Tuesday not only brought temperatures in the fifties and a sunlit day hinting at Spring, but the main event was Penrose Brewing Co. opening their taproom and brewery to the public for the first time. With technical difficulties and plenty of hold up from local ordinances and laws, to say this was a long time coming would be telling only half of it.
Our first look and experience with Penrose was back in October of 2013 at a retreat where they put up the beer for a paired dinner and clued us in on what Penrose was all about. At that time Eric Hobbs and Tom Korder, both veterans of the industry who left Goose Island to start out on their own, had a late November opening in mind. Throw in over 5 months of permit and contracting hurdles, come to present day, and you the suburban craft brewery has come to fruition after the three-year journey.
With the opening being our first visit since October, it was incredible to see how it all came together. What was once a metal shell with wires, beams and random scraps in plenty, has now become a polished facility and cool destination for anyone wanting to visit a fully functional brewery.
The brewery is a shotgun setup, which during tours will fully illustrate the journey of making beer. Grain receiving and prep is in the far back and starts the process. The mash tun, lauter tun, and boil kettle are the center of attention, followed by the fermentation tanks in the next room. From there the beer will be either kegged or bottled and moved up to the cooler, or transferred to the barrel aging room. The only point beyond that would be the taproom and your glass.
The taproom is clean with white walls giving great contrast to the repurposed wood and metal fixtures. The chemistry of brewing fills one side of the room and leads you to the beer taps at the end of the concrete bar. With seven beers available, it was time to get to the fruits of their labor.
Tasters came in a four-glass tote that puts the old wooden paddle to shame. Working our way through the Belgian inspired tap list, some of the beers were familiar from the dinner but with minor tweaks that brought them up to their current manifestation. The Belgian-inspired Single, Proto Gradus, and the Belgian-inspired Pale, P2, were the first to go down. Proto Gradus offers a bit lighter, citric, and fruity flavor while the P2 is a blend of an American Pale Ale with the spice and fruit of the Belgian influence.
The Belgian-inspired Black Ale, Navette, drinks lighter than it looks and has a fair amount of roasted character to it while being balanced by the hop addition to take you from sweet to bitter. Adding a bit of a palate cleanse was the French-style Saison, Devoir. Citrus and a bit of earthiness make this simple, light and airy beer easy to enjoy on a hot day.
The Biere de Garde, Patina, lent spiced and herbal notes all wrapped in mild sweetness while the Rasp Dubbel gave a light bodied beer just the right amount of fruit-juice flavor mixed in with a hop bitterness to balance the act. The final beer on tap was Devirous, a White IPA that gives fans of lighter, wheat-style beers a bit of a taste that can be found in a Belgian IPA.
We weren’t the only ones anxious to try the beer and check the place out. The afternoon crowd flowed through the taproom with a mix of fans, neighbors, and brewery reps, all eager to come out and celebrate. There were a few mentions from people that they pass by the place every day and have been waiting for the doors to open. It comes as no surprise as it isn’t every day that a craft brewery opens right on your block.
Patience, and doing things the right way, has been a part of the mind set behind Penrose from the start. Hobbs grew up in Geneva and really likes the whole community aspect of the city. Penrose aims to help that community grow and be a part of the best of what the city has to offer by creating an experience that focuses around beer, but emphasizes the experience of visiting a local brewery and delving into what their story is.
Their taproom doesn’t feature any food as to give reason for patrons to visit the many restaurants available right down the street. “There is so much available here and so many great places that we don’t want to take away from what they are already doing well, “ said Hobbs. “We want to be a part of it, not compete with it.”
Growth is another part of the business that is being approached with care. Hobbs explained that they want to grow organically and at a rate that is as easy to maintain as possible. They don’t want to add on a load of accounts with the possibility of having one of them run dry and not being able to fulfill their chance of being on tap.
Right now Penrose has seven beers available with three having the option for growler fill. With at least two beers on the way, one of which being a sour with cherries added, and a barrel program that is 56 barrels strong and growing, it will be exciting to see how the brewery develops and what the future holds. Now that the doors are open and some launch events planned, it’s time to see what this thing can do.