Spotlight on Alarmist Brewing: Recipe development is key at this northwest Chicago brewery that’s home to several award-winning beers
4055 W. Peterson Ave
Chicago, IL 60646
Monday-Thursday: 4-10 p.m.
Friday: 2-11 p.m.
Sunday: 12-8 p.m.
History in short: Owner Gary Gulley served as a web developer in his previous life in corporate America until he figured out he was, in his opinion, a square peg in a round hole. His wife’s serious health issue “put the fear of God” in him at the time, and then he was let go from his job just before her surgery. That was enough of a sign to tell him to chase his dream. Gulley did start home brewing back in 1990, after all, and then got drawn back in when the second craft-beer wave hit in the mid 2000s.
“Wife, mortgage and two kids… all indications were that it wasn’t something I should do, but I knew I would go crazy if I didn’t,” Gulley tells us. “Luckily, my wife fully supported it, and things took off.”
Alarmist officially started brewing beer in the Sauganash neighborhood on Chicago’s far northwest side in February of 2015, and their taproom followed in 2017. Alarmist welcomed Ann Geiman (formerly at New Belgium) as their new head brewer and Jason Frillman (Goose Island) as assistant brewer this past fall.
The return of Midwest Royalty, an American lager with corn in it, will happen this spring and summer. All it’s done is win two bronze medals at the Great American Beer Festival.
The space: Industrial — and purposefully simple — by design, Alarmist took over an empty warehouse six years ago, and the concrete floor, large front windows and a 30-plus-foot bar were key components. Live music often takes over the corner of the room.
During the warmer months, swing by to experience Alarmist’s outdoor courtyard that’s uniquely enclosed on three sides, with no nearby residents to be bother because of the shape of the building. Potted flowers and a large pine tree add to the allure.
Interesting note: The building Alarmist calls home used to house the renowned Siebel Institute of Technology, meaning plenty of famous craft brewers learned the ropes at the same address.
What we’re drinking: Alarmist is best known for Le Jus, their award-winning hazy IPA. But the applause doesn’t end there. We were turned on to their easy-drinking Crispy Boy pilsner, brewed with specialty malts and fermented with a classic German yeast, this summer during a neighborhood cookout. And it was a game changer.
Pantsless, their flagship pale ale, is a Great American Beer Festival bronze medal winner that’s brewed solely with mosaic hops and pilsner malt to create tropical fruit and dank pine flavors. And not to be outdone is the ESB (extra special bitter) called Poppycock. An authentic “English pub ale” that’s fermented in a cask with low carbonation, Poppycock was introduced to us by our neighbor from the UK — and it quickly became a favorite the last time we visited.
“We’re a big fan of Timothy Taylor’s Landlord, and we kind of based Poppycock on that idea — a proper English ale with Scottish malt, English ale yeast and English caramel malt,” Gulley says.
I like doing my research. I assume every beer is flawed until we can prove it otherwise, so we don’t believe in trying to push beers out really fast. — Alarmist founder Gary Gulley
On the horizon: The return of Midwest Royalty, an American lager with corn in it, will happen this spring and summer. All it’s done is win two bronze medals at the GABF. Down the road, Gulley and his team would love to do some barrel-aging, but they don’t plan to rush the process.
“My new brewers are very good on the quality and process side, and we realized recipe development is a big thing, so that’s where I’ve come in lately,” Gulley says. “It’s been fun to get my feet back into it. It’s something I’m comfortable doing, and I like doing my research. I assume every beer is flawed until we can prove it otherwise, so we don’t believe in trying to push beers out really fast. Very few people can get it right the first time, and that’s part of the creativity and part of the fun.”
From the owner: “Le Jus changed everything for us. I felt we weren’t getting enough attention until then (laughs). And the funny thing is, we’d only been making that for six months when it won the GABF gold medal in 2018, the first year they ever had the hazy category. It put us on the map for sure. We had to bring in larger fermentors after that.” — Owner/founder Gary Gulley