Brewery Review: Metropolitan Brewing Co.
Metropolitan Brewing in Chicago is the brainchild of Doug and Tracy Hurst. While most craft beer operations focus on ales, Metropolitan focuses on lagers and I have heard of no plan to offer ales. Their website even states that there are zero plans to ever make an IPA. Last time I took a tour there Tracy recounted how they came to the conclusion to make lager. Doug, while studying at Siebel Institute of Technology, was in Germany completing his classwork and called Tracy telling her about the amazing lagers there. He was so blown away he found his life purpose. To be honest when I first heard about their brewery I laughed. I did not think anyone could make a living selling lagers. I was wrong and have no problem admitting it. Metropolitan makes excellent beers and they have become my go to brewery for lagers.
The craft beer market has very few lagers on shelves and I personally have not come across any other lager only operations. In the past I would get people started on craft beer by using Goose Island’s 312, but I would struggle to explain what a Urban Wheat Ale is. I find it much easier to hand them a Krankshaft or Flywheel and tell friends that it is a lager just like Bud Light. My friends and family have been much more accepting of this because they think they are getting the same taste. They quickly learn that not all lagers are the same and craft lager packs a flavor punch.
I know some of you had issues with Metropolitan staying consistent with their beer and scattered reports of off flavors when they first opened. I am happy to report those issues have disappeared. Metropolitan has been churning out three lagers on a consistent basis: Krankshaft, Flywheel Bright Lager, and Dynamo with a seasonal named I-Beam Alt. A fourth beer Iron Works recently received bottle label approval from the feds and it appears to be a tweaked version of the I-Beam Alt.
Metropolitan offers public tours of their brewery. Check out their website for details. The tours cost a nominal $5 and include tasting. This is pretty typical for Chicago area breweries and is a fair price. Be warned it is hot in the summer and cold in winter as they lack a solid HVAC system. Retail operations are somewhat constrained at their location. My understanding is the city has some complicated zoning rules that makes their space industrial, but not retail. (If it was retail I would of walked over and bought a glass by now.)
At times they struggled with supply issues. As of my last tour (Summer 2010) they were exploring the purchase of additional fermenters which should help solve the problem. However, most breweries would consider not being able to keep up with demand a good thing. I would also like to see Tracy out of brewing and on the road. I want to be clear I do not doubt in her ability to work as a brewer, but Tracy would make an excellent brand manager. If the hop tattoos do not give it away, her personality clearly conveys that she is passionate about beer. If she could focus on Metropolitan’s brand and get craft beer drinkers enthused about lagers who knows what this little place could do.
Metropolitan will likely be around for a long time, and if you have not already tried their beer go grab a six pack.