Chicago Area’s Newest Brewery You’ve Probably Never Heard Of; One Trick Pony

In Beer News, Brewery Review by Ryan

photo courtesy One Trick Pony

What follows is a tale of determined, hard work by someone who wants to open a brewery and loads of detective work on our part. The result is equal parts admiration and intrigue for a brewery we still don’t know much about.

We first caught wind of One Trick Pony back in March after seeing their Craft Brewers License application pop up on the Illinois Liquor Control Commission website. And, yes, we really do routinely troll the ILCC website. That’s how we roll.

According to the craft brewers application, they were eying Lansing, IL for the brewery and were aiming to produce 230 barrels of beer in their first year of operation. The application also listed three beers One Trick Pony was registering with the state; Hanoverian, Spotted Saddle and Kisber Felver. But that was about all the information we were able to take away from the six page application and registration statement, so we went to the Googles to get more info.

There was none.

No website, no Facebook page, no twitter account. Nothing.

Since we are geeky enough to routinely visit the ILCC’s webpage we decided to up our nerd factor and hit up the Illinois Secretary of State’s webpage. We checked the licensed corporation database and, low-and-behold, One Trick Pony Inc had been registered with the state since the fall of 2011. A bit of detective work, cross-referencing the address on file and listed “Agent” for the corporation, led us to Chicago attorney Mark Kocol.

We emailed Mr. Kocol at his law office but got no response.

With craft breweries in Chicago multiplying like rabbits, and bloggers looking to be the first to introduce their readers to the areas newest brewer, we were bound and determined to track down more about One Trick Pony. Especially considering we could find so little out about the brewery.

Our next stop was the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau to search through their database for One Trick Pony’s labels. We thought, if Mr. Kocol had gotten this far in his paperwork, maybe he had a few labels that had been approved. And, as luck would have it, the three beers listed above all had label approval. But when we went to view the documents, we were met with an error message informing us we had to file a Freedom of Information Act request in order to view them.

Yup, they wanted a FOIA request for beer labels.

So we submitted a formal FOIA request…for beer labels.

And a few days later we were greeted with an email informing us the approved labels had been posted:

The labels gave us a bit more information about the beers listed including style, IBU and ABV. Spotted Saddle is a Pale Ale coming in at drinkable 6.1% ABV, Hanoverian is a wheat ale clocking in at 6.5% ABV and Kisber Felver is a black IPA rocking 90 IBU’s and 7.5% ABV.

The labels also provided us with an alternate way to contact Mr. Kocol.

So we took another stab at tracking down the seemingly elusive CEO of One Trick Pony. We sent a series of questions his way in hopes of finding out more about him, his brewing background, his beers, the horse thing and why there was no online presence for One Trick Pony.

The last question is what had us all baffled. We’ve become accustomed to breweries rolling out social media campaigns long before their beers are first brewed (Finch and New Chicago Beer Company) or well publicized Kickstarter campaigns building early interest in a budding brewery (Pipeworks, Arcade). Then there’s One Trick Pony, with zero online presence and only a handful of government documents giving us a tiny glimpse into their plans.

The less we knew, the more we wanted to know.

So why was information on One Trick Pony so hard to come by? Simple, Mr. Kocol was up to his elbows in getting the brewery off the ground. Beer first, publicity second.

We’ve told you before that starting a brewery isn’t easy. Remember Marika’s story in getting Scratch Brewing off the ground? Same thing goes for Mr. Kocol; it was paperwork and then more paperwork, locking in a location, buying the brewing equipment and brewing the beer. And he wanted to brew lots of beer. Because, let’s face it, there’s nothing worse than visiting a new brewery only to find half of their tap list is tapped out.

Full pints over Facebook “likes.”

In no way are we trying to “out” anyone here. Mr. Kocol knows we’re writing this and had no objection to it. In fact. he got back to us after our second means of contacting him, kindly apologized for not getting back to us sooner, and answered one question using the question itself, when asked why we can’t find any sort of online presence:

“…Or were you more focused on getting your ducks in a row?”
There’s your answer to #6.

Now, this isn’t to say that having a huge social media roll-out leading up to your brewery’s opening is a bad idea. Nor are we saying that any brewery should have been tweeting like crazy a year before they open. We were just a little surprised and, frankly, impressed to see the marketing take a backseat to the beer.

And that beer is ready to be poured. One Trick Pony had its grand opening on June 29th. And, according to its website, currently has seven beers on tap;

  • Spotted Saddle (American Pale Ale)
  • Gypsy Varner (American Amber Ale)
  • Hanoverian (American Wheat Ale)
  • Kisber Felver (American Black IPA)
  • Nordlandshest (Belgian Dubbel)
  • Kentucky Mountain (Barrel-Aged Old Ale)
  • Clydesdale (American Barleywine)

Eventually, Mr. Kocol, we’d love to find out more about you and One Trick Pony. And if we have to come to Lansing, IL for that to happen – then so be it. We’ll happily talk shop over a Hanoverian or a Nordlandshest. Until then, we hope the world catches up with all the work you put in to getting the brewery up and running, so the craft beer lovers in and around Chicago can find out more about One Trick Pony.

One Trick Pony:


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Equal parts beer nerd and policy geek, Ryan is now the curator of the Guys Drinking Beer cellar. The skills he once used to dig through the annals of state government as a political reporter are now put to use offering unique takes on barrel-aged stouts, years-old barleywines and 10 + year verticals.