Monday morning, the kettles were fired up and Pipeworks Brewing Co. moved from a four-year-long "pipe" dream to a reality as the seventh retail brewery in the city of Chicago. Owners Beejay Oslon and Gerrit Lewis posted to their Facebook page last Wednesday that they had been granted their license to brew by the state of Illinois, and today they brewed their first “official” batch, a smoked porter.
Pipeworks’ gestation was long, and carried many hallmarks of the modern age. Lewis and Oslon met while working at West Lakeview Liquors, a neighborhood shop with a reputation for its quality beer selection. They began drawing plans for their own craft brewery, and in 2009 they secured an apprenticeship with De Struise brewers of Belgium. The two blogged about their experiences in the brewer’s Buckets to Barrels blog, and returned home to further their plans.
The two raised their initial capital the new-fashioned way: as a project on Kickstarter.com. By the time the fundraiser ended January 1, 2011, their goal of $30,000 was met, and grew to a final of $40,075.
They secured a brewing space at 1675 N. Western Ave., formulated a business plan, and began installing equipment and filling out paperwork. Along the way, they introduced some collaboration brews with de Struise and Alvinne, and sampled some of their planned house beers at events around town. When licensing got bogged down in the usual bureaucracy, they again raised funds from online investors, this time including Paypal. All pledged were treated like public TV fund drives, netting the donors prizes ranging from stickers to discounts on purchases, brewery tours, and bottle reservations for new releases.
Pipeworks beers will generally be sold in bottles, with a bit of yeast left in for continued fermentation and maturing, Belgian style. Other beers planned for production are Abduction, a 13% above Imperial stout, previewed at Goose Island’s Stout Fest 2010, Glaucus Barley Wine, and an IPA brewed with Belgian yeast, coriander, citrus peel, and Szechuan peppercorns. Expect to see any number of special releases and one-off batches.
Pipeworks Brewing will be able to self-distribute at the brewery, and Louis Glunz may be distributing to retail accounts. A tap room with a barbecue smoker have also been planned.
FYI, the other brewers putting stuff into bottles and kegs are Metropolitan, Goose Island Fulton St., Half Acre, Argus, Finch’s, and Wild Blossom Meadery. Many more brewers are coming up this year and next.