Next Wave Breweries


The beer industry in Chicago – and nationwide – continues to explode with growth. The Brewer’s Association’s mid-2015 report tells the story in numbers: from 1,779 in 2011 to 3,739 total breweries in 2015. Brewery-in-planning announcements and brewery openings are now weekly occurrences. Indeed, it’s a good time to be drinking in America. That’s especially true in Chicago. Chronicling the growth of our beer scene is a task Mash Tun Journal takes seriously.

Every year, we highlight emerging breweries from Chicagoland, ones we think stand apart from the many new faces on the block. We selected these breweries because we think they have the stuff it takes to become Chicagoland’s next great brewery.

This year, we crossed the border to include two Indiana breweries whose beers deserve the attention of Chicagoland drinkers. Many of the Next Wave Breweries we featured were started by homebrewers who found their way to the big leagues. Some of these brewers incubated their brewery concepts at their friends’ breweries. No matter their story, they all went through hell to get a seat at the table. It’s up to you to decide how long they will last. Give these Next Wavers a try. Tell them Mash Tun Journal sent you.


Devil’s Trumpet Brewing Co.
Year Founded: 2014
Location: Merrillville, Indiana
Run By: Steve Carter, Bob Lusin, Mark Malucinich, Chris Pearson
Head Brewers: Bob Lusin and Chris Pearson
Flagship Beer: My Ghetto, American IPA

When the band breaks up, turn to beer. Gathering at Crown Brewing for their homebrew club meetings, Steve Carter, Bob Lusin, and Chris Pearson became fast friends. They also shared common interests other than good beer: they were all musicians and metalheads. Instead of making music together, they channeled their creativity into brewing.

After garnering advice from kind beer folks at Crown Brewing, Three Floyd’s, and Revolution Brewing, the team decided on a name – named after Bob’s mother’s favorite flower – and the plan for Devil’s Trumpet was put into place. Chris tends to focus on making beer with an American influence. As such, the brewery has become known for brewing hoppy beers, like Make It a Cheeseburger IPA and Puffy Stack Black IPA. Bob’s love of barrel-aged and Belgian-inspired beers has produced offerings like Fires of Rome Wild Ale and Juggling Elephants Saison, which add to the diverse ranks of Devil’s Trumpet’s constantly rotating tap list.

Count on aromatic and flavorful beers from their 3.5-bbl brewhouse. You can also count on most of their beers being named after their favorite metal songs. Available at their taproom in Merrillville, Devil’s Trumpet beer is also served at area restaurants and bars, and in 22-ounce bottles at Indiana liquor stores.
– Elizabeth Garibay

Imperial Oak Brewing
Year Founded: 2014
Location: Willow Springs, IL
Run By: Chris DiBraccio, Grant Hamilton, and Brett Semenske
Head Brewer: Brett Semenske
Flagship Beer: Prediction?…Pain! Double IPA

Imperial Oak Brewing was born of a love of high gravity barrel-aged beers, a passion that was stoked by a bar owner’s support of homebrewing, after Brixie’s Beer Bar owner, Chris DiBraccio, began sponsoring a local homebrew club. Every second Wednesday of the month, Brixie’s Brewers came together to share homebrew, recipes, and strike up conversation about the beer.

Wanting to create a place that focused on small batch and variety, Chris teamed up with Grant Hamilton and Brett Semenske, a couple of the Brixie’s Brewers. Notable beers include Prediction?…Pain! Double IPA and Frankenstein’s Daughter Saison. Focused on brewing small-batch beers, Imperial Oak is best experienced at source, their taproom. But if you want to take home some of Willow Spring’s finest, grab one of their 32-ounce crowlers (aluminum can growlers). Crank It Dank IPA, hopped with Citra, Mosaic, and Equinox, is a perfect candidate for savoring these last few days of summer.
 – Elizabeth Garibay


Noon Whistle Brewing
Year Founded: 2014
Location: Lombard, IL
Run By: Jim Cagle, Mike Condon, Paul Kreiner
Brewer: Paul Kreiner
Flagship Beers: Cozmo Pale Ale and Bernie Milk Stout

Longtime childhood friends, Jim Cagle, Mike Condon, and Paul Kreiner went from playing tee-ball and talking about girls to playing with brewing equipment and talking about low-ABV beers. Already an experienced homebrewer and beer distribution vet, Paul rounded out his beer skillset by attending Siebel Institute.

