Building a brand with Corridor's Eileen Garrity

LAKEVIEW, CHICAGO

A look into the inner workings of Lakeview's newest brewpub, Corridor Brewery & Provisions, with brand manager Eileen Garrity

Amidst the wealth of breweries we have in Chicago, there's a surprising lack of brewing happening in one of the city's most popular and affluent neighborhoods. With what has become the real bastion of Lakeview brewing, DryHop Brewers, the neighborhood has been itching for it's craft beer companion.

Thankfully, Lakeview imbibers are about to get another option in the form of Corridor Brewery & Provisions, the second project from the minds behind DryHop. After chatting with owner Greg Shuff and Brewmaster Brant Dubovick shortly after they opened DryHop two years ago, we looked to sit down with one of the brewpub duo's other driving forces, Creative & Communications Director Eileen Garrity. She shared what it's been like to market, grow and expand a brand in just two years, with West Lakeview's newest addition, Corridor, opening October 15. 

Alright Eileen, before we discuss this awesome space, let's dig into your background. How did you end up in this role?

My previous gigs? One was at a tech firm – a start up tech PR firm based in San Francisco – but I worked remotely here in Chicago. That's what I was doing right before this (DryHop), I was promoting tech start ups, doing PR and marketing. Before that I was at Cramer-Krasselt, which is a midsize ad agency here in Chicago, working on consumer accounts.

That's quite a different lifestyle from working at a brewery. How did you make that transition?

In college, and I'm sure we had pretty similar experiences, you're drinking pretty shitty beer. I feel like after moving to Chicago, you're exposed to this whole other world you had no idea existed. I started going to places like the Map Room and Hopleaf, which is how I got into craft beer in general. I realized I didn't have to drink PBR anymore. So it was a natural transition from college to adulthood and figuring out there is more to the world than what you experience on campus.

I was working at my last firm and re-evaluating where I wanted to go in my career. I made a list of things I was interested in. I picked a top three, and the one in which I thought I could get a job – craft beer. I reached out to most breweries in Chicago, but most of the big guys already had marketing departments set up. Folks don't leave those jobs...because they're awesome and hard to get. In May 2012, DryHop was in a very tiny snippet in the Red Eye, and I had never heard of them. I went to their website and sent an email through their general form. Our owner, Greg [Shuff] got back to me right away. He was looking for a marketing role, and I just caught him at the right time. After that, we met up frequently to discuss strategy and ideas I had for DryHop. I finally got the official offer in December of that year; so I am coming up on my three year anniversary.

What's your day to day like?

Haha, that's a good question! Everyday is completely different, which I love. We have an office across the street from Dryhop so that's my home base, along with our office manager and Greg. But I'm constantly hopping back and forth to the office to chat with people about things. I feel like I'm at my desk maybe 50% of the day. The rest I'm on my feet out and about at meetings, or I'm going to a chamber related event. Sometimes I'm writing for a few hours, sometimes I'm coming up with social media ideas. Sometimes I'm taking photos. Photography was kind of a hobby of mine before DryHop and I've been able to do that a little bit more, which is fun.

Eileen, you need an intern!

I'd like to hire a paid intern that would turn into a full time marketing assistant. But that will not be this year, next year maybe. Right now I can absolutely handle everything DryHop and Corridor related. But we'll see once Corridor is up and running if it's going to get crazy.

How was the opening at DryHop compared to what you've experienced so far with Corridor?

It's different in that DryHop was everyone's first brewery, and there was a learning curve overall. With Corridor, there were so many things that were already set in place. We knew who to talk to about this or that license – who to talk to about X, Y & Z. The foundation was already there, which definitely saved a lot of time...DryHop seems like eons ago now.

So now you have two breweries, doing similar things, but under different names. Why go with that approach and not just create "DryHop West"?

From the beginning when Greg formed the team, he always said his goal was not to create a chain of brewpubs. He wanted to create separate unique brands, each with their own identity, food, and beer programs. It's more fun that way, and presents new challenges with each. It's not just copy-paste. That was a big win for me joining the team, knowing that not only was there a plan to open additional brewpubs, but that they had their own voice. It has to be seen more as a restaurant group than a chain of brewpubs.

The space is an awesome footprint. Can you tell us a little about the layout and how it compares with the other brewpub?

