Spotlight on Alter Brewing + Kitchen: Delicious craft comfort food and a seriously stylish space in Oak Brook Commons highlight this company’s third location
Alter Brewing + Kitchen
1170 22nd Street
Oak Brook, IL 60523
(with additional locations in Downers Grove and St. Charles)
Sunday-Thursday 11 a.m.-11 p.m.
Friday-Saturday 11 a.m.-1 a.m.
History in short: Three friends — Pete Kosanovich, David Yob and award-winning home brewer Mark Hedrick — opened Alter Brewing in Downers Grove in 2015, and Ken Henricks, who worked for Bottleneck Management and Stone Brewing before originally joining Alter as a consultant in the early stages, now serves as a partner and president.
Five years later, in May of 2020, the first Alter Brewing + Kitchen opened its doors along the banks of the Fox River in the thriving far west suburb of St. Charles. And before long, the retail- and corporate-heavy suburb of Oak Brook “checked a lot of boxes,” according to Henricks, and became the company’s third destination in December of 2022.
“We recognized the opportunity that these caliber of locations don’t come around very often,” Henricks told us. “Bringing our beers, food and hospitality to the near west suburbs was a pivotal moment in Alter’s arc, and this was one of the most unique, detailed and interesting interior designs I’ve ever been a part of.”
We recognized the opportunity that these caliber of locations don’t come around very often. … And this was one of the most unique, detailed and interesting interior designs I’ve ever been a part of.” — Ken Henricks
The space: He’s not kidding there. On first glance, the new Oak Brook Commons location is more than impressive, offering a modern design-meets-brewery-chic layout with a large square-shaped bar, an assortment of tables and booths, three gorgeous chandeliers, tons of natural light via large windows, and beautiful greenery and painted murals.
What takes center stage from a visual standpoint is their solera system, which is viewable from anywhere in the restaurant. It consists of several large, stacked, wooden beer-aging vessels that house Alter’s sour and fruited beer program for all three venues.
“This type of system is rare in the craft brewing industry, and we’re really excited about what it will produce,” says Henricks, who added that Alter’s first three sours have been aging for nearly a year and will be ready in March.
Not to be forgotten is an outdoor patio that will undoubtedly be a coveted spot for happy hour and post-shopping dinners this summer.
Giving back: While Alter Brewing has always been committed to philanthropy, the management and marketing teams have created a new initiative that kicks off in January that will elevate the company’s commitment beyond the traditional gift card donation or fundraiser.
The new Community Give Program allows community-based organizations to choose one of Alter’s locations on either a Monday or Wednesday, and $1 of every drink purchased that day will be donated back to the organization. If you do the math across a calendar year, you’ll notice it’s a fairly notable endeavor.
Alter’s new Community Give Program allows community-based organizations to choose one of Alter’s locations, and $1 of every drink purchased that day will be donated back.
Also, Alter’s new Rally Point IPA is dedicated to raise awareness for military and first responder-focused organizations. Every Tuesday, across all three Alter locations, 50 cents from every Rally Point sold will be donated to a specific military or first responder organization, and that recipient will change quarterly.
“Supporting those who put their lives on the line for us is a big priority,” Henricks says. “… And when you’re supporting a local charity, you’re supporting more than just the owner. It’s impacts a lot of people, and we’re looking forward to spreading the message. This is the most excited I’ve been about a program at Alter since I’ve joined.”
What we’re eating and drinking: Craft comfort food is how best to describe a food menu that blew us — and even our foodie brother in law from NYC — away. We started off with a shareable plate of bang bang cauliflower that had a delectable sesame ginger dressing and just the right amount of kick. Our entrees of choice included the juicy Big Mick burger (think “Coming to America” since it’s near the former McDonald’s corporate campus) and a dish we’ve been talking about ever since: the flavorful Wagyu meatloaf served with horseradish whipped potatoes, beer gravy, charred carrots and crispy onions.
Next time, one of their creative flatbreads (like the brie, bacon and apple version) is likely to call our name. Or perhaps the loaded Southwest salad, steak frites or shrimp tacos with a teriyaki chili glaze. It’s just all too tempting.
As for beer, we’re fans of Alter’s Ambigram hazy IPA, which gives off orange and tangerine aromas with just the right amount of sweetness. The Hopular Kid strong pale ale is another solid citrusy/hoppy offering. Looking for something crisp and easy? Try the Center Line golden ale that drinks more like a lager. If you’re in the mood for a little campfire feel, order the Dwight D. S’mores-enhower, a winter stout that’s loaded with robust dessert flavors.
Our beer has never tasted better. From an innovation standpoint, we’re really excited about our solera souring system and what it means for our brand.”
On the horizon: The talented team in the kitchen makes a habit of changing 30-40 percent of the menu every six months, with seasonal additions and weekly specials the norm. So in other words, expect a menu that’s constantly evolving.
They’re also excited about the beer program under the guidance of head brewer Matt McGowan, who came up through the Lagunitas brewing tree. “Matt’s skill set brings our program to a level that didn’t previously exist,” Henricks says.
From the brewery: “What makes me the most proud is the people. Our turnover during Covid was very small. We were committed to keeping some folks on when revenue didn’t support it and at a time when the hospitality and restaurant world was taking a massive hit. Our staff’s commitment to providing quality service to help with the ‘escape factor’ for a casual, fun environment is second to none. … And our beer has never tasted better. From an innovation standpoint, we’re really excited about our solera souring system and what it means for our brand.”
— Partner and president Ken Henricks