An ambitious new brewpub is opening next year in the Loop and in December they’re previewing the operation with a series of pop-up dinners with beer pairings at the Virgin Hotels Chicago.
Industry Ales Brewpub should open this March at 230 S. Wabash (the former Kramer Foods). That’s next to Central Camera, the iconic 122-year-old shop that burned down in 2020 during the civil unrest that followed George Floyd’s murder. The project includes the main floor, a second-floor landing, and a basement that will house the brewing equipment and a speakeasy-style cocktail bar.
The 1-2 punch of the pandemic and downtown’s damaged reputation encouraged Industry Ales’ ownership to bring its project to the area. The main cast of characters includes head brewer Erik Inda, director of operations Matt Wiegers, and lead bartender Dan Rook. The trio worked at downtown haunts including Elephant & Castle and Stillwater Cafe.
The trio sees Industry Ales as a place with integrity. All three have witnessed bad behaviors during their hospitality careers, the type that’s led to toxic workplaces. At Industry Ales, they envision a brewpub, that, as Inda says “is the exact opposite of that.”
It’s also a restaurant that can demonstrate that downtown has more to offer than tourist attractions and the old guard. Neither Inda nor Rook want to disparage any landmark restaurants in the Loop, but they see their operation as a breath of fresh air. Inda’s beers will take inspiration from classic cocktails. For example, one of their potential flagships — Lost Sailor — is based on the Dark and Stormy.
Earlier this year, they brought on chef Alexander Willis, a restaurant vet who’s worked at Dusek’s and Mordecai. He’s still working on his menu — there will be plenty of options to pair. But at the Virgin Hotel pop-ups, they’ll offer a tasting menu with pairings and a la carte options.
For example, the aforementioned Dark and Stormy will pair with ginger puffs (smoked trout roe, creme fraiche mousse, chives). A huckleberry sour seltzer will pair with duck rillette (foie gras mousse, huckleberry sauce, rye berry sourdough, pickles). A sweet onion rauchbier (one of the weirder brews that Inda takes pride in) will pair with a 55-hour Berkshire pork (bourbon-braised sauerkraut, country ham jus, cracklins).
The pop-up will take place on Fridays and Saturdays at the Virgin Hotel through December, starting on Friday, December 3. They’ll take Christmas off on December 23 and December 24. Look for more coverage on Industry Ales in the coming weeks.
Industry Ales pop-ups at the Virgin Hotel Chicago, 203 N. Wabash Avenue, tickets at the hotel website.