Hi there! We are so thankful for the groundswell of support we’ve received in anticipation of our opening. We’ve been working hard to create a truly unique experience for those in the craft beer community, and we’re thrilled to be well on our way to realizing this dream we’ve had for so long.
Over the last three years of planning, we’ve had a lot of ups and downs, but finally found a great space, forged awesome relationships with our village, landlord, suppliers, contractors and fellow brewers, and now it’s almost time to share what we’ve been working on with all of you.
Along the way, we’ve had many people ask how they can help us get our doors open. It was with this in mind that we decided to launch our mug club, the Skullmuggery Society, early. Here are some answers to the questions we’ve received since announcing the presale:
- I like the mug club idea, but I don’t know if I’ll like your beer — where can I taste it before I commit?
Totally understand. Unfortunately, we can’t sell our beer until we are licensed, which is a process in and of itself. We know it takes a true leap of faith to plunk down your hard-earned cash on something you’re not sure will work out the way you want it to. It’s a gamble not everyone’s comfortable taking. And we understand, because that’s exactly the sort of risk we’ve taken in opening the brewery. But if you prefer to wait, we get it!
We’ve just had so many people asking how they can be a part of the process that we wanted to give them a way to contribute — with the bonus that they’d get something cool once we succeed.
And making awesome beer is just half of what we’ll be doing — we’ll also have a wide range of beer-focused classes, workshops and panels, so you can also think of your membership as supporting new educational opportunities. Or you can think of it as just supporting a local small business in its efforts to bring something new to the community. Or, again, you can wait and see 🙂 Either way, I promise it’ll be awesome.
- How long until you open?
Well, this goes back to the licensing thing — We just received our Federal Brewer’s Notice at the beginning of June and filed for our state liquor license the very next day. We helped draft Woodridge’s local liquor license and have already been approved, pending completion of our build-out, so at least we’ve got that covered. Construction is almost complete, but we can’t legally brew beer for sale until we are fully licensed. Our hope is to be open by mid- to late-July, but no promises.
- What types of beer will you be making?
We’ve got a solid starting lineup and are tweaking additional recipes for seasonal releases as well. And, of course, there’s the mug club-only tap, where we’ll have experimental beers on offer to Society members only.
A taste of what might be on the regular taps: twin IPAs identical except for their hops, a sage-chrysanthemum Belgian wit (on cherries, seasonally), a smoky vanilla porter, a hoppy saison, a sessionable scotch, an easy-drinking red…
And on the experimental tap, you might find stuff like: a golden stout with coconut, a cream ale with chilis, sour patch kids-infused IPA, a mushroom stout, a barrel-aged oud bruin, a butter-scotch ale, a chocolate hefe, a homegrown-hop kolsch, a lavender wheat, a toasted sesame pils…this list could literally go on forever.
- How many beers will you have on tap?
We expect to have 4-6 beers available at our grand opening, but quickly (as in, as fast as we can brew) that’ll grow to 8 regular taps plus the Society-only tap.
- Where is the brewery/taproom located?
We are in the wonderful village of Woodridge, on Lemont Rd. between 75th street and 83rd. Some folks assume that area is Darien or Downers Grove, but it’s actually a little slice of Woodridge wedged right between the two. For those coming out from the city, it’s almost a straight shot down I-55. For those coming down from up north, it’s almost a straight shot down I-355.
- Will you be serving food?
Newp. We will have some packaged snacks and occasional free treats on hand in case you get munchie, but we’re also delivery-distance from a number of great food joints, and we’ll have menus available if you want to order in. And, of course, there will be food trucks planted out front on various evenings; we’ll be sure to give you plenty of advance notice on Facebook.
- How long until you open?
Right there with ya, bud. We ask this question again and again too. Trust us, you’ll be the first to know.
- Can I join you for a brew day?
Kinda. There are a lot of dangers involved in brewing, and we want to keep you safe. Those who purchase a Founders membership will coordinate with the head brewer to determine the capacity in which they are comfortable helping with a brew day. This will involve waivers and stuff, too; because lawsuits.
