Broad Shoulders Brewing Plants Craft Beer Roots In Motor Row

By Chuck Sudo in Food on Apr 12, 2012 7:00PM

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Broad Shoulders Brewing's Frank Lassandrello stands outside the building that will become his brewhouse and tasting room. (Chicagoist/Chuck Sudo Photo)

News of Lagunitas Brewing opening a Chicago brewhouse next year sent craft beer fans in frenzy and served as a reminder of how far Chicago’s craft beer community has grown in the past recent years.

Lagunitas’ brewhouse location in Douglas Park underscored how the city’s brewing renaissance has been, until recently, relegated to the North side. That’s slowly being remedied. In addition to Lagunitas, Samuel and Jesse Evans are opening New Chicago Brewing in Back of the Yards’ The Plant this year. New Chicago Brewing is also contract brewing beer for Arcade Brewing. 5 Rabbit announced they signed a lease on a location for a 30-barrel plant set to open in December.

And then there’s Broad Shoulders Brewing in Motor Row. Owner and Brewer Frank Lassandrello is a veteran of Goose Island and Lakefront Brewing in Milwaukee who’s currently busy building out his brewhouse at 2337 S. Michigan Ave. The street number, Lassandrello told us, contains a bit of serendipity. “’2337’ spells out ‘beer’ on a telephone keypad.”

Lassandrello was a member of Goose Island’s research and development team that helped bring 312 Urban Wheat Ale to market. He’s using that R&D experience to perfect his recipes. Working at Goose Island during that time frame, when the focus was on British-style ales, also influenced Lassandrello. In 2008, Lassandrello took a job at Lakefront Brewing, where he quickly was promoted to quality control manager, making the round trip from Chicago to Milwaukee via Amtrak and bicycle four days a week. In 2009, the stress of that commute, and having the baby on the way, became too much to bear and Lassandrello took a job at the Chicago Board of Trade. “My training at Goose Island gave me good experience with data analysis and running spreadsheets, and I saw this as a good opportunity to show my partners that I could develop a successful business plan and capable of implementing it,” he said

Lassandrello originally planned to open Broad Shoulders after he left Goose Island and his partners - which included his father and godfather- decided to not move forward as the real estate market was bottoming out at the time. His backers originally envisioned Broad Shoulders to be a brewpub. But Lassandrello convinced them that a brewhouse with a tasting room, like the one Half Acre h, would be a better model. “I think Half Acre’s model is excellent,” Lassandrello said. “But I don’t think we’re going to have the exponential growth they have. We’re hoping for modest growth.”

What Lassandrello hopes to capitalize on is convention business from nearby McCormick Place and Motor Row/South Loop residents craving nightlife. “There isn’t much in the way of nightlife here,” he said. “But there are a ton of folks within a four block radius who want something like this nearby.”

Another advantage Lassandrello and his partners have is they already own the buildings they want to build out. Currently, what’s slated to be the brewhouse and tasting room is nothing more than an empty shell. But chalk marks on the floor indicate where the bar for the tasting room, the mash tuns, grain elevators and bright tanks will go.

As for beers, Lassandrello currently has two year-round beers ready for drinkers. Lake Side Drive Lager is an all-malt American session lager with no adjuncts added and a late hop addition, resulting in a maltier lager than fans of the style may be accustomed. Broad Shoulders Pale Ale is hybrid British-American ale that comes in at 5-5 percent ABV with a good balance between malt and hops. Other beers in the works include “Blue=Eyed Blonde,” a Belgian blonde ale inspired by his daughter Ophelia and a schwartzbier version of the Lake Side Drive Lager for winter months.

Barring any problems, Lassandrello hopes to have Broad Shoulders up and running in summer.