Oak Park will soon be joining the Chicagoland suburb brewery and taproom scene. On March 11 at 3 p.m., Kinslahger Brewing Co. will open its doors to the public as the first brewery and taproom in Oak Park.
According to co-owner and head brewer Steve Loranz, Kinslahger Brewing Co. will have a total of 12 house brewed lagers on tap, accompanied by an assortment of snacks and alcohol-free beverages for non-drinkers.
Before working in the brewery business, Loranz spent 20 years working in information technology. He then decided to quit his job and focus full time on his longtime passion of crafting beer and on the brewery that he co-owns with business partners Neal Armstrong and Keith Huizinga, senior vice president at the Chicago office of CBRE, a real estate services company.
“We’re all putting in significant amounts of money to make this work,” Loranz said. “We’re very serious about this. We want to have a company that sticks around a long time and makes Oak Park proud.”
The business partners bought the 2,500-square-foot building on Roosevelt on the southern side of Oak Park over a year ago and have been transforming it to house their brewery/taproom.
“We felt like this area was a little underserved,” Loranz said. “A lot of brewers are staying in the city or in certain suburbs. We want to be able to get into local restaurants and stores and give them the freshest option they can get.”
Loranz and his co-owners have been brewing lagers since January and said they plan to focus on classic and creative styles of lager beer.
“We believe that lager beer has been overlooked during the explosive growth of independent brewers,” Loranz told OakPark.com. “Lagered beer is fermented cool and conditioned cold, resulting in a character distinct from accelerated ale fermentation. Exploring these flavor possibilities inspires our brewing.”
Co-owner Keith Huizinga explains that their lager will have a lot of character and style from the distinct hops and malt in their brewing process.
“It’s going to add something to Chicago breweries. The key is to pay attention to detail to get a high-quality brand and taste,” Huizinga said.
Smaller tanks inside the brewery, aside from the 4+ larger brewing tanks, will also allow the group the chance to experiment with different recipes and seasonal beers.
“People really love sessionable (lower alcohol) beer,” Loranz said. “People love IPAs. I love IPAs. But everyone is making them, so we saw no reason to try to add another IPA to the market. Instead, we’re focusing on other styles we really enjoy. We’re exploring what lagers can be.”
In the beginning months following the grand opening, the brewery will be constrained by the size of its space, but Loranz and his co-owners hope to soon look for a second location to grow production and start wider distribution. The brewery’s taproom alone is only 600 square feet and seats about 30 people.
“We wanted the taproom for people to come sample some very small-batch beers,” Loranz told the Chicago Tribune. “Things cooked up in the taproom may become flagships…most of the flagships are things I worked on at home and revised here and there. It’s kind of a mix of traditional lager recipes and one or two non-traditional things that we think taste good.”
Loranz also said the flagship beers include a prohibition-style pilsner, which is light in color and “more hoppy” than most domestic pilsners; an altbier, which has “a bit more hop character” and an amber color; the Chicago common, which is a red beer with “a lot of good hop aroma” and a Baltic porter, a dark beer that clocks in at about 9 percent alcohol by volume.
Loranz expects most of Kinslahger’s revenue to come from selling kegs of its beer to local bars and restaurants and eventually cans to retailers.
“We’ll self-distribute,” Loranz told the Chicago Tribune. “The goal is that when we’re fully up, capacity-wise, 90 percent of that beer will go out the back door to bars, restaurants, grocery stores, liquor stores, etc.”
The brewery will start out with four employees, three of those employees being owners Loranza, Huizinga and Armstrong. However, the brew crew plans to add more staff as the brewery grows in recognition and popularity in Oak Park.
At the brewery’s opening on March 11, Kinslahger’s first pours will be reserved for Loranz, Huizinga, and Armstrong, but the local community and craft beer enthusiasts will be next in line to raise a glass.