Malt liquor with Frosted Flakes and other crazy things brewing in the Southland
By Mike Nolan email@example.com May 13, 2014 7:42PM
Brandon Banbury is a brewmaster at HailStorm Brewing, a microbrewery that opened last month in Tinley Park. | Mike Nolan~Sun-Times Media
Updated: June 15, 2014 6:02AM
When he was a kid, Brandon Banbury’s grandfather made his own wine, while his dad brewed beer at home.
Brandon later took up homebrewing himself, and now, in an industrial park in Tinley Park, he and a partner are brewing beers on a much larger scale.
Their Hailstorm Brewing is the most recent addition to the burgeoning microbrewery landscape in the Southland, which has seen the addition of brewhouses in recent years in Lansing and Chicago’s Beverly neighborhood.
Another brewery, 350 Brewing, expects to open this spring in Tinley Park, with a late July opening planned for Pollyanna Brewing in Lemont. Plans are also in the works for a microbrewery in Blue Island.
“Craft beer is just booming right now,” Todd Randall said. He and partner Erik Pizer will open 350 Brewing — the name comes from the address of the home they lived in while students at Northern Illinois University — at 7144 W. 183rd St., near Egg & I and Al’s Beef.
Until they’re operating, the partners — friends since Shepard High School — have contracted with other local breweries, including Hailstorm and One Trick Pony in Lansing. 350 Brewing’s beers were voted as the winners of last month’s Brew and Vine Festival in Tinley Park.
“We were blown away” by that, Randall said. “To have people in our own backyard appreciate your work is great.”
A desire to drink something a little different, especially when it’s produced locally, is helping drive demand for craft beer.
“People are opening up to more different tastes, different flavors,” Dave Brown, an owner of Rock Island Public House in Blue Island, said.
The bar, which opened in January 2013, offers an ever-changing selection of 16 craft beers on tap. It’s one of the outlets carrying a new ale from 350 called Ruckus that’s also on sale at area liquor stores.
It’s also available at Blarney Stone Pub in Oak Forest, which carried 350’s Crook County India pale ale and has 40 craft beers on tap and more than 80 in bottles.
The bar is one of the more than 300 venues that will take place in Chicago Craft Beer week, which starts Thursday. Information about the fifth annual event, which runs through May 25, is at chibeerweek.com.
Blarney Stone began expanding its craft beer offerings in 2008, manager Tom Spellman said.
“The demand’s there,” he said. “I see the demand grow every day.”
Chain supermarkets such as Jewel and convenience store chains such as 7-Eleven are devoting more space to the sale of craft beers, Spellman said. He said customers coming to Blarney Stone include beer drinkers who are novices when it comes to craft brews.
“You’re used to something, but once they try it they end up liking it,” he said.
Randall said there is a lot of experimentation involved in craft beers, with few rules when it comes to ingredients.
He said he tinkers with ingredients as diverse as coconut and chili peppers, and Brown said his bar is currently serving up a malt liquor made with Frosted Flakes.
“It’s all about having fun, being creative and getting kind of funky with it,” Randall said.
More breweries on tap
Banbury said that he and his partner, Orland Park resident Chris Schiller, started formulating their plan for Hailstorm a year ago. He said the south and southwest suburbs have been “kind of an island” for breweries, with limited choices until recently.
“That’s part of the reason we chose this location,” Banbury said.
With Flossmoor Station Brewing Co. being about the only game in town for many years, that has changed with the recent additions of brewpubs Horse Thief Hollow in Beverly and One Trick Pony in Lansing.
“It was more a city game, where they (microbreweries) were popping up there,” Randall said. “It was just a matter of time for it to happen out here.”
Nationally, 304 microbreweries opened around the country in 2013, and small brewers last year sold 2.4 million more barrels of their product than they did in 2012, according to the Brewers Association.
Hailstorm has been open about a month. In January, Banbury, a Frankfort resident, quit his job as a mechanical engineer to devote all his time to the brewery.
Their 10,000-square-foot space at 8060 W. 186th St. is set up to produce hundreds of barrels annually — Banbury expects to brew 300 barrels in the first year — and has begun distribution to local liquor stores. Along with the tasting room, Hailstorm’s beers are available at Ariel’s Bar & Restaurant in Tinley Park, Creative Cakes’ new cafe adjacent to its Tinley Park bakery and Mama Maria’s Taco and Tequila Bar in Orland Park.
Randall said he and Pizer will have a small menu and seating for 60 in their brewery’s tasting room, with plans to be up and running before the official start of summer. Along with catering to local residents, the pair expect 350 could also draw customers from the nearby convention center and hotels. Randall said 350 also plans to give back to the community, with $3.50 from every barrel sold going to a charitable organization, such as Tinley Wish.
In Lemont, Brian Pawola and his four partners plan to open Pollyanna Brewing in late July at 431 Talcott Ave. in Lemont.
The Woodridge resident said he bought his first home brewing kit the day he turned 21, and four years ago decided to make the jump into a full-scale brewery. He enrolled in the Siebel Institute of Technology’s master brewer program, which involved studying in Munich under the guidance of master German brewers.
Pollyanna will feature a taproom on the brewery’s mezzanine level that will overlook the actual brewing operation, Pawola said.
“Things are moving along really quickly,” he said. “There is plenty of excitement around us.”