Extreme cold has little effect on Chicago's beer drinkers and brewers

January 7, 2014

(WBEZ/Logan Jaffe)
Goose Island Clybourn brewmaster Nick Barron talks with WBEZ's Andrew Gill.

It was business as usual at two Chicago brewpubs Monday as bitter cold temperatures couldn't keep away patrons or brewers.

In Lincoln Park the Goose Island Clybourn Brewpub opened at 11 a.m. and had a steady trickle of diners. One of those patrons was Cedric Hatchett, who was grabbing lunch while out shopping with a friend. He'd been up since 4 a.m. when he had to report for an early shift at his job in a gym.

"Coming out of the garage and the alley the side streets weren't plowed, so I kinda slid around those corners, but I drove to work listening to a hot mix of Michael Jackson," Hatchett said. "He warmed it up for me."

Goose Island Clybourn brewmaster Nick Barron wasn't required to be at work Monday. But he came in to make sure his equipment survived the weather.

"We're pretty well set with beer right now, but I needed to come in to make sure our glycol wasn't frozen," Barron said.

Glycol is used to keep fermenting beer cool in warm weather.

"We aren't calling for a lot of chilling needs down here in the brewery right now, so the first thing I did when I got here this morning was send the glycol through a few empty tanks," explained Barron.

Another reason Barron chose not to brew a new batch of beer on Monday: Unloading the spent grain requires opening the brew house doors to the elements. And the brew house has no heater.

In Logan Square at Revolution Brewpub, brewmaster Wil Turner worked on a new batch of beer on Monday and ran into some trouble when hauling the spent grain outside.

"We grain out into a bin then forklift them outside. During that 10-15 minute period when we had the back door open one of our hoses froze. When we got the forklift back in I went to spray down the floors and nothing came out. We had to warm up the hose with some hot liquor," said Turner.

The California native didn't seem too bothered by it. After all, he started his day on chilly public transit.

"I take the 381 bus to the 95th Red Line station and change to Blue downtown," Turner said.

Jessica Dabski was working as host at Revolution. She said it was an average Monday, just a few less business meetings happening.

"Today everyone seems to be ditching work and coming here," Dabski said. "I've noticed a lot of people are stepping aside to take some phone calls. I definitely expected it to be slower than it is."

Turner assumes people braved the weather because, "a miserable day like today is better with beer."