Illinois Brewing Insider Cesar Marron on his own Common Culture oatmeal stout, drinking Belgians at Hopleaf and spending a day on Metropolitan’s patio
Metropolitan Brewing’s patio in Chicago
Head brewer and managing partner
Sketchbook Brewing Company in Evanston and Skokie, IL
Drinking tendencies: Genuinely speaking I go to the lighter ABV, while also looking for flavor. It’s a day-to-day thing for me. Taproom exclusives are always fun to help it make it more of an experience. If it’s something I don’t brew at Sketchbook, I’ll usually go that route. Almost like research. I would say a good hoppy amber is one of my favorites, and you don’t see it everywhere.
Favorite breweries: Alarmist is one for sure on the northwest side of Chicago. We do a lot of industry stuff with them, sharing materials and talking shop, and I like their beer and atmosphere a lot. Metropolitan is one of my favorites too. If I have people visiting and I want to take them somewhere unique, a visit to Metro is always on the list. Their space on the river is amazing.
Begyle Brewing is always in my head too. I just feel like I have to stop there every once in a while, and when we have a babysitter, we always like to hit that Malt Row section of Chicago and bounce around, making a night of it between Begyle and Dovetail.
Hopleaf in Chicago’s Andersonville neighborhood is great when I want a selection of both local beers and stuff they’ve curated from good sources. Especially Belgians. That’s a place that I trust.
Recent beers that have caught your eye: Riggs Beer Company downstate in Champaign-Urbana. The space and the model caught our eye, and the beers are mostly German — great hefeweizen. I spent a little time talking to the head brewer/owner who was trained in Germany and came back to the States and built a brewery and beer garden on a farm just outside of town.
What are you looking forward to having on draft this winter and spring: I’m always looking forward to a nice brown ale with a good malt complexity to it. When I go to a taproom and see a good brown ale, I’ll automatically order it. Bell’s brown ale is always a go-to. Problem is, I don’t see enough of them around. Porters too, because I’m always just looking for more flavor in a glass, especially in the winter time. Our Common Culture oatmeal stout has been a favorite of ours here at Sketchbook. It’s not heavy. It’s easy drinking, but it has a lot of body to it and some silkiness that people really like.
Favorite beer bars in Illinois: I’m terrible, because I usually go to breweries, but I recently went to Beermiscuous in Chicago a few months ago. Loved the experience. So chill, and really more like a taproom. Hopleaf in Chicago’s Andersonville neighborhood is great too when I want a selection of both local beers and stuff that they’ve curated from good sources. Especially Belgians. That’s a place that I trust.
Best brewery you’ve hit on vacation: I really like some of the smaller beers in the Hudson Valley area of New York, especially Industrial Arts Brewing Company, which my friend introduced me to. Great marketing, very cool space and the beer was great — lots of hazy IPAs.
Secret beer spot: Ward Eight is a cocktail bar in Evanston near the Chicago border. If you want to hide from beer people, but still have a good beer surrounded by cocktail people, this is your place. We had a great Belgian sour/Flanders red ale (Duchesse De Bourgogne) there recently. Howard Street Brewing Company is right there too, and we had a good time with them. Very tiny brewery, but doing good things.