RAVENSWOOD — After many years of dreaming and multiple pandemic-related delays, Urban Brew Labs is settling into its new taproom in Ravenswood.
Located in the former home of Koval Distillery at 5121 N. Ravenswood Ave., the taproom features a bigger-than-expected indoor area, a modest outdoor patio and a wide array of taps — including some taproom-only features.
“We’ve been wanting to open a taproom since we first opened. So this has been in the works for a long time,” said taproom manager Caroline Krol.
“The people who have stopped inside the taproom since we opened in July are pleasantly surprised by it. We usually hear people say it’s a lot bigger inside than they originally thought.”
The building was formerly home to Metropolitan Brewing before that brewery moved to Avondale. Urban moved into the space in 2018 and initially had Koval Distillery as a next door neighbor. When it came time to set up a taproom showcasing Urban’s brews in 2019, the owners considered taking over the now shuttered Andersonville Brewing, 5402 N. Clark St., Krol said.
“We were going to take over that space in Andersonville because Koval was still next door to our brewery. But then Koval moved down the street on Ravenswood and it just worked out and made more sense, financially and logistically, for us to build our taproom here to have it all in one place,” Krol said.
But the pandemic led to delays. The wooden taproom tables were backordered and it took three months for them to finally arrive, Krol said. The renovation took up most of 2020 and final city approval for its opening didn’t happen until July.
“We wanted to keep the exposed brick to go with a Ravenswood Malt Row kind of industrial architecture,” Krol said.
People who visited Koval’s former gift shop at the address may remember it was a small storefront with bottles and other merchandise for sale, and where people who were taking tours of the distillery would wait for the next showing.
Removing walls separating the former distillery from the gift shop allowed Urban to open up the space into a large taproom that now features televisions, high ceilings, a large bar and, most importantly, a 19-tap draft keg system to showcase Urban’s brews.
“We do have some beers that are taproom exclusives like the Skull and Oats oatmeal stout,” Krol said.
Other taproom exclusives include Urban’s Beta Secret Galaxy IPA — an American Amber Ale brewed with Maris Otter, Munich, Victory, Caramel, Rye and Chocolate malts with a big late addition of Simcoe, Chinook, Centennial and Idaho 7 hops — and Trippin’ Bels Belgian Tripel — which is made with locally sourced honey and has notes of caramel, banana and vanilla.
The brewery has also hosted a few Mario Kart tournaments and bingo events. Krol has also expanded the event’s programing to include yoga classes.
“And Oct. 30 we’re having a Halloween party with a DJ spinning some records and a costume contest” she said.
The taproom doesn’t have a kitchen and only sells snacks like potato chips but Krol encourages customers to ask the taproom staff which restaurants deliver to Urban.
The taproom is open Monday through Thursday 3 p.m.-8 p.m., Friday and Saturday 12 p.m.-10 p.m. and Sunday 12 p.m.-8 p.m. For the latest information about the brewery and taproom visit its Instagram.
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