Lucky me, as soon as I get home I find out that the guys behind Big Star and Publican are teaming up with that awesome brewery in California (Lagunitas) to make a special beer for the summer. Even luckier I get invited to try the beer at Big Star yesterday and hang out on a beautiful day. The beer debuts on June 6 and will be at Big Star and every other bar that serves Lagunitas. Trust me, this 7.6% beer made in the style of
Respected Chef Paul Kahan’s popular Chicago restaurants Big Star and The Publican are teaming up with revered California brewery Lagunitas to create a collaborative beer, which will debut June 6th. The beer was conceived of by Michael McAvena (beer director at the Publican), and Ben Fasman & Laurent Lebec (managers and beer directors at Big Star), and taken out to Petaluma, California to the brewery to be tweaked and fully brewed. 200 kegs will debut in Chicago June 6th and will be served not only in Big Star and The Publican but also at Lagunitas accounts throughout Chicago. The nature of the project has been immensely collaborative from concocting the recipe to the naming of the beer as well as artwork, which is by well-known tattoo artist Hannah Aitchison of LA Ink fame.
When coming up with the concept, Laurent Lebec (Big Star) thought specifically about pre-prohibition lagers, which were classically made with whatever grains were readily available to people back then. Michael McAvena has been an avid home brewer for years and had done collaborative beers with breweries in the past. Big Star’s Ben Fasman and Laurent Lebec had created beers specific to Big Star and had worked with Lagunitas on special projects since Big Star's inception. Lagunitas has never done such a collaboration; most beer collaborations are with other breweries, not the creative forces behind beer programs at bars / restaurants. While Lagunitas has done collaborations in the past with other breweries, they have never done one with bartenders and home brewers, and certainly not on such a large scale. This is also a bold step in general for breweries: collaborations with home brewers and bartenders are scarce to say the least, and it displays a huge amount of trust and faith in the project from all parties involved.
Lagunitas is one of the fastest growing craft breweries in the US. In 2008, Lagunitas was producing less than 60,000 barrels per year. In 2010 they were at 147,000 barrels, a huge increase for any craft brewery (in 2010 alone, their sales jumped 38% and show no sign of slowing down).
BIG STAR: Where tacos and bourbon meet. Big Star strives to serve regal and authentic Mexican street food and some of the most impressive and rare bourbons in the world. A throwback to honky tonks of central California and Texas, this is a place for rowdy drinking, serious eating and plenty of the best country and rock and roll records that the ear can hear.
THE PUBLICAN: The Publican is a beer-focused restaurant in the meat packing district of Chicago. The food is inspired by simple farmhouse fare in a space evocative of a European beer hall. Pristine product, simply prepared.