The Revolution Will Be Brewed

February 19th, 2010: As seen on Archive (PDF)

Photo: James Adam

Uncovering the evolution of Josh Deth’s Revolution Brewing in Logan Square.

Josh Deth doesn’t necessarily want to change the world. He’d probably be happy if his new brewpub, Revolution, can make an impact on Logan Square. Three years in the making, the operation is finally underway, and the community-minded Deth – a former Goose Island employee, current Handlebar Bar & Grill owner and UIC Urban Planning alum – shares how he raised the fist.

Can you explain the evolution of the name Revolution?

It means a lot of different things to different people, which is why we chose it. It’s a tribute to the nature of Chicago and activism, social unrest and organizing, like the lager beer riots that happened because of bars being closed on Sundays. It’s also a tribute to what’s going on in craft beer; revolution-wise, [the industry has had] nothing short of that over the last 20 years in terms of changing what has been available. Also, here, as a brewpub, it’s a place you can visit, a community center place.

Has anybody compared the likeness of your emblem to Hunter S. Thompson’s gonzo fist

They haven’t, no (laughs). More dildo-based references. We’re also lefties, so it’s a leftist fist.

What about the brews – who gets credits on those?

Jim Cibak [the brewmaster] and I worked together at the Fulton Street [Goose Island] brewery. He was a brewer, I was a cellarman. We worked together, on almost all the recipes, brewing everything a couple times. The golden ale, we brewed four times to get it right. It’s such a light beer, there’s not a lot of room for error. We wanted it to be really balanced. But the recipes are becoming more and more part of [Jim’s] job. I still poke my head in and say, “I want to brew a couple of these,” and he says, “great.” We get along real well.

And how do they tie into the revolution? 

Well, there’s a porter on right now called Eugene, which is named after Eugene V. Debs, who was involved with the Pullman railroad strike around the turn of the century. I’m kind of a historian. The Workingman is a mild, luncheon beer you can have a couple of and it won’t blow you down. And the Anti-Hero, my kid’s a Star Wars fan. But all of our beers aren’t the most extreme beers in the world, like Dogfish or Three Floyds. The number-one intent is for them to be balanced, tasty, drinkable beers that go well with the food. I really think we accomplished that.

That’s cool that Jason Petrie was brought on from your first restaurant, Handlebar. How is that side of the accomplishment going? 

Yeah, he’s had the strongest role in developing the menu. I kind of set the direction as a classier joint than Handlebar. It’s almost like a steakhouse sometimes, the way the dark wood comes out at night. And we’ve got a steak on the menu. But, people are buying our mussels, our pulled pork, our burgers. We’re selling way more burgers than we expected. We’re having a little fun with that right now. It’s kind of like the Kuma’s Corner effect. I kind of wish we had a bigger grill.

The story goes that you spent upwards of millions of dollars constructing Revolution into the classy space that it is, gutting the century-old building, refurbishing its tin ceiling and such. Being the historian that you are, any other curiosities of the building? 

If you go in the basement there’s the foundation from the old printing press that’s still there. Like two-inch thick concrete walls that supported the press that was in the middle of the room. We call it the crypt. Eventually we’re going to do a series of crypt-aged beers, hand-carried into the crypt. The bar is probably the most significant piece, though. That’s a new piece Aaron Heineman built. I think he’s building the greatest bars in Chicago. He’s very busy right now building lots of bars around town. And this one we were able to give him a fair amount of artistic freedom to have fun with. He found a way to create our fist, and of course our tap handles.

Those are great taps, the six brews represented with six stars nodding to the city’s flag. What other taps are you including in the revolution?

We’re trying to feature the best of regional craft brews, as well. We’ve got Half Acre‘s Baume on, their chocolate rye stout. The Metropolitan doppelbock. The Goose Island Green Line. We’ve got the Founder’s double IPA.

Revolution, the project, began in 2007 with a day-one blog credo of sorts on how you plan to “bring fresh, local beer to the masses,” while promoting “community and activism,” citing the desire to challenge “good ol’ American capitalism.” How goes it three years later? 

Check and check on the masses and the fresh beer. Just getting open was a huge struggle. But there was a big community effort getting us going – investors, neighbors, good friends, people from the beer community, all stepped forward. A lot of people have given a lot and we’re in debt to many. A lot of free beers are being given away, let’s put it that way. Now that we’re at the point where we’re open and we can give back, I think we’re going to see weekly fundraisers, coming out in groups. I’d like to put something forward like, “What’s your revolution?” We want to support the other people that are doing great things.

Photo: James Adam

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