It’s been a long time coming. And now the Beer Temple Taproom is almost here.Chris Quinn is finally ready to talk.
About two years after first broaching the subject about a forthcoming taproom project with me at Beer Under Glass (at the Scratch Brewing table, if memory serves), we’re just weeks away from seeing what Quinn, proprietor of the award-winning Beer Temple bottle shop in Avondale, can do in the craft beer bar realm.
If you think that’s just a little nervewracking, you’d be right.
“I’m kinda petrified,” he tells me, “because I know nothing about running a bar…but I knew nothing about opening a bottle shop either, so there’s gonna be some of that learning too.”
Based on how well the bottle shop has gone, there seems to be no particular reason for concern about the taproom being anything less than exceptionally thought out. “I tend to go pretty slowly with this stuff,” Quinn says, referring to the long gestation period of the new taproom. “I sit, and I think and I think…probably way more than is necessary or healthy. I’ve been thinking about this for a long time, so if I screw it up, I have no one to blame but myself.”
BTW: Just for funsies, we’ve also built a quick executive summary here with fun bullet points about the taproom.
Here’s the basics — in a lot of ways, the Beer Temple Taproom is actually going to be the city’s newest and certainly fanciest “slashie.”
“Slashie”, of course, is the Chicago term (which I don’t actually like along with many others, but is used commonly enough in modern parlance) referring to a liquor store and bar combo, but usually it’s a dingy bar primarily pouring months-old Old Style to indifferent patrons one one side and on the other, a fluorescent-lit row of coolers filled with the finest of malt liquors and other uninspired high-gravity options.
I know nothing about running a bar…but I knew nothing about opening a bottle shop either.Chris Quinn
Quinn doesn’t shy away from the term, though. “It will be a slashie in a lot of ways,” he says. “Just like…the Beer Temple is a liquor store. That’s what I tell people all the time. We’re a real good liquor store that specializes in beer; that’s what we want to be in the slashie form as well. We think the store will be better, and the bar will be the companion to the bottle shop in terms of quality.”
That bar will feature twenty draft lines along with the option to pour beer on cask as well. Even cooler, those twenty draft lines will be flowing from one of the few dual-chambered coolers in the country.
This means that beers which would benefit from a warmer temperature don’t have to be served damn near freezing like basically every other bar on the planet. Which, if you’re a beer geek, is pretty awesome.
Yes, If you love those beers that benefit from a slightly warmer temperature, but are sick sick sick of getting one poured at 33 degrees making you wait for it to open up and become worth your while, you’re in luck. And it’s not just big stouts and barleywines that benefit from a warmer pour.
“You can do a lot with stuff at a warmer temp,” Quinn says. “A traditional English style like a bitter or a Belgian saison or Belgian triple can be at a little warmer temperature. There’s a lot of range you can have, even a double IPA. But it’s not just going to be a stout room.” And, of course, nice crisp pilsners, pale ales and beyond can still come to you at a nice frosty 38 degrees as well. Turns out you can have it all.
Why a bar, though? Why not an expanded store? Or another Beer Temple in another neighborhood or another city? The answer lies not in any overwhelming desire to be a publican (at least so far as I can tell) but rather…an educator. And also, for Quinn to finally have the bottle shop he really wanted from the start.
I’m kinda spastic in that I want to do everything.Chris Quinn
“I was never able to put out the store I had envisioned,” he says. “In a way, I wanted to be able to do more education and having a draft component really helps that. And I’m like, I’m not just going to have a draft program just to do that, and I thought — maybe this is the home place for all the Beer Temple stuff. This could be our flagship.”
So the whole facility is going to be tricked out with things like a high-speed data connection. Sound deadening for future video podcasts and possibly radio shows or podcasts. An example Quinn floated would be hosting a brewer as a guest on his Insiders Roundtable show and podcast, and then being able to tap something special from that brewer after the show.
“I’m kinda spastic in that I want to do everything,” he explains. “I wanted to have one place where I can do everything I wanted. That’s why…I didn’t just open a bar next door.”
It turns out that doing everything he wanted includes basically revamping the entire bottle shop as well.