Inspired by the town whistle that blew at lunchtime – cue for an afternoon beer – the trio places an emphasis on high quality, low alcohol. Session beers are the mainstay, but sours are also becoming a staple. The draft list in the taproom is extensive and impressive, as is the space. Crowlers and growlers are available for to-go purchase. Outside their taproom, Noon Whistle’s brews can be found at over 40 bars and restaurants in Chicago and the surrounding suburbs.
– Elizabeth Garibay


Wildrose Brewing Company
Year Founded: 2015
Location: Griffith, Indiana
Run By: David DeJong, Karen DeJong, Ed Halajcsik, Kevin Krippel, Tony Nichols
Brewer: David DeJong
Flagship Beer: Big Sexy, American Pale Ale

After frequently coming together over beers, the neighbors on Wildrose Lane began making it together. Once Dave outgrew his Mr. Beer kit, his neighbors not only encouraged him to buy better equipment, they asked him to buy them brewing equipment, too. Beers were brewed and shared. Techniques and recipes were improved. Then, the crew headed west and enrolled in Tom Hennessy’s Brewery Immersion Course. They spent time making beer at Echo Brewing Company in Frederick, Colorado in order to learn how to go adapt their homebrewing know-how to making beer on a 7-bbl system. Soon after, the quintet established Wildrose Brewing Company.

You’ll find at least six beers on draft when you head to Wildrose, including their popular Big Sexy APA and Mad Cow milk stout. Be sure to check out Mornin’ James, an imperial coffee stout brewed with Bridgeport Coffee Company beans and aged in Journeyman Distillery barrels. Although the brewery focuses on pale ales and stouts, they plan to expand their portfolio with the introduction of their Oktoberfest and a fall pumpkin beer.
– Elizabeth Garibay

Year Founded: 2014

Location: Lemont, IL
Run By: Brian Pawola, Paul Ciciora, Don Ciciora, Ed Malnar, Ryan Weidner

Head Brewer: Brian Pawola

Flagship Beers: The Full Lemonty Golden Ale, Mazzie APA

Conjuring both a reverence for the past and an optimism for the future with their name, Lemont’s Pollyanna brings to life their namesake with delicate ales that emphasize subtlety. While sipping beers like Mazzie APA, a variety of lively flavors will bound across your palate like a game of tag. If there were a beer equivalent to the smart, playful books of Roald Dahl, or the music of Tiny Tim, Pollyanna would be it.

Pollyanna’s Eleanor Porter is a nod to American novelist of the same name, which incorporates Belgian (malt), German (hops), American (malt), and English (yeast) influences. It makes for a richly flavored, medium strength brew. Their other flagships are lighter in body and strength, like their Mazzie APA, which is available in 12-ounce six-pack cans across Chicagoland.

South Loop Brewing Company

Year Founded: 2014
Location: Chicago, IL (alternating proprietorship at Aquanaut Brewing).
Run by: Jeremiah Zimmer, Jude La Rose, Jason Maxwell
Head Brewers: Jeremiah Zimmer, Jude La Rose, Jason Maxwell

South Loop’s website reads “Chicago’s newest craft brewey,” an honor that, in today’s beer culture, makes a brewery unique for less than a few weeks. The brewery currently runs out of Aquanaut Brewing’s facility in a co-op fashion. Meanwhile, they are making headway on the build-out for a space at 18th and Prairie in the wake of a successful Indiegogo campaign.

