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The Art in the Craft

Local craft beer purveyors answer call to creativity

Published: Tuesday, Oct. 29, 2013 11:22 a.m. CDT

Beer long has been associated with good times: backyard gatherings, relaxing after work, and (of course) sports! But in a sudden wave of grassroots enthusiasm, the market for brew has been cracked by the unassuming world of craft beer.

The change is evident when you walk into Lunar Brewing in Villa Park. You won’t find your standby Budweiser, Heineken, or Corona. Instead you’ll find a list of 40 craft beers, some with the Lunar label. Charlie Tierney is the owner of Lunar Brewing.

“We have seven of our own beers on draft, but it sells faster than the other beers,” he says. “We do seasonal beers and a couple of beers that are available year round… We brew what we want. It’s fresh and it’s not manufactured. It’s crafted.”

And the “craft” is what sets such beers apart from the crowd. Microbrewery purveyors say they have the freedom to do what they want because they don’t have the pressure to appeal to masses.

“[Craft beer is popular] because the fact that it’s not manufactured… There are some beers that have big advertising budgets and they’re the ones who are manufactured.” Tierney explained, “They’ve convinced the American public for the past 50 years that their beer is the best.”

But the beer world has changed, and continues to evolve, as small startups and creative brew masters push the boundaries of modern lagers and ale recipes, embracing unusual ingredients like fruits, coffees and herbs, and sometimes even returning to a product that harkens to beer’s earliest days.

“People have stopped listening to the advertising. They’re forming their own opinions,” Tierney says. “The macro guys are still making a lot of beer, but craft is becoming more popular because it provides more choices.”

Michelle Gomez is a manager at The Tap House in Westmont. She takes a lot of pride in craft beer, calling it  “artistry in liquid form.”

“Craft beer has become this generations’ wine,” Gomez says. She understands that pairing beer with food is more sophisticated than the traditional beer and burger or wings.

 “Wine and beer pairings aren’t really that different,” she says. “However, being that there’s a larger spectrum of flavor profiles in craft beer it allows for a wider variety of possibilities.”

The Tap House offers the staple beer-friendly menu of burgers, wings, and nachos, but specialties are meat and potatoes, chicken bruschetta pasta, fish and chips, and more. Tap House chefs demonstrate that beer can stand up to more sophisticated food.

On the other hand, The Beer House in Lombard focuses exclusively – make that obsessively – on beer. “We offer 60 beers on tap and we have hundreds in bottles,” says Denise Powell, general manager. It’s a constantly rotating list. There will always be new beers for you to try.”

The Beer House gets back to the heart of why people love beer – the good time. “We have live music and a lot of TVs if people like to watch sports,” Powell says. It’s layout enhances the opportunity for revelry, with long group tables and an expansive bar.

Craft beer has shown that it has versatility to be more than simply a trend. It has the traditional association of sports and fun at The Beer House and The Tap House and the sophistication of a Napa Valley wine bar at Lunar Brewing. Craft beer is about the creativity, the artistry and the good times.

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