The Chicagoist will be launching later but in the meantime please enjoy our archives.

New Microbrewery Opens Today in Lake Bluff

By Caitlin Klein in Food on Mar 23, 2011 5:00PM

Think you have the stones to turn your favorite hobby into your livelihood? Two Lake Bluff men, Rodd Specketer and Dave Burns, decided to try - their own local microbrewery opens today. The Lake Bluff Brewing Company will open its doors at 5 p.m., and it's just a Metra ride away from the heart of downtown Chicago. Chicagoist popped in for a sneak peek last week as things were still coming together for the grand opening.

About the Brewery
Most infectious is the general feeling of excitement around the brewery; it's very apparent that this is a local, home-grown operation with lots of community support. During our visit, the front of house was buzzing with activity; the Comcast guy was mucking around, trying to get the cable to work; wives stopped in and kids scuttled around, climbing on bar stools and booth seats; and friends and neighbors poked their heads through the front door, checking on progress and asking if they could buy merchandise. For not even opening yet, the Lake Bluff Brewing Company seems to have a strong following. Already, the LBBC has over 700 followers on the Facebook.

Seven beers will be on tap today, growing to 10 when the additional brews are ready. Rodd and Dave share a passion for mountain biking, and a few of their beers will have biking-related names. Hardtail Imperial IPA (8.8% ABV), Softtail IPA (6.2%), and Weeee!!!! Heavy Scotch Ale (10.2%) will be available, alongside Bohemian Blonde (5.8%) and Black Squirrel Burboun Stout (8.1%). The Black Squirrel Stout is a reference to the rare black squirrels that call the tree-lined streets of Lake Bluff home. Short descriptions of a few of the brews are listed on the LBBC's online menu.

Prices for a pint will start at $5, and hand-made 64-ounce growlers (from Chicago-based Vessyl) are available so you can take your favorite beer to go. The brewery will also serve food, mostly locally prepared. Bavarian pretzels, sausages from neighbor The Daily Grind, and paninis from Lake Forest’s Caputo Cheese Market will give beer-drinking patrons something to nibble on. LBBC will also serve some wines by the glass from distributor Heritage Wine Cellars. But make no mistake, the real star of the place is the beer. It's all brewed on LBBC property by Rodd and Dave, in a tank and fermentors behind the scenes. Gorgeous hand-made glass taps (also from Vessyl) will showcase the beer selection.

No solid plans for distribution yet exist, but the LBBC already has inquiries from bars wanting to serve their beers on tap. All beers at LBBC will be served on tap; no bottles. “We aren’t bottling yet,” Rodd says. “But we’d like to in the future. That would be the next step.”

About the Owners
So, what's the deal? Is the Lake Bluff Brewing Company backed by a major beer company? Is this some sort of Chicago-based brewery spinoff? Nope. Rodd and Dave are just a couple of normal beer-loving, home-brewing guys, and that's what we love about this new North Suburban microbrewery. They might as well be your brother, or friend, or neighbor who started brewing in their home kitchens. Except this neighbor will enthusiastically talk your ear off about fermentors, and hops, and malt, and ABV, and bright tanks, until you break eye contact and slowly back away. These guys love the process of making beer, and it's apparent in the care they've taken in preparations for their March 23 opening.

Neither owner was a professional brewer, until now. By trade, Rodd works in banking and finance, and Dave is an engineer. They both had to put in a lot of after-work hours in the last 16 months to get the brewery up and running. “Brewing is a natural combination with engineering,” Dave says. He proudly shows off the tank and fermentors, explaining how each step works. Rodd and Dave met as neighbors, fellow cyclists, and members of a home brewing club. Over time, their interest in brewing increased and demand for their home brews went up. “People liked our beer,” Rodd remembers. “We thought, wouldn’t it be cool if we could brew our beer and sell it. And from there, things kinda took off.”

When I ask why Chicagoans should come all the way up to Lake Bluff to try their beer, Rodd says, “It’s for the variety. We consider ourselves a Chicago brewery, but this is really a place for people to come and hang out with friends.” Dave adds, “We are going to serve unique craft beer. I think the beer will be what brings people up here.”

The Lake Bluff Brewing Company opens today, and is located at 16 E. Scranton Avenue in Lake Bluff. It will be open from 5-10pm on weekdays and 5pm-midnight on weekends.