Ale Syndicate: A brewery of many names finally produces some beer | Bleader

Ale Syndicate: A brewery of many names finally produces some beer


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The brews
When I first interviewed brothers Jesse Edwin Evans and Samuel Evans almost two years ago, their in-the-works brewery was called New Chicago Brewing Company; they were then in the process of moving into the Plant, a former meatpacking facility in Back of the Yards that was (and is) being turned into a vertical farm. A year later, when they moved out of the Plant for parts unknown, they'd changed their name to New Chicago Beer Company. Now they have a new home in Logan Square's Green Exchange, and a new (presumably permanent) name: Ale Syndicate.

And, finally, they have beer. Their first release, an imperial porter called Richie, officially hit bars on March 18. They're expecting to launch their next offering, an IPA named Municipal, next week; next up will be Sunday Session, "a hopped-up ale," which they hope to release in about a month. It's a little different from what the brothers were doing in California, where they had a brewery called Lucky Hand that they sold in 2009 when they moved to Chicago. Jesse says they made only lagers there—in Chicago, they're making what Samuel describes as "traditional styles with a twist."

Jesse with the hop-packed Kegerator
Their IPA, for example, uses just one hop variety, which will change every three months. (The first hop they picked, Cascade, immediately became scarce, so the brothers bought up all the Cascade hops they could find and packed them into any available refrigerator and freezer space, including their Kegerator.) Jesse says that they're hoping that keeping other elements of the beer fixed and changing only the hops will familiarize people with the taste of different hop varieties. "We want people to know more about beer," he says. To that end, they've also included quite a bit of information on the labels: in addition to ABV there's IBU, and OG (if those acronyms mean nothing to you I wouldn't worry about it); the ideal serving temperature for the beer; and the ideal serving glass.

What the Evanses don't have yet is an operational brewery. They've got one in the works in a former train station that's part of the Green Exchange, next door to the main building. In the meantime, they're driving out to brew at Big Chicago Brewing Company in Zion and Galena Brewing Company in Galena. Once it's completed, the brewery will boast a green roof with solar panels, a 30-barrel brewing system, and a taproom with a separate five-barrel system.

What's served in the 40-seat taproom will be more experimental and rotate more frequently than Ale Syndicate's regular lineup. It's not a bar, Samuel says, so much as a place to come talk about beer—and taste some, of course. The brothers are planning to let home brewers use the system for collaborative beers, and at night Arcade, a crowdsourced brewery that found funding through Kickstarter last spring, will use the equipment. "The more people that create beer in Chicago, the better this place is going to be for drinking beer," Jesse says, echoing the distinctly noncompetitive spirit I've found in every local brewer I've ever talked to. They're hoping to move in and start brewing sometime this summer.

A big part of what the brothers seemed excited about when I talked to them in 2011 was the sustainability of the brewery they were starting in the Plant—it was going to be almost zero waste. Though the Green Exchange is, well, green—the LEED-certified building, rehabbed after the Frederick Cooper lamp company moved out in 2005, houses more than a dozen sustainable businesses—it can't offer an anaerobic digester that converts organic waste to biogas (as the Plant did). But Jesse says they have several options available for recycling the brewery's spent grains, yeasts, and water. They're also doing smaller things like making labels that peel off easily so that home brewers can reuse the bottles.

Samuel Evans (left) and Jesse Evans (right), with their first three beers
  • Julia Thiel
  • Samuel Evans (left) and Jesse Evans (right), with their first three beers
Those bottles won't be out until late spring, though. In the meantime, draft offerings are available at two dozen local bars—though demand is outpacing supply, and the brothers advise calling ahead to find the beer. Some bars have killed their kegs in less than two days, Samuel says. "The beer lands, and then it disappears." Jesse says that they're not in a huge rush to get the bottles out: "We're having such a good time killing it on draft right now. It's fun to be in bars, where people are interacting with beers."

Julia Thiel writes about booze every Wednesday.

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