Microbrews get big exposure at Tribes Alehouse in Tinley Park
By Mike Nolan email@example.com November 26, 2012 6:56PM
Niall Freyne, owner of Tribes Alehouse, talks about the opening of his second location at 9501 W. 171st St. in Tinley Park, IL, on Thursday, November 8, 2012. | Matt Marton~Sun-Times Media
Updated: December 28, 2012 6:03AM
It’s late on a weekday afternoon at Tribes Alehouse in Tinley Park, and there’s a pretty good crowd occupying the seats around the bar.
Behind the bar are long rows of beer tappers, ready to dispense odd-sounding brews such as Arrogant Bastard Ale, Firestone Walker Union Jack IPA and Smuttynose Old Brown Dog.
If those aren’t to your liking, there’s a good chance Niall Freyne has something on hand to cater to the most discerning beer connoisseur’s palette.
Freyne opened his first Tribes Alehouse in Mokena in November 2009, and the Tinley location debuted in early October. The pubs have a selection of beers you’d find in any neighborhood tavern, but for those looking for something a little different, there’s a big emphasis on microbrews.
Fifty craft beers are offered at the Tinley location, but the beer menu changes frequently, so what’s offered one day might not be on tap the next.
Part of it is a conscious effort to maintain an ever-changing variety of brews, but it’s also a matter of availability, Freyne said. Because they are craft brews, the beers are not made in huge batches, so some bars are limited as far as how much of a particular type of beer they can get.
Tapper handles that are temporarily “retired” hang on a wall above the bar until they’re called back into service.
Tribes Alehouse’s beer menu runs the gamut, and includes products from regional microbreweries such as Chicago’s Revolution Brewing, Three Floyds in Munster, Ind., and Founders Brewing in Grand Rapids, Mich.
While overall beer consumption has been down in recent years, craft brewers are finding a growing demand for their products. Microbreweries and brewpubs have seen double-digit growth in both volume and sales, according to the Beer Institute, although craft brews in 2011 accounted for less than 10 percent of the total dollar value of beer sales.
“People are drinking less, but they are drinking better,” Freyne said. “Flavor is what people are looking for.”
As with the ever-increasing popularity of bolder and more exotic flavors in foods, beer drinkers are getting tired of the same old same old, he said.
“They’re challenging their palettes, and I think it’s the same with beer,” Freyne said.
Room for seconds
Freyne said the Mokena Tribes, 11220 W. Lincoln Highway, was seeing annual sales growth rates in excess of 20 percent — both locations also sell food — but he was unable to physically expand that bar and restaurant. A search for a building to open a second location took him as far north as Elmhurst, but it finally boiled down to a choice between two sites in Tinley Park, both just a few miles north of the Mokena Tribes.
The Tinley Park Tribes, 9501 W. 171st St., is, at 6,500 square feet, more than twice the size of Mokena, Freyne said. The Tinley Park bar is in the former Charley Horse in Towne Centre Plaza.
Now living in Mokena, Freyne was born in County Galway in Ireland and worked in the hospitality industry for 20 years before opening Galway Tribes Irish Pub & Restaurant in Frankfort in December 2005. With an eye toward replicating the welcoming atmosphere and feel-good vibe — what the Irish broadly describe as “craic” — of an authentic pub found in the country of his birth, Freyne hired a firm from Dublin to design Galway Tribes and paid close attention to details.
Local residents working in the building trades were regulars at Galway Tribes, but when the economy went into a tailspin and home construction all but ground to a halt, business at the bar slowed and it closed in the spring of 2009.
The “Tribes” in both Galway and Alehouse refers to the 14 families that were influential in the politics and commerce of County Galway starting in the late 12th century, according to Freyne.