Just hearing that makes a craft beer nerd drool like a dog at a pig ear factory.
Of course, back in the 19th and early 20th century, those two words likely involved a large brewery running the little brewer out of town. But, in the craft-brew world, the term, “tap takeover” is a consensual exercise in community and collaboration. Or, it’s just a good way to throw a party. Either way…
During a sultry summer evening on July 28th, I partook in such an experience at Oak Park’s Beer Shop. Oak Park’s downtown is inviting, to say the least. The charming shops, fountains, restaurant patios, wine and cheese shops, brick roads, and a manicured urban façade that accompanies the tracks of the El are part of an concerted effort by DTOP (Downtown Oak Park) to “promote business development and expansion of Oak Park’s central business district.” Despite the work that goes into making the downtown region so pleasant, I parked in a parking lot that only cost me a single dollar. How is that possible?
I would tell you more about the downtown area, but I came for the beer.
Both a bottle shop and tap room, Beer Shop offers an array of craft beers, predominantly from Chicago. You can bring in food, drink beer, and watch sports on top-notch TVs — all while listening to tunes played on a record player. Cool, huh?
The place masterfully intertwines the feel of a classy old-time bar with slick modern touches. The large front window adorned with a Beer Shop logo reminds one of an old Main Street storefront and effectively provides ample lighting to the bar. Meanwhile, the wooden bar and tables, as well as decorative ceiling tiles help provide old-school ambiance. However, with the aforementioned TVs, a bevvy of craft beer, and the Digital Pour screen – a high-definition television displaying the tap menu, as well as a scrolling menu of tweets and untapped mentions –it is obvious this is twenty-first-century beer consumption at its finest.
On this particular night, half the menu had been “taken over” by Penrose Brewing from Geneva – another city with an amazing downtown area, by the way. If you like traditional Belgians, oak barreled aging, and exquisite simplicity, this is the beer for you. Quite often, innovation gets in the way of quality, but not with Penrose. Sometimes it behooves one to refrain from reinventing the wheel. I mean we have all had pizza, but most of us will be happy to describe who we think has the best pizza. Penrose brews familiar beers, but they do it with tremendous skill. And, they employ a few unique twists that make it original and….well, damn tasty.
It would take too long to review each beer in full, but I’ll give you a quick rundown:
Deminimus – A Dry-Hopped Sour beer: I often don’t like sour beers, and I tend to enjoy wet hops more, but this was really good. It has a dry finish and mild sour taste without ever being overpowering. Very well done: 3.75/5
Wild IPA – Belgian Abbey Ale with Amarillo Hops. Consistent bitterness balances the combination of sweetness, “breadiness,” and tartness that reminds one of a Belgian witbiers. The hops provide enough punch make one take notice without deterring from the Abbey Ale taste. Incredibly refreshing. 4/5
Fractal – Belgian IPA (with a mix of hops): Strong bitterness hits the tongue immediately, but it never overwhelms because of the balance created by Belgian yeast, grapefruit or orange, caramel, and a little earthy tone – grassy and pine. The balance is impeccable. I want to drink this with a steak and baked potato. 4.75/5
Devoir – Saison – Hops. My least favorite of the night, but it is not bad. I enjoyed the bitter hops and gentle sour notes, but the sweetness lacked in this Saison. All in all, it tasted a bit bland to me. In full disclosure, though, the one person to my left and another person to my right loved it. My rating is a 3.25/5, but you should try it yourself.
Desirous – White IPA. I often dislike White IPAs, but Penrose rocked the “Haus” with this brew. Citrus, coriander, hoppy bitterness, oh my! Great punch to this – you will taste the hops in this, for sure. Despite the beer’s myriad of flavors, the ingredients work together like the Blue Angles at an air show – superb beer. 5/5
P-2 — Belgian Pale Ale. To me, this beer exudes Belgian Ale. In fact, outside of having a waffle or watching Germany and France duke it out, I might have thought I was in Belgium. Altough, the aggressive hops are probably non-traditional, but I’m a hop head so, I’m cool with it. Alongside the hops are clove, malt and what felt like, to me, herbaceous undertones. It finishes dry, which is nice because it inspires you to have another sip. Ok, I think I will, then. 4.25/5
With Downtown Oak Park as a backdrop, the multi-faceted tap takeover experience did not disappoint. Beer Shop is a fun establishment that has embraced the craft beer culture, as well as promoting Chicago’s great beers. In addition, Penrose’s Belgian inspired brews are both comforting to a craft-brew geek, as well as impressive.
Oh, and kudos to Penrose’s co-owner Eric Hobbs for taking the time to not only shake hands with people, but generally engage with patrons and basically, “hang out and have a few beers.” Good guy, to say the least.
If you are in Oak Park, head to the Beer Shop. If you are in Geneva, head to Penrose. (If you are in Belgium, you went too far.). You won’t be disappointed.
(I have been very lucky lately, haven’t I?)
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