Chicago is home to an exciting craft beer scene, with tons of area breweries releasing creative and satisfying brews for nearly every drinker. The beer industry, however, has long struggled with a chronic lack of racial diversity among brewers — a problem that dates back to the late 19th Century in the U.S. The data remains stark: a 2021 survey by the Brewers Association found that more than 93 percent of brewery owners are white, and more than 75 percent are men.
The Illinois Craft Brewers Guild and Chicago brewery school the Siebel Institute of Technology aim to address this chasm locally with a new scholarship initiative to offer free entry- and intermediate-level brewing courses, typically priced at $985 and $4,285, according to WTTW. The organizers have selected three scholarship recipients, including Jay Westbrook, an independent craft beer maker who has in the past partnered with Chicago beer brands like Haymarket Brewing. The partners hope to offer the scholarships annually in the future.
Westbrook is a prominent member of Chicago’s small but growing community of Black brewers, putting out brews with business partner Sam Ross such as Harold’s ’83 Honey Ale, named for two icons in the city’s Black communities: late Chicago mayor Harold Washington and famed chain Harold’s Chicken. That community also includes the co-founders of Turner Haus Brewing, a beer operation that’s operating a taproom inside 47th Street’s Rosenwald Court Apartments and is planning to open a stand-alone brewery in Bronzeville by late 2022. Co-owners Steve Turner, Blair Turner-Aikens, and Nathaniel Aikens have also put out tribute-themed brews, including a Gazelle Hazy IPA in honor of “the Black Gazelle,” Olympic track and field champion and one-time Chicagoan Wilma Rudolph. When it debuts, Turner Haus will become Chicago’s first Black-owned brewery since 2019 when when Vice District permanently closed.
Will Chicago produce another Top Chef?
Damarr Brown, chef de cuisine at Virtue in Hyde Park, will be competing on Top Chef: Houston starting on March 3 on Bravo, Brown announced in an Instagram post last week. He joins 14 other contestants from around the country, all competing to impress Padma Lakshmi, Tom Colicchio, and Gail Simmons, and win $250,000 and national fame. Chicago’s last Top Chef champ was Joe Flamm, who returned to open Rose Mary in Fulton Market, one of the most successful new restaurants of 2021. Filming has already happened — it wrapped up in December — but the suspense remains, and that’s the magic of television.
Restaurants need more federal grants, says Rick Bayless
Unless the U.S. government is prepared to provide more funds to restaurant owners to help them get through the pandemic, the entire industry is in deep trouble, warns chef Rick Bayless. The Tribune has plenty of grim statistics, courtesy of the National Restaurant Association, to back up his claim: 90,000 restaurants nationwide closed in 2020, three-quarters of Illinois restaurateurs say that their 2021 business did not equal pre-pandemic 2019, and 97 percent of Illinois restaurants saw a drop in customers in December (traditionally one of the busiest months) due to the omicron surge. According to stats from the Small Business Administration, which oversaw the Restaurant Revival Fund, fewer than half of restaurant owners who applied for grants received any money; in Illinois, 71 percent of applicants were rejected. A survey by the Independent Restaurant Coalition found that 42 percent of restaurants that didn’t receive a grant are on the verge of bankruptcy.
Even Bayless, Food Network star, owner of a small flock of restaurants in Chicago, and recipient of a $3.5 million grant, is feeling the pinch. He’s a partisan for the Cardin-Wicker bill, a bipartisan initiative that was introduced in the U.S. Senate last August and would provide funding for restaurants who didn’t get grants the first time around. “A lot of the restaurateurs and chefs that I’m talking to are just about to give up,” Bayless told the Tribune. “They’re incredibly discouraged. Nobody knows what to do at this point, because the numbers are so low.”
The week in reviews: a nontraditional steakhouse and a traditional English pub
Nick Kindelsperger of the Tribune visited Holu in the Jefferson Square development in East Pilsen for bite-size steaks cooked on a tabletop grill, and Emma Krupp of Time Out finally got into Armitage Alehouse in Lincoln Park, Hogsalt Hospitality’s new spot that’s the hottest table in town. Kindelsperger, it seems, got the better end of the deal: he raved about the smaller portions that gave him a chance to sample several different cuts of beef in one meal and didn’t leave him feeling bloated afterward. The cocktails and seafood are also excellent. Krupp, meanwhile, appreciated the decor of Armitage Alehouse, which pays homage to 1920s London with lots of dark wood and expensive-looking antiques, but was less thrilled with the food, especially considering the high price points. “If you’re looking for Indian-inflected English pub fare,” she concludes, “you’ll find several other Chicago restaurants—Pleasant House Pub and the recently reopened Owen & Engine come to mind—that satisfy as much (or more) than Armitage Alehouse, and likely for much less hassle.”
City council bans overnight parking on Milwaukee Avenue in Wicker Park
A temporary overnight parking ban meant to limit public partying and rowdy behavior on Milwaukee Avenue in Wicker Park is now permanent, at least on the bar- and club-heavy 1400 and 1500 blocks between Wolcott and Damen from 10 p.m. to 5 a.m., Block Club Chicago reports. The ban first went into effect last summer for the whole stretch between North and Division, and Ald. Daniel La Spata (1st) proposed reinstating it in October after one person was killed and four more wounded after a drive-by shooting on the 1500 block of Milwaukee.
Savor Lincoln Park returns
Add Savor Lincoln Park to the list of neighborhood festivals that are returning after a pandemic hiatus, Block Club reports. The indoor festival, which will take place at Theater on the Lake from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. on Tuesday, March 22, will feature samples from neighborhood restaurants and bars, plus a silent auction. Tickets and a complete list of participating restaurants will be released in February.