Evanston—former home to the Temperance movement—will soon be home to a full-scale production brewery called Temperance Beer.
The name is meant to jolt people with its unexpected combination of elements, explains founder Josh Gilbert—much like the blonde ale aged on pineapple, among other unusual varieties, that he plans to brew in a warehouse space at 2000 Dempster St.
“As a new brewery, you’ve got to have something new,” says Gilbert, who grew up in Evanston and attended Evanston Township High School.
Gilbert is actually an architect by training, and spent the last ten years designing homes and commercial spaces in Evanston and Chicago, including The Whistler, a tavern and performance space in Logan Square. He started home-brewing in his basement a few years ago, and worked as a brewer at Hamburger Mary’s in Andersonville over the summer.
“Architecture, brewing—I think the common thing is trying to give people happiness, provide these perfect moments,” Gilbert says. “I felt that beer was one thing where you could get really creative and give people more perfect moments.”
Gilbert signed a lease last week on a 14,000-square-foot warehouse space at 2000 Dempster St. that formerly housed a pet supply company. As an architect, he fell in love with the space’s clerestory windows, which line the high ceilings just beneath the roof and let in light from above. The large space also includes an office, which he eventually plans to turn into a taproom where people can taste the beers.
“It’s my last major architectural project,” says Gilbert.
He’ll keep the raw, industrial look of the warehouse, with its exposed brick walls and beams supporting the ceiling, and fill it with boiling kettles, fermenting tanks and other equipment set to arrive in May. The taproom, which will also have exposed brick walls plus a reclaimed wood bar and industrial lighting, will hopefully open next fall, Gilbert says.
Gilbert hopes to brew 31,000 gallons during his first 12 months in business, beginning this June, and increase production from there. Varieties will include a rye pale ale and a blonde ale aged on pineapple as a summer special.
His operation actually required the city of Evanston to create a special liquor license, which aldermen approved last year. In contrast to the Smylie Bros. Brewpub, which is opening in downtown Evanston with a full menu and small scale brewing operation, Temperance Beer will sell its beer on a larger scale to local restaurants and liquor stores, with the taproom for tasting and some retail sale.
Gilbert says he already has some interest from Prairie Moon, Found and Vinic in Evanston, as well as Hopleaf in Chicago and the Bottle Shop in Wilmette.
The emergence of Temperance Beer and Smylie Bros.—along with the World of Beer bar in downtown Evanston, which has more than 50 varieties of beer on tap—reflects the growing popularity of craft beer nationwide. The industry grew 30 percent by dollars from 2009 to 2011, and the total craft brewery count hit a 125-year high in 2012, according to the Brewers Association, a trade group. Several new craft breweries have opened within the last few years in Chicago and the suburbs, including Revolution Brewing, Half Acre, Argus and Haymarket.
“I think it’s one of the few bright spots in the economy and especially the manufacturing base,” says Gilbert. “Where else can you point to startups actually adding to a local economy’s manufacturing base?”
Asked why he believes craft beer is so popular right now, Gilbert says it dovetails with an increased interest in local food and knowing where ingredients come from.
“You can get the beer fresh if it's local, which is a huge difference from getting things on the shelf that have been there for months and months,” he says. “You can personally get to know the person who’s making it.”
Eventually, Gilbert hopes to bring people from around the area to Evanston for brewery tours, tastings in the taproom and perhaps even outdoor festivals.
“There’s a huge private parking lot which will be great for beer festivals,” he says. “Who doesn’t get excited about beer?”