A Tour of Ravenswood’s Metropolitan Brewery

By Victoria Wiedel | Monday, November 29, 2010

Photo by Brad Bretz.

The Bavarian law of brewing seems alive and well at Metropolitan Brewery, 5121 N. Ravenswood Ave., where Doug and Tracy Hurst have been crafting local beers since 2008. Freshness and purity were two themes emphasized during a recent tour of their facility in Ravenswood.

Beer tourists were greeted by heavy metal music, a howling mascot and generous pours  of their lagers before Doug launched into his informal yet informative lecture on the process.  As a graduate of the Siebel Institute of Technology (for master brewers), he made for a worthy professor on the subject, and I’m now convinced I need to enroll in the institute’s European study tour next year.

Metropolitan produces up to 160 barrels per month, and according to Doug, “We’re making it as fast as we’re selling it.” And that’s the key.  “Living beer tastes really good, it is meant to be consumed locally while it is fresh,” he emphasized.  Not surprisingly, Metropolitan is only sold in bars, restaurants and stores within a 100 mile radius of the brewery, and they have no intentions of selling outside the Midwest.

Three flagship beers make up the bulk of production, plus a seasonal brew and an ongoing series of small batch experiments. The main brews are:

  • Krankshaft: a slightly sweet Kolsch-style beer (i.e. pale and hoppy) that complements everything from guacamole to graduation parties
  • Flywheel: a bright lager that pairs well with fondue and 16-inch softball
  • Dynamo: a copper-colored lager that finds a balance between malt and hops and goes well with spicy foods and sewing bees

**Be sure to visit the brewery’s website for more interesting pairing suggestions.**

Despite starting at the beginning of the recession, Metropolitan seems to be humming along nicely. But that is due to the long hours invested by the husband and wife team. Along with friends, they complete the entire process of brewing, packaging and shipping their beers in a seemingly round-the-clock operation. They are at the point now where they want to expand, but that means finding and installing another tank.

Craft brewing is a relatively new phenomenon in the Chicago area (lucky us!), but being located near other brewers creates more of a cooperative, not competitive, spirit. “Any competition is of a friendly nature,” said Tracy, “except when we’re playing darts.”

Retail sales locations in the Center Square area include Cardinal Wine and Spirits, City Provisions, Fine Wine Brokers and Leland Liquors. You have two chances to take the tour before the end of the year: Friday, Dec. 10 and Tuesday, Dec. 21 at 6:30 p.m. The event has already sold out for the 10th. Visit their website for more details.

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