Re-tapped: Vice District Brewing

HOMEWOOD, IL

Re-tapped: A Check-in with Vice District Brewing

RE-VISITED JULY 1, 2017
AT the new VICE DISTRICT – HOMEWOOD, IL

In our new series, Re-Tapped, we check in with the subjects of our past interviews to find out how they've progressed since our first visit. To see who else we've talked with over the years, as well as potential future Re-Tapped features, check out our Interview Archive.


LAST TIME AT VICE DISTRICT / AUGUST 2014

1454 S. Michigan Ave., Chicago, IL - ReAD THE INTERVIEW

Oh how the Near South Side has changed since our mid-2014 visit to the then under-construction Vice District Brewing Co. Now home to three breweries–each with busy taprooms and varying levels of distribution–this was certainly not an area of the city you'd find yourself on the search for a brewery just a few years back.

Our first visit to Vice District was a few months before the opening of their Michigan Avenue brewery and taproom. While work was well underway, the space was still extremely raw. With the bar still taking shape and the brew house still covered in plastic and yet to be tested, it felt like founders Quintin Cole and Curtis Tarver had a long way to go. After a short delay, the taproom opened at the end of August '14, and has since been a hit with the South Loop and Soldier Field crowds, pumping out a lineup of consistent and approachable beers.

Prior to the opening of the 1454 S. Michigan Ave. location, August 2014.

Prior to the opening of the 1454 S. Michigan Ave. location, August 2014.

We always wanted to open up a neighborhood bar and...we thought we should just open up a taproom and make our own beer.
— Quintin Cole, 2014
Factory wrap still covering the tanks at the yet-to-be-opened South Loop taproom, 2014

Factory wrap still covering the tanks at the yet-to-be-opened South Loop taproom, 2014

Our long term goal is to get to a production facility further South. The goal is to bring people to the South Side for sure.
— Curtis Tarver, 2014
Founders Curtis Tarver & uintin Cole, 2014

Founders Curtis Tarver & uintin Cole, 2014

Reflection on taproom windows at Michigan Ave

Reflection on taproom windows at Michigan Ave


OUR RE-VISIT WITH VICE DISTRICT / JULY 2017

HOMEWOOD - 18022 Dixie HWY, HOMEWOOD, IL

Founders Curtis Tarver & Quintin Cole

Founders Curtis Tarver & Quintin Cole

Three years on—and while change is on the horizon—much is the same at Vice District. Their South Loop taproom is ticking along on Michigan Avenue, and that has proven to be the problem with their original location. We've made several visits since their opening and we're often met with a creative but limited tap list—a lack of choice that isn't typical in other city taprooms. In addition to that, it's unusual to see Vice District tap handles elsewhere around town as the brewery has needed to pull back distribution. Rather than a lack of creativity or ambition, the shortage is a product of their own success: more demand than the South Loop space could produce.

When we first opened, we did self-distribution and learned very quickly—that size system wasn’t big enough to do self-distribution...and have a taproom.
— Quintin Cole, 2017

With the original location stretched to fulfill demand, Curtis and Quintin are working on a new facility in the south suburban village of Homewood. Despite a few of the usual buildout hiccups along the way, the space is coming along nicely with a near complete brewhouse just waiting for a water main hookup to begin production. But why Homewood for the brewery previously so closely tied to the South Side neighborhoods?

We came out here for a tour from ‘some guy’... It turned out that that guy was the Mayor of Homewood. The fact that he was going around and telling us everything about the village...there was a genuine excitement. This is a true community.
— Curtis Tarver, 2017
The pediment of the new Homewood facility, also an historic former auto dealership.

The pediment of the new Homewood facility, also an historic former auto dealership.

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Homewood, to some extent, picked us.
— Curtis Tarver

The partners' plans for the new space include a community-focused taproom–plus a larger production 15-barrel brewhouse and a canning line. This will allow for new distribution, starting in the surrounding Homewood neighborhoods, and then branching back up to the city. It will also bump their capacity up immediately to 4,000 barrels per year (from 800 at their South Loop facility). The increased production will also have the added benefit of freeing up the Michigan Avenue brewery for small-batch brewing. Only time will tell if their brewery will be successful in the south suburbs and, furthermore, manage to penetrate the already saturated Chicago beer market. But Curtis and Quintin are well aware of the challenge ahead and seem ready to take it on.

We have to focus on building a destination that people can come to... We need to create a dedicated fan base. I think the days of opening up a ‘Revolution’ and it just taking off are going to be few and far between now, in a place like Chicago. There’s a lot of great beer here. What about us will make us stand out...?
— Curtis Tarver

We look forward to seeing what they've got when they open (hopefully) later this year.

 

–THR–

 

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Photography by Jack Muldowney.

 
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SUGGESTED

Be sure to check out our original interview with Vice District Brewing Co., from August 2014, here:

Brewer Chat: 
Curtis Cole & Quintin Tarver of Vice District