So Corridor is about 3,000 square feet with 18-foot bow truss ceilings which give it a Midwestern-barn-farmhouse kind of vibe. The original building had bow truss in the back only, so we rebuilt it and brought it all the way through the long space. When you enter in the front you will see a small bar – about 11 seats – that will wrap around into a number of six-person booths that the bartenders will tend to as well.

Then, down the center of the dining room there's a banquette, similar to DryHop, and a number of two and four tops in the front of the dining room. We have the same Nano-Wall system that DryHop has that will allow us to completely open the front for an open air feel.

In terms of the brewery – right smack in the middle of the space are the tanks. Similar to DryHop, but there we have the brite tanks stacked behind the bar; and here at Corridor's bar we have the brites stacked on top of the fermentors. The high ceilings have given us a lot of opportunity to play with the design, and make it feel airy and bigger. All the way in the back is the brewhouse. We like to display all our brewing equipment, but constraints of the space restricted us from doing that here. Even though the spaces are almost the same size, we're going to have 20 more seats at Corridor than DryHop.

Eleven seats is a pretty small bar, especially compared to DryHop.

We wanted the bar here to have a more intimate feeling. At DryHop, sitting at the bar is part of the whole experience. Here we wanted the bar to be a special space near the front, but with more intimate seating around it. We have a lot of booths for parties of four to six. Everyone loves a booth. We could have done the same thing as DryHop and wrapped the whole bar, but we didn't do that on purpose.

DryHop can get pretty crowded as far as standing room. Will there be any extra room here?

There won't be a lot of standing room. You'll maybe be able to be two or so deep at the bar, and then where the booths are there will be a little more space, but there really won't be much standing room. We'll be able to control the feeling of the space, and it won't have that super crowded bar feeling.

So, the beer. What's the system size here?

Same as DryHop – a ten-barrel brewhouse, and ten-barrel tanks. And six drafts on at any given time, again just like DryHop. We will have guest drafts as well, but with a focus solely on craft cider. The plan right now is to offer three different ciders, which will change on a regular basis. We wanted to focus on the cider. It kind of fits with our Belgian farmhouse theme, and we wanted something else to offer. Also going off the demographic over here, there are a lot of young people, but also a lot of families and mothers. We thought ciders would fit the neighborhood well.

You mentioned Greg's desire to create a unique brand? How are you differentiating the two on the menu?

At a high level they're both breweries and restaurants. But when you dial in, DryHop is focused on hop-forward beers. The menu is gastropub – delicious comfort food, that maybe is not super healthy, but you're going to love eating it. At Corridor, the food and beer programs are completely different. The beer is focused on Belgian Farmhouse. Our year-round beer will be a lactose nitro IPA, because you have to have an IPA.

Not exactly a farmhouse beer...

It's not Farmhouse at all, that will be our constant year-round beer. But the three other offerings will be Belgian Farmhouse inspired. There will be a seasonal, and one other hoppy beer. The food program over here is a little different in that we have a clay fired oven in the back that we'll use to make flat breads and oven baked sandwiches. We will have a small number of entrees but then also some pretty hardy, yummy salads.

There is so much more to explore. Going the Belgian Farmhouse route, there will certainly be more education that needs to happen for consumers that are not familiar with the style. There are a lot of people who are scared off by strong yeast flavors or yeast-forward beers.

With so many breweries in Chicago, what's it like being one of only a couple brewers in a neighborhood as large as Lakeview?

Greg wanted to be the one to open a brewery in Lakeview. He lives here and loves it. There were no breweries here at the time we opened DryHop. He is always looking at real estate in the city. When we saw this space, we knew it was still Lakeview, but West Lakeview is so different to Lakeview East. These neighborhoods just feel different. We felt good about being each neighborhood's neighborhood brewery.

Obviously you're just opening Corridor, but do you see a third location in the future?

Greg is 28, I'm 30, Brant is a little bit older – but we have a really young team and I think there is a lot of potential for additional brewpubs down the line. That is the goal of the company.

DryHop was the first in Chicago to adopt the "crowler." We see they're making a return at Corridor. The reception to them must've been great.

Absolutely. I feel like the 64oz growlers are perfect for the person who lives down the street and is refilling it weekly. But for folks who maybe come in once a month, the cans are just an easier option. They're recyclable, they're small, they're robust, you can take them on your bike or in a bag...I mean, I don't buy glass growlers from DryHop anymore. The cans have definitely surpassed the 32oz glass growlers we were selling. We're pretty excited to have these guys.

