SOUTH LOOP — Tyler Davis’ love affair with beer began with a sip of Leinenkugel — and it eventually led him to starting his own business, Duneyrr Fermenta Brewery.
In the seven months Davis has been in the former Motor Row Brewery space, 2337 S. Michigan Ave., the Siebel Institute-trained brewer has amassed regulars who swear by his menu of beer-wine hybrids, he said. Each flavor is inspired by any one of the dozen “a-ha!” moments he’ll jot down in his phone throughout the day.
“It’s almost like writing music. You can have the same four ingredients forever, and with the proportions of them each you can always create a different beer,” Davis said.
The business has been a long time in the making.
Davis’ family were long fans of Leinenkugel, and the North Shore native fell in love after a father’s friend gave him that first sip from a keg years ago. It became his north star when he started brewing at home 12 years ago, he said.
“It was unstoppable,” Davis said. “I remember going up to a lake house with my parents and their friends in the middle of Wisconsin, and there was Leinenkugel everywhere. It was a craft brewery before ‘craft breweries’ were a thing.”
Davis eventually worked at local breweries — including Lagunitas — before deciding to open his own spot.
Quitting his job and starting anew in the middle of the pandemic was risky, and not everything fell into place as smoothly as Davis had hoped, he said. He struggled to get support to start his own brewery as organizations focused on helping established businesses, he said.
Just after Davis began working at another brewery to save money, a spot in the South Loop became available. Once he saw it, he knew it would work for Duneyrr.
“There are so many people here and so little to do,” Davis said. “How are we the same distance from The Loop as the Gold Coast, but down here, there’s nothing? It made sense to open here because there are so many places on the North Side.”
The name Duneyrr — which means “winds of change” — seemed fitting for the venture, Davis said.
The brewery’s offerings are Nordic-inspired and go beyond a typical glass of beer.
Customers can try a wild hybrid ale aged in French Bordeaux oak barrels and co-fermented with merlot grapes, candied violets and vanilla — or they can sample an IPA made with a mix of hop varieties, Phantasm Power and mango powder. For margarita fans, there’s Strawberry Freyarita, which mixes the brewery’s Freya Franc with strawberries, guava and Duneyrr’s house margarita blend.
Davis said he takes pride in converting beer snobs and wine connoisseurs into hybrid lovers.
“My favorite thing in the tasting room scene is watching every single wine drinker come in and try something and go, ‘I like that,’ and I’m like, ‘Got ’em!'” Davis said. “Same with beer drinkers. It’s great.”
The alchemy involved in making the perfect drink can be as simple or as complex as its creator. For Davis, it’s about combining complex elements into something deliciously uncomplicated.
No combination of flavors is too risky to try, Davis said. The deeper he traveled into the world of natural wine, the more he noticed the similarities between natural winemaking and Belgian wild ale lambic brews, he said. While there are breweries that use wine grapes in their beers, it didn’t seem like any of them were fermenting the two together, he said.
By fermenting the beer, adding wine and re-fermenting the two in the same tank, Davis had done something practically unheard of.
And for his process, any good grape will do. Davis gets them from all over the country. Some vineyards in upstate New York and southern Illinois produce grapes similar to those found in France, Davis said.
“For brewing, I get to grab from anywhere. It’s about the beer I’m making,” Davis said.
Though the past few months have been rocky — the Omicron surge forced Davis to close for two weeks after working nonstop as the tasting room’s lone bartender — he’s optimistic about the future. He has plans for expanding and taking over the second floor of the building to convert it into a live music lounge.
Davis is also gearing up for the summer so neighbors can fill up Duneyrr’s sidewalk patio.
Duneyrr Fermenta is open 4-10 p.m. Thursday-Friday, 1-10 p.m. Saturdays and 1-7 p.m. Sundays.
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