LOGAN SQUARE — Since founding Middle Brow Beer Co. in 2011, the folks behind the experimental brewery have made it their mission to give back to those in need.
They’ve donated more than half of their gross profits of each beer release to local organizations focused on women’s health and violence prevention, among other causes. That equates to more than $20,000, according to co-founder Pete Ternes.
“Sometimes our profits were $0 on a beer, and we reached into our own pockets and donated $500 to a group” in need, Ternes said.
So when Ternes and his two partners — Bryan Grohnke and Nick Burica — landed a deal with investors to open a brewpub in Logan Square, their first brick-and-mortar space, they saw it as an opportunity to not only grow their business, but to give back even more.
“In a way, it’s alienating to be writing a check and walking away. We kept wanting to be more active with our community engagement,” Ternes said.
To that end, the brewers are rolling out a workforce development program that will allow them to hire at-risk workers. They’re planning to start out by hiring people considered at-risk for gun violence by partnering with local groups. Ternes named Lawrence Hall, which provides care to abused and neglected youth, and Chicago CRED, which works to give jobs to men most likely to be perpetrators or victims of shootings, as agencies he’d like to work with. The brewers hope to hire addicts and formerly incarcerated people in the future as the program takes shape.
They also plan to hire an on-site social worker to oversee the program, Ternes said.
Much of the details are still being worked out, but the goal is to launch the program by summer. Ternes has enlisted the help of his longtime friend and social worker Alison Larkin to get the program off the ground until he makes a permanent hire. He’s also planning to launch an online fundraising campaign to help pay for the position.
“It was a pretty intentional decision that the first direct service staff that we hire should not be me,” Larkin said. “We want folks in our program to be in the same community and have [the same] lived experience” as the job seekers.
The brew pub, called Bungalow, opened last Thursday at 2840 W. Armitage Ave., the former home of Dodd Camera, which has since moved next door.
During the day, the light-filled brewpub functions as a coffee shop and bakery, serving not just Middle Brow beer but also toast topped with unique ingredients like prickly pear jelly and ricotta ($6), coffee from Gaslight and to-go bread. At night, the brewpub serves fresh pizza ($13-17), salads and sides in addition to beer. Menus are listed online.
On the weekends, the brew pub will serve free breakfast to Chicago Public Schools students in need. Like the workforce development program, the free breakfast allows the Middle Brow crew to give back on a more personal level.
“We’ve just been gypsy brewers. My office was wherever I was standing, the front seat of my car. We have this building now and we can do it,” Ternes said, adding “It doesn’t mean we’ll stop donating.”
Bungalow is open 7 a.m. – 11 p.m. Sunday – Thurday and 7 a.m. – midnight Fridays and Saturdays.
Check out photos of the brew pub below:
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