It's not a stretch to say that the people behind Temperance Beer Company are pioneers. For one, the brewery is the first to open in the city of Evanston since the Prohibition era; no simple feat in a community that was dry until 1972 and still has a practicing temperance movement.
And as it is with any brewery, there must always be a Brewmaster. Claudia Jendron is carving out her own path in a largely male dominated industry, and she's leaving quite the foot print. Her English Style IPA Gatecrasher has just won a silver medal at the Great American Beer Festival; a huge (and as we found out, unexpected) honor. On a recent trip along Evanston's Purple Line, we stopped in to chat with the award-winning brewer to discover her roots, what's going on at Temperance, and what the future holds for one of the country's brightest brewers (in our humble opinion).
First, congratulations on the silver medal at GABF! That must have been quite the experience.
It was amazing, we were really shocked. We all went out there and it was our first time submitting beer to a competition. We put it in there and went out there just for fun, to have a good time and enjoy the experience. We were sitting at the awards way in the back because we thought we'd leave after the categories had gone through. I was excited to get tasting notes afterward and just as a good experience for us. Then they said our name and I was like, "What!?" – just shaking. Luckily, I'd been there before, two years ago with Goose Island...in the same category. That's how I learned to brew an English Style IPA.
So what's your background?
Charleston, South Carolina is where I went to school. I grew up in Columbia, which isn't too far from there. At school, I took organic chemistry, I took physics, I took microbiology. I just didn't use it in that way until I got here.
What was your goal when you moved to Chicago?
I was looking for a conservation job – which is hard in Chicago, obviously. I really wanted to work for this non-profit and it never happened. I volunteered at the Shedd Aquarium. But you really have to volunteer for like, three years. Then you get an internship for three years. Then you finally get a job. That was kind of daunting!
That's a fairly random background for a brewer. How did brewing even cross your plate?
My grandfather used to homebrew and I would go over there when I was about three and just watch him. When I got to college, I just made friends with the hippies and we'd homebrew a lot.
When I moved to Chicago, I had a friend who worked at Goose Island who got me the job because I really needed money. I started as a receptionist and literally sat there and listened and saw things come across my desk. I learned a lot from there and quickly realized this is probably going to be what I'd end up doing.
The guys at the brewery would say, "You're not a receptionist are you?" They would ask me to come to the taste panel a lot because they wanted a woman's palette. And when I started talking about things, they figured out that I was a Biologist and said, "What do you want to do here?" They wanted to help me out. Even John Hall asked what I wanted to do. I told them, "I want to be a brewer. I don't want to be in marketing, I don't want to be in accounting. I want to be a brewer." So they did it. Right when I was moving over to the brewery side, the AB acquisition happened. After that it was definitely different. I was learning from these great brewers, but people were leaving.
So now, you're at Temperance; Evanston's first brewery since Prohibition. The city has a long history of being – how should we say – unfriendly to breweries and distilleries. How've you been received by the community?
It's been received well. The community loves it. We were at an event the other day and so many people said, "I live in Evanston. You guys have been the greatest part of this whole year. Thank you so much!"
Josh [Gilbert, Founder of Temperance] grew up in Evanston and knew that he wanted to start a brewery here. His wife is a lawyer so they just fought it; went to liquor control meetings, and made sure that they were going in the right direction. We needed a license that would allow us to not have a pint limit here and not have a full kitchen. There's no such thing as a 'bar' in Evanston. Every place that serves alcohol has to have a full kitchen. We do have to serve food but we didn't have to pay for a full kitchen. We didn't want to be a brewpub. We wanted to be a production facility with a taproom.
It helped us out a lot that Few Spirits was already here. They have a tasting room and a bottleshop. He's got a lot of really good publicity. He's putting Evanston on the map nationally, and of course the community leaders love that. I hope that this is turning into something where it becomes a destination for the people of Evanston. It has already, to some extent.
We hear the name Smittytown a lot from Temperance. What's that in reference to?
Smittytown is our ESB but the name came from Josh and his friends growing up. There's a Smitty's Towing place around the corner from here. It's really special! Josh called this area Smittytown. So then, when they found a place here, they had to name a beer after it.
Speaking of the area, what was this space before you took over?
I think it was a pet food supply place. It was just a warehouse. If you look at the aerial view of this building, it's huge. Back in the 70's it was a photo copier manufacturing facility. Once they sold, they broke it up. There's a Kindergarten on one side. On the other is a warehouse for dollar store things. There's an antique store that just moved in as well...
