In the days leading up to our second South of 80 event during Chicago Craft Beer Week, we wanted to make you a little more familiar with our featured breweries, since we know that news from downstate doesn’t tend to get a lot of play up here. Today we take a look at what we consider to be hands down one of the most interesting brewers in the state, if not the whole Midwest: Scratch Brewing.
This band of brewers first got on our radar during our Save the Craft efforts when we traded a number of emails with Marika Josephson, then in the process of opening Scratch, which resulted in this tale. Since then, they’ve thrown open the doors down in tiny Ava, Illinois (pop: 662!), and just in the past month-and-a-half have seen a steady traffic of beer tourists from all over the country, seeking out these one-of-a-kind farmhouse-focused brews.
Scratch sits on a farm north of Carbondale and south of St. Louis, and it’s there that the Scratch crew is free to create pretty much anything they care to. In recent weeks their tap list has included a Carrot-Seed Biere de Garde, an Elderberry Black Ale and even a Licorice-Basil Stout. They use ingredients farmed on site and foraged from nearby forests and employ techniques like brewing over an open fire outdoors and using blazing-hot granite in the boil to create traditional “Stein” beers.
The best part is: it’s not just a gimmick. The stuff is good.
We sat down to sample some of their creations recently at The Green Lady, and were quite impressed with how solid of a beer these brewers can create with some admittedly bizarre ingredients. As brewer Aaron Kleidon said while we were sampling his beers, “We could brew all the normal stuff…but why would we?”
Why indeed, when their Arugula Rye Porter that uses all parts of the plant, from the peppery leaves to the roasted roots blended and boiled to create a rich coffee, chicory flavor. It is as complex and hearty as you want in the style but still smooth and easy-drinking. Or the Rose Root Biere de Mars, brewed over a fire with wild rose roots and a touch of sarsaparilla for a true “root beer” that’s both sweet and savory.
Shawn Connelly, a southern Illinois-based craft beer consultant, writer and Beer Philosopher calls the brewers at Scratch “fearless” in their approach to crafting unique beers. “I’ve probably sampled upwards of 15 beers out there to date and all have been above average to exceptional, which is quite a feat for a new brewery. Far and away one of the most inventive new breweries I’ve come across in some time,” said Connelly.
Come hang out with us at South of 80 during Chicago Craft Beer Week, and hopefully you’ll see why we’re so excited to have these guys join us at this event.
A reminder: While many Chicago Craft Beer Week events require tickets for admission, South of 80 2.0 is free to attend: just show up, drink the beer and enjoy. It’s our pleasure to help facilitate new and interesting brewers to come to Chicago; all we ask is that you join us to enjoy their efforts.
South of 80 2.0 takes place Tuesday, May 21st starting at 7 p.m. at The Green Lady in Lakeview. Beers from multiple downstate and St. Louis breweries will be on hand, many available in Chicago for the first time.
While there are many events taking place throughout the week, we do hope you’ll join us for a beer and help us raise a toast to the under-appreciated and under-recognized brewers that exist South of 80.