Welcome to the Revolution! Chicago’s Revolution Brewing

Posted by | Posted in Beer | Posted on 06-27-2012

While this is normally a wine blog, it’s impossible to ignore the momentum of America’s craft beer movement.

Here in Chicago, we’ve seen a major boom, with new producers and brewpubs opening regularly. One of our brewpubs — Revolution Brewing in Logan Square — recently became a full-fledged commercial producer.

Revolution opened in February of 2010 and I’ve been visiting frequently ever since. Late last month, the company opened a full production facility complete with a tap room, where the owners hope to always serve 12 of their own brews on tap. The facility is massive, clocking in at around 35,000 square feet.

Major brewpubs aren’t new, of course.

Chicago’s “Original Brewpub” is Goose Island’s Clybourn Brewery, which traces its roots to 1988. Piece Brewery and Pizzeria on North Avenue and Haymarket Pub in the West Loop community are two other popular destinations.

While Piece and Goose Island make great beer, neither are completely focused the brewpub experience. Goose Island is often crammed, as it fills up fast. Piece is mainly focused on providing tasty beer to accompany its New Haven-style pizza. Haymarket is closest to Revolution, but it doesn’t give the feel that I want from a brewpub, although I do enjoy going there. While Haymarket gives off more of a sports bar vibe, Revolution wants its customers to focus on the beer. Revolution has TVs, but the sound is usually turned off.

Put simply, Revolution is very much about the beer. The food, while delicious, is secondary. In just two years, Revolution has arguably become Chicago’s top beer destination. It’s one of those places that you need to visit if you fashion yourself a craft beer fan.

This isn’t to say that all the beers are amazing — but almost everything is consistently very good. Indeed, Revolution recently won two gold medals at the 2012 World Beer Cup. The Cross of Gold won gold in the English-Style Summer Ale category, and Rise Up Stout  won the American-Style Stout category.

Revolution has a solid stable of 5 beers available all year, another 3 or 4 seasonal brews at any given time, and many short run brews. The brewery doesn’t focus on one specific style — its offerings regularly include German, Belgian, English, and American style beers. Revolution’s “Barrel Aged” program is the highlight of its portfolio. For the most part, these are one-offs — and its been fascinating to see how wine, bourbon, and whiskey barrels influence a beer. While most of the barrel-aged beers have been stouts, Revolution has included Scotch AlesBarleywines, and Rye beers in the program. All told, Revolution releases about 35 beers annually.

Recently, I had the good fortune of attending the opening party of Revolution’s Brewery. It is an impressive facility — and will surely have a bright future. Below the fold, please find my tasting notes on Revolution’s main stable of beers along with two of its seasonal brews.

Review: Revolution Anti-Hero IPA
Weighted Score: 3.95/5
Serving type: on-tap
– Pours a nice light, golden color with a small and foamy head.
– A fresh and aromatic nose with various citrus tones, papaya, hops, and fresh picked oranges.
– Medium/full-bodied, with a good amount of hop tones — but they aren’t overbearing at all.
– A real quality IPA. This isn’t an IPA that runs away with the hops and instead is nice and fresh while being slighter bigger.
Look: 4/5 Smell: 4/5 Taste: 4/5 Feel: 3.5/5 Overall: 4/5

Review: Cross of Gold Blonde Ale
Weighted Score: 3.48/5
Serving type: on-tap
– Poured into a pint glass with a clear gold color and a nice foamy head.
– Balanced, but kind of muted aromas of citrus, grains, and a touch of hops.
– Medium bodied with a very good feel. The flavors of citrus and grains do lack a bit of depth.
– A very drinkable beer. It’s good and works as a more session type beer. It is what it is.
Look: 4/5 Smell: 3/5 Taste: 3.5/5 Feel: 4/5 Overall: 3.5/5

Review: Eugene Porter
Weighted Score: 4.05/5
Serving type: growler
– Pours a dark chocolate color with a dark head.
– Pungent and rich nose of roasted coffee, chocolate, toffee and various malt tones.
– Full bodied with a real smooth feel. Richer, but far from boozy with mostly roasted coffee and chocolate flavors.
– This is a quality porter that Revolution has all year round. Balanced, and though it is rich, it is far from boozy.
Look: 4/5 Smell: 4/5 Taste: 4/5 Feel: 4.5/5 Overall: 4/5