South Loop plays with ingredients like a renegade chef left to their own devices in the kitchen. Their Milkstachio Milk Stout, a collaboration with Dryhop Brewers, showcases pistachio, cacao nibs, and lactose sugar. Saison du South Loop is brewed with lavender and Nelson Sauvin hops. The brewery continues to explore what it means to be a Chicago brewery and, though currently brewing on the North Side at Aquanaut, what it means to have roots farther south, in the South Loop. Find South Loop in 500ml bottles and on draft across Chicagoland, including Fruit Sloop American Pale Wheat Ale and Witka Witbier, a collaboration with Mike Ditka’s restaurant group, brewed with lime zest.

– Ian Wise



Year Founded: 2014

Location: Tinley Park, IL

Run By: Brandon Banbury and Chris Schiller 

Head Brewer: Brandon Banbury

Flagship Beers: Dominatrix IIPA, Vlad RIS, South Side Irish Red

Tinley Park’s first brewery made their debut on Saint Patrick’s Day 2014 at An Seanachi Irish Pub in Blue Island, IL. In one night, several barrels of Southside Irish were blown through – afterward, the hundreds who tried their beer drunkenly repeated Hailstorm’s name. Within weeks, their buzz in the surrounding neighborhoods had made them an imposing new force in the craft scene on Chicago’s South Side.

The brewery’s recent offerings are mammoths, ranging in ABV from 6% to over 13% ABV. Their Vlad beers are intensely flavorful, incorporating peppers, vanilla beans, and other spices, while their South Side Irish Red is a malty, sweet beer among the most approachable they make. Their primary package is 22-ounce bottles, many of which are small-batch releases that take place at the brewery. Recently, Hailstorm packaged Pacific Rim Pale Ale in 16-ounce cans, sold in four-packs. The Hailstorm team is making a bold statement for Chicago’s suburban beer scene – and a tasty one, at that.
– Ian Wise

Transient Artisan Ales

Year Founded: 2013

Location: Chicago, IL and Bridgman, MI

Run By: Chris Betts

Head Brewer: Chris Betts

Flagship Beer: Henry Porter, Ardent Saison

Transient founder Chris Betts, once a self-described Gypsey brewer, started his his brewery concept a few years ago at One Trick Pony in Lansing, IL. Inspired by Belgian and French brewing traditions, Betts creates “modern farmhouse ales.” Many of these beers exhibit acidic and funky yeast characters, driven by Chris’ use of oak barrels instead of stainless steel for fermentation. Some of Transient’s beers take months to complete fermentation, given the slow-working mechanisms of the bugs and yeast resident to the barrels he is using.

His barrel-fermented beers have become a hit with beer nerds of the sour/wild crowd. In an attempt to recreate flavors found in traditional Belgian Lambic, Betts has begun experimenting with spontaneous and open fermentation. His first such experiment, Pentamenter, is an “IL lambic-inspired ale.” Its lemony, earthy aromas and tart flavor bode well for a brewery looking to emulate old world brewing techniques.

In late-2014, Betts relocated Transient’s operation from One Trick Pony to Aquanaut Brewing Co’s facility in the Bowmanville neighborhood, mere blocks from Half Acre’s new production facility. There Transient has increased wort production and expanded their barrel program, including a variety of wine and whisky barrels of varying size. Bottles of Transient’s ales are hard to find – many of them are distributed through a CSA-style subscription service, which are dispensed at quarterly releases.

In summer 2015, Betts signed a lease on a facility in Bridgman, Michigan, where Transient’s brand will grow considerably, while still maintaining a Chicago presence through Aquanaut. Bridgman’s location – just east of Lake Michigan –was attractive to Betts in that its proximity to fruit orchards is favorable to brewing spontaneous beer. Take part of Transient’s growth by becoming a member of the Transient Reserve. Thank us later for telling you about it.

– Edmar

Illuminated Brew Works

Year Founded: Collaborating since 2012, licensed in 2014

Location: Chicago, IL

Run By:  Brian Buckman, Matt Shirley, Jason Monk

Head Brewer:  Brian Buckman

Flagship Beers: Orange Sunshine Saison, Kallisti Golden Ale

Sometimes you have to do it your own way. Illuminated Brew Works has been doing just that for the last few years. The founder, Brian Buckman, specialized in yeast cultivation and fermentation at Siebel, and it shows – IBW’s portfolio covers a wide array of yeast and flavor profiles.

