This Saturday, Spikeball founder and great friend to AGC, Chris Ruder, led a bike tour of Chicago Breweries. Three years ago, Ruder combined three great passions: bike trips, craft beer and innovative education to create the Tour de Brew. Participants in the third annual Tour de Brew biked over 20 miles to learn about the unique histories of 6 brewing companies.
10:00 am -10 riders meet at the Goose Island Barrel House in Humboldt park, an awe-inspiring 100,000+ square foot warehouse. We got a tour of the beautiful facility from Goose’s Ryan Tucker, who taught us all about the barrel-aging process, which imparts unique flavors from wine and whiskey barrels to beers such as Bourbon County Stout, Sophie, Juliet, Lolita, Madame Rose, Gillian and Halia. We were fascinated by the journey of the barrels, which are recycled from vineyards and distilleries around the world, and will often be shipped to another vineyard or distillery after the aging process.
10:30 – Our first leg is a doozy – 7 miles in 45 minutes. We soak in the sun and fall colors as we cruise through Humboldt Park and all the way up to Belmont and Broadway.
11:15 – We arrive to Dry Hop just in time for a small taste and a history of the brew pup. Dry Hop’s young founder, originally a home-brewer, studied in Chicago and Munich and travels extensively to gather knowledge of brewing traditions and trends. As a small brew pub, Dry Hop does not distribute, but sells growlers and 32oz cans, filled to order.
12:00 pm – Our riders have earned a break and some pizza at Revolution Brewery’s Kedzie location. Revolution began as a popular Logan Square Brew Pup and expanded rapidly, by popular demand, starting in 2012. Since moving into their massive brewery space in 2012, Revolution has become one of the largest producers of craft beer in Chicago. We learned that they are not done growing, and, as we speak, are busy knocking down walls to expand into the space next door. To keep up with demand for their canned brews, Revolution brews 24 hours a day, 5 days a week!
12:45 pm – After the last two legs of our journey, the 4 mile, 15 minute ride to Half Acre is a breeze.
1:00 pm – Half Acre brewing welcomes us with open arms, tastes aplenty and a fantastic introduction to their history. Half Acre was named after a tiny town which was incorporated by an would-be bar owner who was unable to acquire a liquor license from nearby townships due to his arrest history. The town earned the nickname “Devil’s Half Acre.” Half Acre launched their first few brews out of a contracted brewery in Wisconsin and began brewing their own beer only after growing their brand– a smart approach to scale!
1:50 pm – Our next stop, Begyle Brewing, is a blessed 4 minute ride away.
2:00 pm – Begyle’s approach to building their business was the most unique we’d seen yet. The co-founders, Paul and Kevin — who is a self-described “ex-accountant” — went to their local bars and said “we’re thinking of brewing beer, would you buy our beer?” Begyle’s local focus remains evident in their business practices today. Although Begyle has a dream contract with Mariano’s and Whole Foods, they still proudly refer to themselves as a “Community Supported Brewing Company,” and offer subscriptions to a “CSB,” inspired by the concept of Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) produce shares.
2:30 pm – Our group thins significantly for the final leg of the journey – only 7 riders remain for the trip to Rock Bottom Restaurant and Brewery, a 6 mile, 40 minute bike ride through busy Wrigleyville and into downtown traffic.
3:00 pm – After a beautiful day of long rides and short tours, we enjoy a seat on Rock Bottom’s rooftop. There, we recap the experiences of the day, discuss barriers to access to quality education, and plot our next craft brew centered activity.
We want to extend a huge Orca cheer to Chris for organizing this tour, all our guests for joining us, and our brewery partners for hosting us.