Craft Beer Means Local Beer, Part II: Arcade Brewery

Craft Beer Means Local Beer, Part II: Arcade Brewery
Arcade tasting at Prestige Wine and Spirits, Westmont, September 26th 2015.

On September 26th, Prestige Liquor in Westmont, IL held a tasting event in which three breweries - Pipeworks Brewing (Chicago), Arcade Brewery (Chicago), and Urban Legend Brewing (Westmont) -- and bacon sausage makers, Big Fork (Chicago), attended. This mini-series of blog posts will detail those breweries, the sausage, Prestige Liquor, and the connection between local beer (local craft breweries) and the family owned, neighborhood liquor store.

Part I; Pipeworks Brewing  | Part II:Arcade Brewing

Part III: Urban Legend Brewing | Part IV: Prestige Liquors

Part II: Arcade Brewery

Artisans supporting their local community. That is how it worked prior to the Industrial Revolution, and that is how most of the craft community works. Very few put the “art” into artisan the way Arcade Brewing does. With public brew offerings (an idea of “communal brewing”) held throughout the year, artists from around the world submit their work to Arcade to be used for labels, which provides for some unique, eye-catching labels. The artist retains the rights to the artwork, Arcade retains the right to sell beer using that label. If you’ve read my writing before, you know what I’m going to say next — that’s community, that’s craft.

They even have contests for naming the beers —no easy trick in today’s flooded market of craft brews. Most recently, they have produced a collaborative winter warmer beer with Flesk Brewing in Chicago, and asked their fans to name the beer.

Yours truly submitted three names. I did not win. Apparently, there are more creative people than me. Is that possible? Who knew?

No, just kidding. The winter warmer name turns out to be Chiberian Warmer -- a cool name, indeed. They are currently looking for artist submissions for the label. I imagine the beer and the label will be equally as good as the name.

Flesk has also teamed up with Chicago Brew Werks (Werk Force Brewing) who once teamed up with Pollyanna Brewing Company, who also...well, I could go on. Can you imagine Pepsi and Coke, Burger King and McDonalds, or Budweiser and Miller collaborating? I can’t either. But, in the craft brew world, this is commonplace.

In fact, Arcade Brewery shares a space with Ale Syndicate; they use Ale Syndicate's equipment to brew their beer. To better understand how this relationship works, and what makes craft beer stand out as a bastion for good beer and good neighbors, here is what Ale Syndicate said about Arcade on their website in late 2011:

There [h]as been some exciting buzz recently about our partnership with Arcade Brewery. Arcade is a neat start-up brewery centered on crowd-sourcing every aspect of the beer-making process; from package design to what goes into the bottle. They’re calling it communal brewing, from conception to consumption. And Ale Syndicate is proud to partner with them to provide Arcade with access to brewing facilities.

With this partnership, Arcade will be on premises using our equipment and brewing themselves when Ale Syndicate beer isn’t on the lines. Arcade will be able to scale up their production without the burden of finding and opening their own brewery first. We are dedicated to fostering the craft beer scene in the city and this is just the first of many partnerships with local craft brewers and home-brewers to help get more awesome locally brewed beer on the streets of Chicago.

Like Pipeworks Brewing Co., Arcade must rely on good beer, and good “buzz” (pun intended) in order to sell their beer.

They not only rely on Ale Syndicate to provide space to brew their beer, they need stores like Prestige Wine and Spirits and others to host tasting events as they did on September 26th. Local stores like Prestige sell their beer and even help promote it in order to thrive. Arcade, and other crafts, need smart people at local stores that care enough about the product to make sure the right beers are being stocked and sold and that nothing makes it past its expiration date if, by some sad chance, it fails to sell. Local liquor stores, and craft-brew centric establishments of all kinds, need knowledgeable workers to inform both novice beer drinkers and craft-brew geeks alike. The net result is that local stores help Arcade sell, which is good for both the establishment selling Arcade as well as Arcade.

The winners? Arcade. Prestige. Bars. Local economy. The Consumer. Everyone wins when good beer arrives at a local store...and then to your pallet.

Of course, none of that matters, of course, unless Arcade's beer is worth drinking.

It is.

Concentrating on ales, Arcade has single-hopped brews, brews that incorporate New Zealand and Aussie hops, Saisons, and more. All of them are innovative and complex, but easy to drink. Arcade’s style is unique in that no matter the ingredients, it feels like every beer is a session beer and can be consumed by the dozen (don’t do that).

A few of my favorites include the BattlePug : It’s a rich brown ale that produces a great hops taste, but doesn’t overwhelm you. There’s a little tropical citrus and spicy bite that enhances every taste.  The artwork is awesome, too.  From the Arcade Website, the notes on the artwork:

Mike Norton is an American comic book artist and writer, known for his work on Runaways and Gravity. In mid-2012, Mike Norton won the Best Digital Comic Eisner award for Battlepug (created before this beer).  Mike is also the Co-Founder of Four Star Studios (Chicago) with fellow comics creator Tim Seely (http://www.ihatemike.com/)

SwankyMonkey

While at the 9/26 Prestige tasting event, I tried the Swanky Ape Belgian Style Saison and couldn’t purchase a bottle quickly enough. Swanky Ape is no ordinary Saison. A bevy of flavors exist in Swanky Ape. I will try to list what I think is in them, but don’t quote me on this: black cherry, banana, and an array of spices and hops. I enjoyed it in a glass usually used for enjoying a belgian ale, which allowed the aroma to please me with every sip. In fact, the aroma is enticing! They should sell air fresheners with this aroma - I’m not kidding. More importantly, it tastes great. No one flavor overwhelms, yet the subtle, but noticeable hoppy bitterness and spices hangs on from start to finish and, I think, really helps put this Saison on another level. It’s sweet, but nothing that would confuse you into thinking this is a dessert beer, either, notably because the hoppy bitterness cut through it so well. The balance is absolutely terrific in this beer. Lastly, it is robust enough to differentiate itself from a typical summer ale, yet it goes down as easy as a one. I can see drinking this in the midst of a heatwave or a blizzard and being satisfied.

For the artwork on this beer, and all that Arcade offers, I encourage you to head to their website because the stories of the artists attached to each beer is truly great reading.

Drink local. Drink Arcade — enjoy the artwork and savor the craft-beer artisanship.

Cheers!

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    Mathew Powers

    Beer and spirits writer for Chilled Magazine, PorchDrinking.com, Thrillist-Chicago, and Sommbeer.com. I love great beer, great stories, and community. In addition to drinking beer, I have a background that involves weather, the environment, history, and of course writing. I love cars, rock music, comedy, traveling, camping, and all things Simpsons.

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