LOGAN SQUARE — Middle Brow Bungalow’s bread has become a hot commodity. Spots like Gaslight Coffee and Parachute use the acclaimed brewpub’s sourdough loaves on their menus. Grocers like Local Foods carry it in stores.
The owners were working on getting their bread into even more Chicago cafes, restaurants and grocery stores but then COVID-19 and widespread demonstrations against racial injustice and police brutality swept the city.
Now the owners are focused on getting their bread to people in under-resourced communities. This week, Middle Brow launched a beer and bread subscription service to fund bread giveaways on the South, West and Northwest sides.
“It’d be nuts to go out and look for a bunch of wholesale clients when we have families who are ready to eat the delicious, healthy bread we make,” co-founder Pete Ternes said.
Middle Brow is offering the subscriptions on a weekly basis. A basic bread subscription costs $7 a week, but for an extra $5 you can give a loaf to a family in need. You can add on Middle Brow beer — a bottle, growler or four-pack selected by the Middle Brow team — for an additional $11. The beer and bread must be picked up at the brewpub at 2840 W. Armitage Ave.
“Anybody who gets an iced coffee from anywhere understands that $5 a week isn’t going to break them. For $5 a week, they can give a family a nutritious bread,” Ternes said.
To get the bread to people in need, Middle Brow has teamed up with a number of local organizations and institutions, including Assata’s Daughters, Logan Square Neighborhood Association, Grace and Peace Church and Pilsen Food Pantry.
Ternes said it was important they partner with local organizations that are connected to the communities they serve. For a while, Middle Brow was offering free breakfast to public school kids but that program went through “fits and starts,” he said.
“We can make food easily, but distributing it to people who need it right now — we knew we needed help there,” Ternes said.
Middle Brow has been baking bread out of The Plant, a food production facility in Back of the Yards, for over a month now. The brewpub’s head baker, Jess Galli, runs the bread production with help from a few other bakers. The bread is made using local grains.
Ternes and his team launched a bread and beer subscription service months ago when COVID-19 first hit, but quickly shut it down after realizing they couldn’t fulfill all of the orders coming in with their tiny staff.
Like many other restaurants and bars in Chicago, Middle Brow was hit hard by the pandemic. The brewpub has been able to bring in revenue from bread, pizza kit and beer pickups, but Ternes said they’ve been “mostly [breaking] even.”
After the police killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis, Ternes and his team sprung into action, donating up to 400 loaves of bread to Chicago communities in need and hosting several supply drives.
Giving back has always been a mission of Middle Brow’s, Ternes said. The brewpub donates 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.
This is the only the beginning of the bread giveaways. Ternes said if they can sell enough subscriptions and get some grant money, the program will only grow.
“We’re confident that our community of customers and the broader Chicago community will be excited by the opportunity for new, creative ways to help chip away at systemic racism and marginalization,” he said in an email. “We think this is one such way, modest though it may be.”
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