Review: Iron Fist Pale Ale
Weighted Score: 3.75/5
Serving type: on-tap
– Pours a nice orange-gold color with a small head.
– Balanced and hop based aromas along with navel oranges and citrus aromas as well.
– Full bodied, but lacking a bit and a shorter finish. The flavors are very good and hop-based with some oranges, too.
– This is a good pale ale, and it is easy it drink. There are better options if this were canned or bottled, but is a solid bet at the brewpub.
Look: 4/5 Smell: 3.5/5 Taste: 4/5 Feel: 3.5/5 Overall: 3.5/5

Review: Coup D’Etat Saison
Weighted Score: 3.85/5
Serving type: on-tap
– Poured into a tulip with a slightly hazy yellow/gold color and a nice head.
– Very good aromas of spice, lemon peels, and citrus notes. Well-balanced, but lacking a bit of depth.
– Well-balanced with a smooth medium feel. Flavorful with notes of citrus, spices and some navel oranges
– This version is at 8.1% and it’s not really noticeable. A more citrusy take on a saison. The feel is a bit lighter than I’d personally like, but this is a very good and enjoyable beer.
Look: 4/5 Smell: 3.5/5 Taste: 4/5 Feel: 3.5/5 Overall: 4/5

Review: Workingman’s Mild Ale
Weighted Score: 3.28/5
Serving type: on-tap
– Pours a nice light mahogany color
– Good nose with tones of grains, malts, and bits of toffee. Nose is solid and pretty straightforward.
– Lighter feel that is nice and pleasant with some caramel and toffee with some malts as well.
– This is a session nice beer. Some good tones, but they are lacking some depth.
Look: 3.5/5 Smell: 3.5/5 Taste: 3/5 Feel: 3.5/5 Overall: 3.5/5

Revolution’s Brewery is located at 3340 N. Kedzie Avenue in Chicago. The tap room is open every Wednesday through Saturday from 2pm-10pm, and the company offers free guided tours every Wednesday through Saturday at 6pm. The Brewpub is located at 2323 N. Milwaukee Ave. It’s hours are 11am-2am during the week and 10am-2am on the weekend.

Comments (5)

  1. Your information is incorrect about Goose Island’s Clybourn pub. While Clybourn brews and barrels its own beer, none of the beer produced at that pub is sold outside of it or the Wrigleyville location. Anything sold to the general public and all other retail locations is produced at their main production facilities (that are not pubs). I’ve been there plenty of times and have never had a problem getting a table. I love Revolution as well.

  2. I do know about the production facility in the FUlton District area. There’s no way that they could make that much beer at clybourn to satisfy even the amount of 312 that is made. That is a mistake on my part. I should know better as I’ve been to all 3 facilities :p

    But, the focus certainly isn’t on a brewpub experience IMO. The menu is still very much burger and sandwich based, which is perfectly fine and enjoyable, but doesn’t provide the depth that I love at Rev. The pub area itself is smaller and it can get pretty packed fast. I’ve certainly been crammed in there in the past.

  3. I would like to know the alcohol content of the beers you reviewed. I am a fan of IPAs and I find it fascinating how much the alcohol content can vary among good brews.

  4. robbie, no problem:

    Anti-Hero IPA: 6.5%
    Cross of Gold: 5%
    Eugene: 7%
    Iron Fist: 5.5%
    Coup d’Etat: 8.1%(at least on the current batch, last year’s was around 7.5 IIRC)
    Workingman’s Mild: 3.5%

    The availability of these will be much wider by the end of the summer or early fall. They have a canning line for their brews and it will be interesting to see how frequent some of their shorter run brews will be available (hoping for the double fist IPA to have 3 big releases a year)

  5. Very well written, Mr. Akers. Great to hear of this from someone who has a finger on the pulse of Chicago’s craft beer scene.

    I would recommend anyone visiting the CHICAGO area to make a stop at this place and others mentioned. While not an avid beer drinker, the year round offering of Revolution’s Anti-Hero IPA is very close to what I envision to be the “perfect beer”.