The beer rush continues in Logan Square as Solemn Oath Brewery’s new taproom is scheduled to open Friday, joining an already impressive neighborhood brewery lineup. This is the sole Chicago entry for Solemn Oath which for nine years has operated in suburban Naperville and will continue. Ownership is calling its Chicago taproom Solemn Oath Still Life.
Brewery owner John Barley is ecstatic to open, as the taproom’s journey began three years ago: “We took our time with getting started with construction and going through zoning and other elements,” he says. “I think the patience will pay off.”
The taproom mixes dive bar elements with plenty of wood paneling to give off a Wisconsin Northwoods vibe (Barley is from America’s Dairyland). There’s also a dash of European flair; Barley’s parents spent time in Belgium. Designer Kevin Heisler, known for Estereo and other venues from his company — Heisler Hospitality — had a hand in creating the aesthetic. Jourdon Gullett, Solemn Oath’s longtime former designer (who just left for Dark Matter Coffee) also was influential, contributing several pieces of art including a banner painting of a European city that hangs over the bar.
As Chicago’s temps should near the 90s this week, the opening drink lineup is refreshing with 20 draft lines. Eternal Caravan is a tequila barrel-aged margarita gose; Lu Radler is a kölch with grapefruit and lemon soda; Funsponge is a belgian-style blonde. The brewery’s core beers are readily available, as is cider from Eris in Irving Park. Most of the beer will come from the Naperville facility. Chicago will concentrate on barrel-aged beers. There’s going to be quick turnover on the beer list; Barley says Solemn Oath brews about two new beers per week. The cooler is stocked with 40 different beers for to-go consumption.
Solemn Oath joins Ravinia Brewing which opened last month in Logan Square, and there are others like Hopewell, Bixi Beer, and Maplewood Brewing that already are in the neighborhood. Breweries, along with trendy restaurants, are often a sign of gentrification pricing long-time residents out of the neighborhood. There’s some recognition of this by Solemn Oath, at least when it comes to providing an affordable pour. It’s charging $4 everyday for its kölsch, Lu.
Breweries have begun dabbling in hard spritzers thanks to the popularity of White Claw. For those who need a break from beer, Solemn Oath offers hard seltzer cocktails (the brewery has its own seltzer brand, City Water — Barley says his seltzer is drier than mainstream entries). Dolores Forever is a spin on the Zombie, a tiki drink that’s made with falernum, mango, grapefruit, cranberry, and cinnamon-clove syrup. ‘Rita Skeeter is for margarita fans with Persian lime and jalapeño-poblano syrup.
Also, look for some special canned drinks including a collaboration with hip hop outfit Run the Jewels: Ooh La La is fizzy riff on pink lemonade. Barley says these low-sugar drinks are new for the taproom, and range between 6 to 7 percent alcohol by volume. There’s no food served at the bar, so patrons are encouraged to order from one of many nearby restaurants, including Bungalow by Middle Brow.
The taproom also features a vintage print of a fox hunt from Barley’s old home in Wisconsin. He enlisted artist Erik Lundquist to paint the words “Still Life” on it — a call to the Middle Ages when artists felt liberated to break away from old practices. The Logan Square taproom presents a new start for Solemn Oath, and Barley is happy to join city proper.
Solemn Oath Still Life, 2919 W. Armitage Avenue, opens Friday; normal hours are from noon to midnight, Thursday to Saturday; close at 10 p.m. on Sunday.