chicago than Bell’s and ... can’t think of one,” Trib beer writer Josh Noel tweeted Wednesday. “Hard to overstate how important Two Hearted, Hopslam, Oberon, Amber Ale, Winter White ... have been to forming our tastes here.”

The brewery’s local impact has transcended flavor profiles: Michael Roper, owner of the venerable beer bar Hopleaf in Andersonville, credits Bell’s with keeping his business viable through its early years. “I’m not sure that there would have been a second year for Hopleaf if not for Bell’s Amber Ale,” he wrote Wednesday on Facebook. “A lot of our early customers made a special trip ‘all the way north’ to Clark and Foster just because we were one of the few places then that always had Bell’s on tap and all of their beers in bottles as well.”

Bell, 63, tells reporters that he’s confident that fans will see little to no change in the brewery’s wildly popular offerings. Once the sale is complete, Bell’s is set to be operated by Kirin-owned New Belgium Brewing in Colorado, combining to form one of the largest craft beer companies in the U.S.

Executive chef Don Young departs hot French spot Venteux

A man in a short sleeved chef’s jacket leans against a stove
Don Young.
Clique Hospitality

Don Young, the executive chef and a partner at Venteux, the modern French restaurant and oyster bar inside the Pendry Hotel, will be moving on in early December, a little more than six months after opening, Clique Hospitality announced in a statement this week. Young, whose previous restaurant, Temporis, earned a Michelin star in 2019, had ambitious plans for Venteux when it first opened, including experiments with dry aging beef and duck. He hasn’t decided on his next move yet. “My time here has been great and I enjoyed building and being part of this project,” he tells Eater. He will be replaced by Joseph Mosconi, a Chicago native who has spent his career in Las Vegas, most recently as executive chef at Honey Salt.

J.P. Graziano’s temporarily closed after positive COVID-19 test

J.P. Graziano’s, the West Loop grocery and sandwich shop, is closed through the weekend after an employee tested positive for COVID-19, management announced in a tweet yesterday. The store will be reopened as soon as the remaining employees have tested negative. All outstanding orders will be refunded.

Irving Park’s Independence Tap sold

The owner of the Independence Tap, a neighborhood bar in Irving Park that regularly hosts open mics and live music, has sold the bar and the building, which he has owned for 25 years, so he can retire, Block Club Chicago reports. The new owner, Jose Maldonado, did not respond to inquiries about what he plans to do with the bar, but the real estate agent representing the seller, George Lacon, told Block Club that since Maldonado also bought the corporation that controls the liquor license, he’s pretty sure the space will continue to be a bar.

Open borders have yet to lead to fewer open tables in Chicago restaurants

The U.S. reopened its borders with Canada and Mexico on Monday and simultaneously lifted restrictions on travel to 28 European countries, and the Tribune reports that Chicago is the fifth most-booked destination for international travelers headed for the U.S. for the last two weeks of December. But if there’s a trickle-down effect that will benefit local restaurants, owners haven’t seen it yet. Chris Gerber, the general manager at Smyth, tells Eater through a spokesman that it’s definitely something that he and his team are going to keep an eye on.

Smyth

177 North Ada Street, , IL 60607 (773) 913-3773 Visit Website

J.P. Graziano Grocery

901 West Randolph Street, , IL 60607 (312) 666-4587 Visit Website

Venteux

230 N. Michigan Avenue, Chicago, IL 60601 (312) 777-9003 Visit Website

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