Bucktown brew masters break boundaries

Rachel Hall, Writer

Enjoying a cold brew on a hot day or after a hard day of work is a pastime that many of us enjoy.  I myself could stand a Michelob or two on occasion, but it wasn’t until I moved to this great city of Chicago that I realized how many local breweries existed. One in particular, The Blue Nose Brewery, piqued my interest. Not only is it near where I live but this place is unique in its own right. A couple of beer enthusiasts got together five years ago in a small Bucktown apartment where they wanted to create simple and complex brews for diverse palates. Today they’re located at 6119 East Avenue in Hodgkins IL, southwest of Chicago. I purchased a two-hour package that included a behind-the-scenes tour of this quaint and alluring establishment.  

Walking through the doors was like entering a scene from “Cheers,” where everybody knows your name. There are interesting beer names as well as ingredients. Justin Martin, the tour guide for the evening, whisked me through to the tap room where all the magic happens.

Compared to other local brewers, the Blue Nose Brewery is small in comparison, which adds to the ambience of it all. There are five enormous vats in the brewery.

When you visit — and I insist that you do — you can sample their latest brews. The end of summer brews such as Citra Ave (with its top note of citrusy aroma and flavors), East End and LeGrand are my favorites. The early fall and winter brews like the XXX Honey and the MDA lager (with its oatmeal accents) are highly recommended and very delicious! What they brew, they keep in house, so you won’t find the Blue Nose brand in any stores. They can be found in a few eateries on occasion but I think it is better to drink directly from the barrel it is produced in.

Martin also gave us some advice on home brewing. For beginners, he recommends starting with a basic kit. These kits can be purchased for about $100 online or from local brewing stores. From there, making your first few batches is pretty simple. There are three main types of brewing: concentrate brewing, all-grain brewing and partial-mash brewing. All of which start with the grain of your choice, usually rye or barley but keep an open mind to experimentation. For example, Blue Nose’s XXX Honey and Pipa start with a corn mash that give the beers a crisp, light flavor.

Since they started as a home brew, Justin fully advocated getting into the brewing craft. There are a handful of brew stores located in Chicago but only one in the neighborhood. Stores like Brew & Grow offer brew classes, kits, ingredients and equipment right in the store. Located at 3625 North Kedzie, the store is a 10 minutes away from the main campus. They also offer resources for urban horticulture and space for hosting private events.