AVONDALE — Metropolitan Brewing shipped its first beer 10 years ago this month — 16 kegs of Flywheel Bright Lager, the early incarnation of its Flywheel Pilsner Bier.
It marked a milestone for Chicago. There hadn’t been a new brewery to open in Chicago in a decade when Tracy and Doug Hurst opened their small spot in Ravenswood.
Fast forward to Saturday night, when Metropolitan will throw a 10-year anniversary bash. Chicago now has more craft breweries than anywhere else in the country — and Metropolitan is now one of its oldest.
After outgrowing its Ravenswood location, Metropolitan built out a stunning, Chicago River-facing brewery and taproom in Avondale with plenty of room to grow. Which is exactly what they plan to do.
Both Hursts joked that “surviving” long enough to reach a 10-year anniversary is pretty rewarding.
“I find it incredibly satisfying, because I’ve never worked harder in my life ,” Tracy Hurst said. “Honestly I also like the feeling of being an expert at something. That feels good.”
The festivities begin at 8 p.m. at the 3057 N. Rockwell St. taproom and will feature music by DJ Oliver Fade and Mystery Actions, interactive art installations (to get weird and take photos with) and fighting robots. Tickets for the party are $80, which includes a commemorative glass.
Metropolitan brewed a 10th anniversary California common style beer, 10th Gear, for the occasion.
“It’s inspired by the German immigrants who came to California with their lager yeasts but didn’t have good refrigeration, so they had to brew the beer a little bit warmer than they would like,” Doug Hurst said. “But it turned into a unique flavor.”
Saturday’s party will be the first time 10th Gear is on tap and may be the only time the beer is served to the public. Other beers set to be featured at the party include 2017 Barrel-aged Generator Doppelbock, 2018 Barrel-aged Generator Doppelbock infused with cherries and 2018 Barrel-aged Arc Welder Dunkel Rye, among others.
It Was Almost Alchemy Brewing
And they almost tried the name Alchemy Brewing.
But they soon learned another brewery in Vermont was already using that name, so they went with their second choice, Metropolitan.
“Doug really likes Art Nouveau and I really like Art Deco,” Tracy Hurst said. “So when we came across the ‘Metropolitan’ sign that’s over the Paris subway we checked with our attorney and no one had used it. So we took it and our graphic designer was thrilled.”
The name, combined with both owners interest in industrial imagery, is where the tradition of having beers named after mechanical parts comes from, she said.
“That’s a natural branch off of that, and the beer names are simply because we like engines around here, ” Tracy Hurst said. “All sorts of power, explosions and things like that are where the beer names come from. And we’ve barely scratched the surface on that.”
Looking forward, Tracy Hurst said some goals for the brewery in the near future includes hiring more people to continue to grow its relationships in the city.
“When we started I wanted the brewery to be a vehicle for talking about the way things should be. Being collaborative, taking care of and paying your people well,” she said. “Working with the community, breweries and neighborhood. As we’ve gotten more established, not only did we learn more but we can use the brewery for exacting good upon the world.”
Metropolitan moved into its current space, a retrofitted tannery from the 1880s next to the Chicago River, last year. The complex is being redeveloped Paul Levy into Rockwell on the River, a campus for artisans and food makers that currently houses both the brewery as well as Metropolis Coffee’s roasterie.
So, another goal is for the brewery to keep growing into its new home by continuing to tweak its space while also continuing hire more staff.
“Partly because giving out jobs is great, but also because we just need more people,” she said. “And also continue to be very active with the group trying to clean up the river and the Chicago Brewseum. And maybe take a vacation.”
Tracy Hurst is on the board of the Brewseum, a nonprofit focused on beer history that aims to open its own museum some day. It recently had a Chicago beer history exhibit on display at the Field Museum.
As Metropolitan hires more staff, its owners are also looking into expanding its reach into nearby states, but Doug Hurst said the goal isn’t world domination and that the brewery will always primarily be a Midwestern institution. Mainly because the fresher the beer, the better it tastes.
“So you won’t find our beer in California or Florida,” he said.
Tickets for Saturday’s party can be purchased here.
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