If you have been to any event where Church Street Brewing Company is pouring you’ve likely seen Brand Manager Chet Brett. Maybe you haven’t talked to him, but you’ve certainly seen him. You see Chet’s tall. Like, really tall. And he’s kind of hard to miss, whether he’s behind a row of tape handles or weaving through a crowd.
His height, however, is matched by his personality and his devotion to all things Church Street. The man loves Church Street’s beer and once you take a sip or two you’ll see why. The brewery is churning out approachable, true-to-style European beers that will appease a longtime craft beer drinker without frightening someone looking to expand their palate.
After meeting Chet and working our way through Church Street’s offerings at Beer Under Glass a few months ago we had to know more about the Itasca brewery and its ever-expanding footprint in the Chicago area. So slide on down the pew and take in a homily on Church Street Brewing Company.
Guys Drinking Beer: Let’s start with the easy stuff, Chet, what’s in a name? Why Church Street — because you’re not actually on a street named Church?
Chet Brett: Originally the brewery was supposed to be on Church St in Addison IL but due to considerations beyond our control the lease couldn’t be executed and since the wheels of government approvals and all the regulatory hoops (as all of our friends in other breweries can attest) you have to jump through take time we didn’t want to go backwards.
So, we kept the Church Street name (and Industrial Drive Brewing Company doesn’t quite click).
GDB: We’ve seen and posted a number of your approved beer labels that have come through in the last couple of months. Talk to us a bit about your beers; what kind of styles are you focusing on? And what do you want craft beer drinkers to take away from the styles you brew?
Brett: Fortunately I joined a brewery with a brewmaster, Joe Gregor, who has a very keen vision of the types of traditional beer he wanted to brew.
Joe can name a town or region and brew the very unique style and taste that typifies that area. Take our Heavenly Helles — it is a Munich style lager that is brewed using the brewing technique of decoction mashing. There are very few breweries in the United States that do decoction mashing and they don’t do it for a few reasons: they don’t have the ability to do so because their brewhouse hasn’t been designed to do it, it takes more time and costs more.
But it is essential to bring out the very clean, light body, malty, balanced beer that it is.
GDB: How’s the craft beer culture in Itasca and how do you see Church Street fitting in to the Chicago area craft beer scene overall?
Brett: As they say, “build and they will come.”
Since we opened our doors in the fall we have seen the crowds come streaming in. We have a very welcoming brewery and when we open our doors on Thursday and Friday afternoons we become a meeting place for craft beer lovers and homebrewers from all over Chicagoland.
One of the many great things about the craft beer ‘scene’ is that as many breweries as there are in operation there are that many different ways at approaching producing great beer.
We are establishing Church Street as a brewery that is approachable, inclusive and classic.
GDB: Where can people find your beer now?
Brett: All over Chicagoland.
All the way to the borders of Wisconsin and Indiana down south past Bourbonnais out to Morris (a real nice craft beer town). Ask for it today and if they don’t have it, then the bar or restaurant can call our distributor and they’ll have it within a day or two.
We list the spots that are carrying it too on our website.
GDB: Any plans to expand? Statewide? Midwest? Nationwide?
Brett: Joe has done what a lot of new breweries would love to have done — built the brewery with the expansion already built. We have the ability to brew quite a lot of beer. In fact, we have a state of the art 30 barrel brew house and can produce enough beer to meet the growing thirst of the Chicagoland beer lovers for a while.
As for the rest of the state and beyond — we are constantly expanding our reach and would love to have it available to as many beer lovers as possible. As I said to John Hall at his 25th Anniversary party at Goose Island, I look forward to welcoming him to our 25th anniversary in 2035 (you’re all invited too).
GDB: It looks like you’ve got a good team assembled over there, including the likes of Marley and Swiffer. Curious how they fit in to the corporate hierarchy at Church Street?
Brett: As any dog lover will tell you they just make people happy. Maybe we’ll have a “bring your dog to the brewery day,” even if we just have them out on the grass behind the brewery (not sure all the other pooches would know their way around a brewery as well).
GDB: In all seriousness, brewery pups aside, who else is behind the operation at Church Street?
Brett: I’ve spoken of Joe but as he very quickly points out we are brewery that is run by a woman. Joe’s wife, Lisa Gregor, takes care of all of the real important business with the town, county, state and federal governments. She runs the day-in-day-out business of the brewery.
Inside the brewery our brewery manager is Jon Addison. He’s been there since day one helping build the brewery from, literally, the ground up. He can tell you anything you wanted to know about building-out and maintaining a modern brewery.
TJ Bachorz is our assistant brewer. TJ has been homebrewing for years and has studied at Siebel. His youth adds another voice to help establish our brand.
GDB: There are a lot of brewery’s up and running in the Chicago area and even more set to come online in the coming months and years. What sets Church Street apart from what’s currently out there?
Brett: Like I mentioned earlier, we have clear vision of producing traditional European style beers in a very big, modern brewhouse. We love welcoming people and sharing the brewery with beer lovers and even casual beer drinkers.
GDB: Finally, what’s your favorite beer — brewed in the Chicago area or otherwise — that doesn’t have a Church Street label?
Brett: My next one. Fortunately I have a job where I get to drink a lot of great beer from some of the countries best brewers. I know this is going to seem like a little bit of a cop-out but it is really hard to pick a favorite.
William and James at Flesk are making some delicious beers.
Carson and Brian and the team up at Pig Minds have got a nice thing going on in Machesney Park (by Rockford).
But if I was picking one I’d say Pete Crowley at Haymarket makes some of the best beers I’ve tasted and his Assailant Double IPA would be a nice one to start with.
Church Street Brewing Company
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