NORWOOD PARK — A local brewery is ready to invite guests into its first taproom in Norwood Park after six years of producing beer inside a West Town warehouse.
Illuminated Brew Works opened its IBW Lodge at 6186 N. Northwest Highway on Friday. It’s allowing the team to get back to producing funky beers and interacting with customers, said co-founder and brewmaster Brian Buckman.
“With the taproom, we can put new and weird beers in front of people’s faces and see what they think about them,” Buckman said.
The taproom is open 7-10 p.m. Mondays, 4-10 p.m. Tuesday-Thursday, 4-11 p.m. Fridays, noon-11 p.m. Saturdays and noon-8 p.m. Sundays.
Illuminated is known for experimental beers like tarts, sours and concoctions with fruits, cookies and cake flavors, as well as traditional selections like double IPAs, ciders, lagers and stouts.
Buckman and friends Matt Shirley and Jason Monk started the brewery in 2015 and went full-time managing the business in 2017. By the end of that year, Illuminated was contracting with Great Central Brewing Company in West Town, making 100-200 barrels of beer a month in their space and another 65 barrels of fermentation in a friend’s warehouse.
Illuminated sells its beer at restaurants, bars and stores around the city and has collaborated on with bars and restaurants including Parachute, The Publican, Lucky Dorr and Hayward Tavern.
Buckman called the brewery a “strange animal in the world of beer” and wants to get back to releasing special beers weekly, like Illuminated did before the pandemic.
Buckman also hopes his team can bring fresh beer energy to the community, which does not have very many breweries.
“As far as neighborhoods in the city, [Norwood Park is] pretty underserved relative to other neighborhoods for breweries,” he said. “The space was kind of perfect for what we needed.”
Buckman said the taproom and production area, which is a big upgrade in size from the previous production facility, will help Illuminated expand its barrel program and grow the brand.
The brewery distributes all over the city and in various states. Buckman said the taproom’s proximity to the highway makes self-distribution access easy. It was another reason the team chose to open on the Far Northwest Side.
The building, which used to house a fish-mongering business, has sat empty for at least 10 years, Buckman said. The brewery sits next to a car wash and wine shop WineStyles Norwood Park.
Buckman plans to host outdoor events with the neighboring businesses, like music shows in the parking lot.
For now, the team can’t wait to release their experiments with flavors and yeasts and bring new folks to Norwood Park.
“Last year, being what it was, we haven’t had many opportunities to do [be together],” Buckman said. “Having the taproom here is going to open that back up and let us start to play with beers again.”
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