Aged Beers at Bavarian Beer Hall

Matt Kirouac

June 17 2013 - 1:00 PM

Logan Square has a penchant for PBR, but that’s about to change when The Radler opens later this summer. A large part of the forthcoming Bavarian beer hall is the aged beer program, which promises to be one of the most extensive vintage beer lists in Chicago. The restaurant has turned to small local breweries for assistance in amassing such a beer list, simultaneously supporting local companies and providing customers with a unique drinking experience. For partners Adam Hebert and Nathan Sears, it’s about giving beer the same timeworn attention that wine gets, and providing an apt counterpart to the contemporary German cuisine.

The idea for aged beers started awhile ago. Hebert initially wanted to do age beers while he was still working at Tribeca Grill in New York City.

“I wanted to know why people weren’t putting vintages on beers,” he said.

But then a light bulb went off when he recalled that Goose Island puts vintages on certain beers, and that Jared Rouben, Goose Island’s former brewer, would be the perfect resource to talk consult. Hebert had a conversation with Rouben about aged beers, learning that a good way to go about acquiring them would be to provide barrels to small breweries.

Hebert was officially hot on the trail for aged beers. He was referred to Tom Griffin, a man who brings bourbon barrels from America’s bourbon belt (Kentucky and Tennessee) to Goose Island. Griffin said he would bring some extra bourbon barrels to Hebert and Sears if he had space on his truck, an arrangement they’ve been working with in preparation for opening. Once they’ve acquired barrels, Hebert and Sears pass them off to small, local craft breweries to brew and age beers just for them. It’s got to be small breweries, due to larger companies not having the means to produce a one-off beer amidst all their inventory.

The Radler turned to Flesk Brewing Co. to brew their house beers, a pilsner and hefeweizen (bourbon barrels at Flesk Brewing Co. pictured above). They’ve also scouted other local small guys to brew and age beers, such as 18th Street Brewery, Pipeworks Brewing Co., Begyle Brewing Company, and Spiteful Brewing. By providing the barrels for these small breweries, they’re cutting out the extra sourcing step they’d need to take, enabling them to brew small-batch beers for the restaurant and store it conveniently.

The timing is right for The Radler to strike with its aged beer program, as Chicagoland’s craft beer scene hasn’t boomed this hard since pre-Prohibition. With so many small breweries popping up in and around the city, it’s a golden opportunity for the restaurant to collaborate with them and support them while amassing a highly unique vintage beer list.