Can you tell us about the Corridor design and branding and where that fits in?

Tony Deboom out of Colorado is our designer. He was found by Greg because he purchased a shirt of Tony's at a skateboard shop. Tony owns a really cool company called Endurance Conspiracy. It's focused on the outdoors. Tony himself does a lot of photography of the outdoors, bike stuff, and all sorts of things of that nature. Greg had this tshirt of a yeti standing next to a bike. He said "Eileen, find out who this designer is, I want to use him for Corridor." So we reached out to Tony. He hadn't really done a lot of work for breweries before but was super interested.

We said, what is our brand ID? What do we want it to look like? How do we want to have the outside consumer view us? Well we're going to be Belgian Farmhouse... kinda vintage-y, old, but approachable. Belgian beer, biking, the radler – it all kind of came together. Obviously New Belgium is amazing and a bike is their quintessential logo. So we didn't want to do that, but it would be cool if we could integrate a bike in some way. So Tony was like, "Let's make him a human, who's face you can't quite see." Later, the C.B.P. shield made its way into the plethora of branded things too.

Getting sweaty and dirty and cursing at things going wrong all day. For me, it was a very humbling experiencing to find out what other members of our team are going through.

We know you've also tried your hand at brewing a few beers in the past...

Yeah, for two years in a row for Chicago Craft Beer Week we've done a "Women of DryHop" beer where all the female employees get together and brainstorm a recipe. We run it by Brant to make sure it is not totally crazy and makes sense. I have also gotten to shadow during brew days and it's really fun. You learn more about the entire process by getting your hands dirty. It's also good to get the perspective of the brewer's day to day life. Getting sweaty and dirty and cursing at things going wrong all day. For me, it was a very humbling experiencing to find out what other members of our team are going through.

And wasn't there a women of Chicago craft beer as well?

Yea, that was at Temperance. Claudia [Jendron, head brewer] hosted it and it was 40-45 women in the industry or who are really into craft beer. They were all there for that brew day which was really cool.

We speak to a lot of people in craft beer. In such a male dominated industry, how has your experience been?

I would say from the very start, I was welcomed into the community. The first DryHop event we did was at Northdown, in December of 2012, and I remember going in being kind of nervous in this new role. But every single person – brewer, consumer, bar owner – was super excited to have someone else who was just as excited to be part of the industry. I have never felt looked down upon for being female, or felt any kind of judgement. The only thing I've noticed is that sometimes, when talking to consumers, you'll have people who are surprised that I work for a brewery.

What are you drinking when you're not at work?

At home I keep Two Hearted in my fridge. That's always in there.

As it should be.

Oh yea. And if I'm at my local bodega, I'll pick up a Daisy Cutter or Revolution's Rosa. I really like prosecco in the summer months. If I'm beer'd out, I'm gonna have a really strong cocktail, probably made with Chartruse and egg whites.

Where are you going for that cocktail?

Probably Barrelhouse Flat. I love that place; there or Scofflaw.

What's a beer you'd love to try brewing yourself?

Hmm, well I've really liked all of the kettle sours we've done. It's a really intricate process for those and we really don't have a ton of space at DryHop. We did the Pipeworks kettle sour collab for Craft Beer Week this past year which was super delicious. I would like to sit in on a kettle sour brew because there are just really specific things you have to do so you don't fuck it up. It would be interesting to learn that process. We're going to be doing more kettle sours here at Corridor than we do at DryHop.

 

-THR-

Photo provided by Corridor Brewery & Provisions, courtesy of Anthony Tahlier.

Photo provided by Corridor Brewery & Provisions, courtesy of Anthony Tahlier.

Photo provided by Corridor Brewery & Provisions, courtesy of Anthony Tahlier.

Photo provided by Corridor Brewery & Provisions, courtesy of Anthony Tahlier.

Photo provided by Corridor Brewery & Provisions, courtesy of Anthony Tahlier.

Photo provided by Corridor Brewery & Provisions, courtesy of Anthony Tahlier.

 
 
 

Photography by Jack Muldowney. Finished space photographs by Anthony Tahlier.

Cheers to Eileen for having us into the busy, at the time still-in-progress space, to share a few beers and discuss building a brand. Look for Eileen at the soon-to-open Corridor Brewery & Provisions (October 15), or at Will's Northwoods, likely wearing her Musky Queen tiara.