You guys are pretty well hidden back here.
We don't really mean to be obscure, hidden back here. It's more like we had to wait for the landlords to tell us we could even put a sign out front. There was a sign that we were going to add our name to – then it fell over. We would definitely like foot traffic to come through. Really, right now, it's just people who know about us coming here and having a beer because they want to enjoy craft beer. I would like people to drive by and say, "Oh, a brewery!"
We see a lot of barrels in the room back there. Where do you purchase your barrels from? Any plans for FOBAB?
What we've released so far was our porter, Root Down. That was aged in rye Few [Spirits] barrels. We aged our porter in it for seven months. We ran out of it in the taproom, but it will be re-released at FOBAB. We also have barrels from High West, in Park City, Utah. They aged their bourbon in the barrel; then they actually put a Manhattan cocktail in it, aged that in there, then empty them. Most are Manhattan, but one is a Boulevardier. It's like a Nagroni, but with rye. It's funny because I have been tasting them, and they do taste different. Those will also be released at FOBAB.
Do you get nervous entering your beers into festivals?
Yeah, you do. But really, I just want the tasting notes. These are legitimate people tasting your beers. I don't care if they're bad, I just want to know what I can do better.
Are there particular brewers in the city you find yourself closest with or talking to the most?
It is mainly John J. Hall at 5 Rabbit. I do talk to a lot of people at Goose Island still. They have always been supportive.
What about from a collaboration front? Do you have plans to work with anyone else?
I don't know if we really are going to do collaborations. I'm just trying to get my stuff done, and get our stuff going. So it's hard for me to take time to come up with a whole new beer. And with only four tanks, I don't have room to put another beer on that's not on rotation.
I sat down after getting off the stage at GABF and thought, "We've gotta make more beer." I was excited – but seriously, we need more help. I don't have an assistant brewer, though I'm training someone right now. Everyone needs help, you can't do it all by yourself.
Speaking of these four tanks..do you have plans to expand?
We do. We just ordered two more tanks, so I think it is a two or three month turnover.
In a perfect world where you have unlimited time and capacity, what would be your dream collaboration?
Five Rabbit. Because of John J., and how near and dear he is to me. I mean he was the one who taught me how to brew. After we won that medal, and they also won a silver which was awesome. I texted him from GABF asking, "Where are you!?" He was one of the first people I wanted to see. He is like a proud papa.
Other than that – and this is out of the blue, because they wouldn't do it – but Firestone Walker. Matt Brynildson is another Goose Island alumni that was one of those people to take me under his wing. It would also be cool to do a sour collaboration with Perennial. Phil Wymore is one of the people I call about souring. You have people who you call for different things. So brewing questions or brewhouse questions, I call Johnathan. Hopping, Matt Brynildson. And souring, I ask Phil.
So if I'm looking for a sixer of Gatecrasher, where's the best place to find it?
Right now, since we're in Evanston, and there isn't a Binny's in Evanston – Whole Foods and Trader Joe's are the places to go. Whole Foods has been really great. In the city: head to Binny's. First and foremost we want to be in Evanston and the North Shore area. This is our neighborhood, this is our community. We want to make sure that's supplied and then we're moving down to Chicago and taking care of the people there.
So, if you are not drinking Temperance, what's your go-to?
Well, in my fridge, I always have Bourbon County Stout.
Always. I bought a shit ton of it. I bought six cases when it came out.
That's one of the more unique answers we've gotten. Often it's like, "I always have PBR."
I do have PBR in my fridge, but like only one or two. Then I have Spiteful, because it is readily available, and Half Acre too. People bring beer here a lot when they're dropping by. It's like a nice house warming gift. But I will actually go to the store and buy Half Acre. I don't go to the store to buy much, but I will buy that. Their Pony Pils is my go-to.
So what is Claudia Jendron really excited about?
I am really excited for our sour to come out, probably next summer. I am excited for the FOBAB barrels, and see how they turn out. But, with the brewery, I really am trying to still soak in what we have been doing in the first year. I mean it has only been one year, and it can only get better. I am trying to figure out what we can do next...
We can't thank Claudia enough for taking time out of her Sunday afternoon to come into work, show us around, and share more than a couple beers with us. If you'd like to head up to Evanston to sample the goods, or just want to know more about their award-winning brewery: follow Temperance on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.
Photography by Jack Muldowney.