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BREWEREY FEATURE//ALE SYNDICATE 34 “We were always separated from Chicago… the [California] lifestyle was really fun but we missed this city,” they said. Operating under the provisional name, New Chicago Beer Company, they set up shop in “The Plant”, a zero waste, indoor vertical farm located in Chicago’s Back of Yards. They had hoped to be operational by March of 2012 and set the lofty goal of producing 12,000 barrels of beer within their first year. However, due to high starting costs and complications with the building’s constant redevelopment and shifting brand ideology, April 2012 saw them moving their operation out of the plant with no product to show for all of their troubles. When asked about the company’s current stance on sustainability, Jesse now says, “Its incredibly important to us. We want to make sure that we make beer, really excellent beer, and we want to make sure we do right by the environment and right by the people. But its not who we want to be known as and that’s what happened. We got known as the eco-brewer.” Their current outfit, as of 2013, a slightly smaller 10,000 square foot facility in Logan Square, is much more suited to their current needs and is, of course, operational. By the time Jesse and Sam began renovating the Diversey building, another of the grueling challenges they faced when getting started, their two-man operation had grown. “We wanted to create an identity that was as true as we are,” and that meant representing the team that had helped them get so far. Of their last and most recent name-change Jesse said “Ale Syndicate is the group of people that make this happen, that are all passionate about beer.” After acquiring the building at the Green Exchange, brewing was not possible right away, so even then the nascent Ale Syndicate had to rely on other friendly brewers to kick-start their operation. The first few batches of beer required offsite brewing at the Chicago Big Brewing Company’s facility in Zion, IL and that of Galena Brewing Company in Galena, IL. <strong>CUSP</strong> MAGAZINE WINTER ’14 ISSUE
March 18, 2013 marked the triumphant release of Richie Imperial Porter. Powerful, smooth and complex, Richie was named Beer of the Week by the Chicagoist just days after its debut—a sweet success for the rough and tumble brewery. Boasting notes of cherry and chocolate, but drinking less like a meal than your typical 8.0% ABV draft porter, Richie was a hit and rightfully so. The seasonal beer went over so well that, by popular demand, Ale Syndicate celebrated the re-release this past November with a party at Miss Murphy’s Bistro in Irving Park. On draft at the event was a firkin of Richie Imperial Porter steeped with Metropolis coffee beans. When combined with Richie’s cherry-chocolate boldness, the deep, nutty notes of the coffee sent tasters into a toasty nostalgia, reminiscent of fall days in Chicago past. Another of Ale Syndicate’s ingenious peculiarities is their penchant for creating tiny batches of incredibly unique blends, frequently born out of collaborations with other local Chicago companies. Once the firkin at Miss Murphy’s runs dry, there will be no more coffee bean-soaked Richie in all of Chicago. Needless to say, Richie’s release set an admirable precedent for what was to become their current “portfolio.” A few months after their inaugural release, Ale Syndicate, which had by then grown to a five-person operation, announced two additional beers: Municipal IPA in Spring 2013 and Sunday Session for summer. Municipal IPA is another of what Sam calls a “traditional style with a twist” and outsells their second most popular beer, Sunday Session. A single hop beer, Municipal packs that distinctively hoppy, IPA punch while maintaining a pleasant, drinkable balance of flavors. Initially, it was brewed using a hop variety called Cascade. After Cascade became scarce, shortly after the first few batches of Municipal were made, the brothers shifted their tactic, still retaining their dedication to single hop brews, but on a rotating three-month cycle. The hops variety selected for the current batch of Municipal is aromatic and mildly spicy with floral notes. Despite constantly shifting hop varieties, the Evans brothers hope that maintaining consistency in all other elements of brewing will reinforce quality and brand recognition while also educating their audience about beer. The appropriately named Sunday Session is another of Ale Syndicate’s permanent collection. Falling slightly higher on the spectrum of alcohol content than a traditional session beer. The appropriately named Sunday Session is another of Ale Syndicate’s permanent collection. <strong>CUSP</strong> MAGAZINE WINTER ’14 ISSUE 35