Equally colorful are the names for some of the beers: The Emperor Norton, a Wit named for the so-called Emperor of the United States, Joshua Abraham Norton (look him up, peasants). Emporer Norton showcases New Zealand hops above a mild base of wheat and pilsner malt. Their Belgian Brown, Brown Reason to Live, named after the Butthole Surfer’s first LP, combines Special B crystal and Rochefort yeast for a rich a chewy foray into an often-overlooked style.

The brewery’s team is eclectic, to say the least: Matt Shirley, the general manager of Gourmet 45; Jason Monk, the manager of Grover Welding; musician Arman Mabry; and actor Wink Stone. With a team like that, crazy and wonderful things are bound to happen. Find their beer in 22-ounce bottles and on draft across Chicagoland. I recommend dining at Parachute in Chicago’s Avondale neighborhood, where Pareidolia, a kettle-soured farmhouse table beer, is the only beer available on draft.
-Robert O’Connor


Mikerphone Brewing

Year Founded: 2015
Location: Chicago, IL (Shares space with SlapShot Brewing Company)
Run By: Michael Pallen
Brewer: Michael Pallen
Flagship Beers: Disco Superfly Double Pale Ale, One-Hit Wonderful Belgian IPA
Michael Pallen can safely say he turned his passions into a living twice, with music and beer. He grew up around beer – his father worked at Miller’s in Milwaukee. At the University of Wisconsin he took a botany class in which he was given an assignment: grow a garden or brew a beer. “It was an obvious choice,” he said. The English Brown Ale he made earned him an A in what has to be the greatest assignment ever.

While getting a degree in marketing, Pallen promoted local bands in Madison and moved to Chicago to work in the music industry. “I wanted to eventually move to L. A. and work for Capitol Records,” Pallen said. He kept up homebrewing and eventually fell in with Pipeworks when they were starting up. He then started brewing at 18th St. Brewing, followed by Breakroom Brewery, and now Slapshot Brewing, whose space is also home Mikerphone Brewing.

Mikerphone’s beers are music-inspired, with labels – created by Nick Segura and Alyssa Cornet – and names that resemble album covers. Beers like Disco Superfly Double Pale Ale, Vinyl Frontier Lactose IPA, and Daft Funk Berliner Weiss give credence to the influence of music for Mikerphone. Having launched Mikerphone in Chicago in 24-ounce cans, and brewing for Slapshot, who also packages in 24-ounce cans, Pallen has a busy brew schedule and a bunch of “Big A$$ cans” on his hands. As for the future? “I hope to expand up to Wisconsin,” Pallen said, “since there’s nothing really like this up there.”
– Robert O’Connor


Vice District Brewing Co

Year Founded: 2014          
Location: Chicago, IL
Run By: Curtis Tarver II and Quintin Cole
Brewer: Andy Coleman
Flagship Beer: Habitual Black IPA

Founded by two neighbors from Chicago’s Hyde Park neighborhood, Vice District Brewing Co. is located in the South Loop. Their beers were conceptualized and honed at residential parties in their homes. Neighbors share folktales of seeing the two conspirators run across the street in a frenzy at “all hours of the night” to share revelations or improvements.
The brewery made a splash at several local beer festivals before opening their own location on South Michigan Ave. They make simple but exceptionally clean brews that have translated well from the basement to the brite tank. Habitual, their “dark Cascadian ale,” balances a modern American-style hop nose with a fuller mouthfeel. Everleigh ESB pulls back from American influence and relies on Fuggle and East Kent Golding hops for a beer that tips its hat to English brewing tradition. Don’t be surprised if Vice District’s beers make the South Loop a beer destination.
– Ian Wise


The Next Wave Breweries  is from our sister publication, Mash Tun Journal.

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