The owners and management of Cultivate by Forbidden Root knew that there was a private dining room with a bar adjacent to their new Ravenswood restaurant and brewpub when they moved in last year, but they weren’t quite sure what to do with it. Should they use it to serve cocktails? Should they turn it into an event space?
Then general manager Brian Krajack had an idea: “Why not make it like a side tap room? Like a craft beer speakeasy?” It would be a space for casual gatherings, for large parties who hadn’t made a reservation, for customers waiting to get into the dining room, for people just wanted to spend the evening playing board games and drinking really good beer.
“We went a little beer geek,” Krajack says. The Cultivate Tap Room has 16 taps, just seven of which are Forbidden Root’s botanical beers. The rest are a rotating assortment of drafts from other breweries, including one from WeldWerks in Colorado that hadn’t been seen in Chicago before. Others come from smaller local breweries, like Mikerphone and Phase Three. There will be stouts and sours and IPAs, plus hefeweizens and other European beers like Stiegl-Hell that inspired Krajack and Forbidden Root’s founder Robert Finkel to get into beer in the first place.
The taproom will be bar service only, with no servers. There will be an assortment of bar snacks, like jerky, nuts, and olives, that are prepared in the Cultivate kitchen, but customers will have to go over to the restaurant (which has a separate entrance) for a more substantial meal.
Forbidden Root distinguishes itself among Chicago breweries for its scientific approach: Finkel, “alchemist” Randy Mosher, and head brewer Nick Williams infuse their beer with botanical ingredients like flowers, herbs, and roots. The company’s first brewpub opened in West Town in 2016 and expanded to the former Band of Bohemia space in Ravenswood just after Thanksgiving.
Much of the food at Cultivate is cooked over a grill, including salad and scallops.
The kitchen, led by chef Carlos Cruz (Longman & Eagle,Saint Lou’s Assembly), cooks up an assortment of large and small plates, including grilled salad, scallops, a burger, and a French dip with porchetta cooked over an open flame. There are also cheese plates and dessert. The booze menus are similar to, but not exactly the same, as those in West Town, and the taproom adds to the list of beer offerings considerably.
The Tap Room, which seats 50, opened in early January and is usually open on weekends, but, Krajack says the operating hours aren’t strict, and Cultivate may rent the space out for private parties; customers are encouraged to check the weekly schedule on Instagram. If the taproom is closed, though, restaurant customers can still request special beers.
In the future, Krajack plans to host various activities, like beer dinners, tap takeovers from other breweries, and perhaps even events with neighbors 312Vin Winery and Koval Distillery. But none of these will spoil the basement-bar vibe: “It’s really friends of ours being very generous with beers that they’ve never given out before.”
Cultivate by Forbidden Root, 4710 N. Ravenswood, Open 4 p.m. to 10 p.m. Monday through Thursday, 3 p.m. to 10 p.m. Friday, noon to 10 p.m. Saturday, and noon to 9 p.m. Sunday; see website for weekly Tap Room hours.