Two Brothers Brewery
Microbreweries are all about style. And why not? There isn’t a home-brewing hop head out there who hasn’t fantasized about quitting the old nine to fiver and starting their own micro-brewery. Those that are actually qualified are few, and those who take the leap are even fewer. So when breweries name their seasonal batches and pick a design for their labels they can’t help but do it with personal style. Artsy punk rock labels, in-your-face names and funky twists on beer styles are key to a successful beer business. But sometimes simple is best, as illustrated by Two Brothers Brewery in Warrenville, IL. What they lack in pizazz they make up for with consistent, quality brews that never seem to fail.
Of all the brewers in the UPChicago brewery series, Two Brothers might be the hardest to describe. It’s called Two Brothers because, you guessed it, it’s owned by two Chicago brothers, Jim and Jason Ebel. The family took their own brewers plunge in 1997 and have been supplying craft beers to the Chicagoland area for over a decade. Their brewery is downright hidden in the industrial back roads of Warrenville, a town that makes Three Floyd’s Munster, Indiana look like a bursting metropolis. Their labels are simple and have a plain consistency that doesn’t exactly jump off the beer shelf. They also run a sizable brew pub, serving organic, delicious and very ordinary food in a bar setting that looks like it was designed from a template. They have every current beer on tap with a variety of serving glasses, but almost all of the drinks I was served were poured into American pints. You’re not exactly transported out of Warrenville with a few partition walls, a long wood bar and the only art consisting of blown up pictures of their beer labels.
Sound boring? Taste their beer and you’re tune may change. They might be small, but these brewers aren’t screwing around with 17,000 barrels of fermentation capacity, bottling 150 beer bottles a minute in an expanded space of 40,000 square feet. They supply eight states with their standard year-round beers while keeping their seasonal and artisan beers for our local testing palates. All this production is based on the demand for their beers and not a massive marketing campaign. You’ve gotta respect a brewer that relies on little more then a growing passion for good beer to pave their way to success.
And that’s pretty much all the Ebel brothers have done from the beginning. Before their brewery dreams came true they ran a home brewers supply store in Naperville called The Brewers Coops, now operating out of their brewery. They describe their beginning as “passionate about Hefeweizen” and it comes through in their Ebel Weiss, a local contender for the Hef’s with it’s banana notes and slightly sour finish. I’ve heard their Prairie Path described as a Belgian beer but Two Brothers calls it a Golden Ale — to me it’s a tasty bit of neither, with none of the floral aspects of a Belgian but carrying more weight than your typical golden. Their Bitter Ale is their shot at a drinkable American ale and they hit it dead on, not overly bitter as the name implies but it goes down quick and carries nice citrus flavors.
Though the brothers may have modeled their brewery after the Germans, their best beers are the ones influenced by the French. (Apparently when the brothers were living in Europe they spent a good deal of time in France.) They have three giant foudres, a fancy French name for massive oak barrels that are by far the most handsome part of the place. Their Long Haul Ale and Resistance IPA both sit in these bad boys for a month and create a vanilla malty tint to two hoppy ales that can’t be missed. Their Dumaine Dupage is a French Country Ale that has become very popular with it’s butterscotch apple subtleties. I had it at the brewery after it’d been run through one of those foudres, the toasty oak addition creating a fantastic beer. The other seasonal batch being featured upon my arrival was their Hop Juice Double IPA, the perfect amount of hoppyness for someone of my tastes but not much going on outside of that. All told, my favorite beer of theirs is the Cane & Ebel for how unique it is — a spicy rye beer with a Thai palm sugar finish. You’d be hard pressed to find anything quite like it.
If the craft breweries of Chicagoland are a family of misfit siblings then Two Brothers Brewery strikes me as the middle child; pensive and often overlooked but as talented as any of the others. With just four seasonal and four artisan beers (one for each season) they aren’t brew whores, cranking out every flavor whim that comes along to see how it’s received. They start with antiquated traditions and make small but unique deviations to create products that become instant standbys. Ultimately they are very Illinois, just a reserved Midwestern neighbor loaded with pleasant surprises. Warrenville might not be the first place on your list of weekend getaways but if you’re planning a brewery road trip then get your highlighter because this is a must. If you’ve learned not to judge a beer by it’s label then you’re one step closer to craft beer nirvana.
Location: 30w315 Calumet Avenue, Warrenville, IL