The whole facility is changing locations, moving a couple doors down (still in the same building though, same parking lot and everything) and when you enter, you’ll walk into a vestibule where you’ll head left to check out the shop, and turn right to visit the taproom which actually wraps around the shop. There’s going to be tons more cold storage on hand, so if a brewery packages their beer cold, stores it cold and delivers it cold, “there’s a good chance that when the customer buys it, it will be the first time it’s ever unrefrigerated,” Quinn says.
If it sounds a little like a beer cave, that’s by design. Cold may not feel that great inside during a chilly Chicago winter, but for beer, keeping it refirgerated is vital. As Quinn puts it, “everything that’s great about beer caves for the beer is terrible for the beer shopping experience. We’re trying to give [the customer] a good beer shopping experience while taking care of the temperature experience as well.” And we’re not talking about a dim, stainless-steel cell filled with 30racks of Busch. “It’s going to be well lit, quiet, the shelving is gonna look like actual shelving — that’s what we’re excited about doing,” Quinn says.
Beyond that, the separation between bottle shop and taproom will be distinct — but the lines do blur a bit in one interesting way.
“I personally don’t like to drink beer in a store. And I don’t want to shop for beer in a bar. Those things are very different experiences. So I’m trying to heighten each one of those,” Quinn says, but he’s also combining them in an interesting way as well.
Rare beer isn’t rare. Chris Quinn
For example, if you’re drinking at the bar and you have a tab open, you can walk into the bottle shop, grab a beer or two to take home and have them simply put it on that existing tab. If you’re drinking something on tap and it’s for sale in a package to go, a bartender can add it, and you can walk out the door with it.
As for the draft program itself, I’m just going to take the next few paragraphs to let Quinn explain it himself. It’s better in semi-manifesto style, and suffice to say, don’t expect a parade of whales on tap at all times:
“Very much like our bottle shop now, we’re going to focus on bringing you the best examples of beer that we can, from a variety of styles. I guarantee that there will be plenty of local beer represented. But sometimes, I think some Belgian styles, the best examples of it come from Belgium, and that’s what I’m going to put on. It’s going to be perhaps more of a geographically eclectic list than other places.”
“I am…really looking forward to introducing people to breweries that they’ve never had before, or beers that they’ve had before that have never been presented to them quite the way that we’re going to do it. Be it as fresh as they’re going to do it, or for some other reason. We are talking specifically with several breweries about being part of our beer program, and having some steady handles from breweries who literally do not have a single steady handle in the entire country. And there’s more than one of those.”
“[And] that’s a great thing with a draft list. It’s concise enough that people will see all 20 beers, and we can have a writeup about each one and pique people’s interest. And hopefully we can have them kinda explore and have beers they haven’t had before. People have heard me say many times before: I’d rather have an empty space on my shelf than a bad beer. That goes for the bar too.”
“Our mission isn’t to be the bar that gets all the crazy whales that are super hard to find. That doesn’t interest me. I think we could do a pretty good job of achieving that if we wanted to…but why? I’ve said before: Rare beer isn’t rare. It’s what you’re putting on and why. If we’re serving you beer that you’ve seen all your life but you’ve never had it as fresh as you get it at our place, that’s rare. That’s a special experience, as opposed to the ‘rarest’ thing to go after at any given time.”
“That’s what we’re trying to make this place be.”
What’s best for the beer?
Other than selling beer at the taproom and the store? Back to the education part of this: Classes.
Think: Beer 101. Style specific classes. Everything you want to know on a variety of beer topics. Study groups. “If you want to dive in, I would love to see a regular study group meet for the Advanced Cicerone. That’d be something I’d love to see at the shop. To see people come together to appreciate great beer,” Quinn says.
Beyond that, there will be just a few other non-beery things on hand at the taproom — a limited selection of spirits, a small wine list, craft soda, Dark Matter coffee. No food, but they’ll work with nearby restaurants to integrate some options into what’s available.
Otherwise, it’s (as you may have figured out by now) all about the beer at The Beer Temple.
“As we’ve been building this thing from the ground up, we’ve been saying: ‘what’s best for the beer?'” Quinn says.
Whatever they decide is best for the beer, it’s definitely going to look a lot like what you’ll see when they thorow open the doors sometime soon.
The Beer Temple Taproom is shooting for an open date in mid-June, somewhere near the annual Anniversary party for the original bottleshop.
See you there.