However, we will also have occasional opportunities for Supporter and Member-level folks to hang out in the taproom and witness a brew day in action. One of our assistant brewers will demonstrate the process using our pilot system so you can get a close-up view of what’s going on, while in the background our head brewer will be doing the same sort of thing, just bigger.
- What size system are you brewing on?
We will be brewing on a 15-barrel system, which means that each batch equates to 30 kegs of beer. We have both 15- and 30-barrel fermenters. Our system was built in the U.S., just two hours away in the quad cities. We actually met the dudes who worked on it and got to shake their hands, which was pretty cool.
- What sort of classes will you be hosting?
You can check out what we’ve got in store for our classroom right here. Some classes will be hands-on workshops, others will be demonstrations, seminars by industry pros, and panels of beer experts. We plan to have a good mix of formats.
- What will your hours be?
This is what we anticipate, though it might change slightly and seasonally:
Monday: closed, except for occasional evening classes and special events
Tuesday: closed, except for occasional evening classes and special events
Thursday: 4pm – 10pm
- How big is the taproom / how many people can be there at one time?
We have seating for 50 in our event/classroom space up front and room for 50 more in our taproom.
- What qualifies you to open a brewery and taproom?
Sweat. Passion. 20 combined years of homebrewing experience. Siebel Institute certificates and supplementary coursework. Co-internships at Echo Brewing in Colorado. A willingness to take on an extraordinary amount of debt and put our houses on the line. Possible insanity. 15 years of hospitality/bar management experience. An undying love of craft beer. Cicerone certification. 14 years of working with finance and the agricultural sector. North Dakota State University’s amazing Barley Field School. More beer classes, seminars and events than we could count. Determination. Perfectionism. 12 years in creative marketing. Beer program development at one of the city’s busiest gastropubs. A obsessive dedication to cleanliness. Imagination. Enthusiasm for collaboration. Comfort with chaos. Curiosity.
- Will you be bottling/canning your beer?
Not at first. Our distribution will be limited to kegs, which we will self-distribute to local and regional bars and restaurants. You will, however, be able to take home 64 oz. growlers.
- Who are you?
We are a brother, sister and husband team from the Chicago western suburb of Lombard. We have homebrewed together for years and wanted to open a brewery where we could use our professional skills (hospitality manager/graphic artist, marketing creative/copywriter, finance/agricultural portfolio manager) to support our efforts in taking the leap to microbrewery-scale commercial beer production. As you can see on our Facebook page, we ‘re all devastatingly good looking and way humble.
- What’s with the incubator program?
The incubator program will be a 12-week apprentice program wherein we will help a talented, passionate homebrewer avoid the spendy pitfalls we encountered in opening a commercial brewery. This includes everything from recipe scaling, formulation and production to branding, licensing, business plan development, financing and scouting locations.
It will be a one-on-one program, at the end of which the apprentice will have the opportunity to gain an early foothold in the market by producing their flagship beer on our system and selling it to retail shops under the banner of our apprentice series. The beer name will be whatever they choose and they’ll take both the recipe and the name with them once they’ve finished the program. We simply want to be the springboard for future brewers’ success; we’re not interested in poaching recipes. Once they’ve secured licensing, we can continue to contract brew their beer so they can package it under their own label and grow their brand equity further while building out their facility.
If you’re interested in the incubator program, we encourage you to let us know here. The selection process will heavily favor experienced homebrewers looking to go pro and those who have already done some homework regarding what that would entail. If you’re new to brewing, we recommend taking a few of our classes and then checking out more formal programs such as those offered by the College of DuPage or the Siebel Institute. Our program is more about experiencing and being a part of the day-to-day operations of a brewery.
We are still tweaking the specific selection process, but you can expect it to have a homebrew contest / beer judging element, a market testing / crowdsourced support element, and an interview.