Chicagoans have lots of great locally brewed summer session beers to choose from—the kind you feel like crushing in quantity when it stays warm all night and the porches and backyards of the city sing their songs. My favorites, just off the top of my head, include Metropolitan’s Zwickel Flywheel, Half Acre’s Pony Pilsner, Two Brothers’ Sidekick Extra Pale Ale, Church Street’s Heavenly Helles, and Off Color’s Troublesome. (I suspect that Off Color’s new Berliner weisse, Fierce, will join them, but when I wrote this I wasn’t sufficiently acquainted with it.) Charging into the peloton, if not definitively into the lead, is Geneva’s Penrose Brewing, launched this spring by Goose Island veterans Eric Hobbs and Tom Korder—their Proto Gradus (that’s “grah-dus,” not “gray-dus”) is a 4 percent Belgian-style single with a fruity, floral, yeast-forward aroma, a surprisingly silky texture, and a clean, dry finish whose cool minerality feels like holding a river pebble in your mouth. Orange blossom, mango, and peach tangle with delicate tartness and green-banana astringency, both of which play well with the honeyed-biscuit malts. The Penrose folks plan to use Proto Gradus as the base for their sour program, and they’ve already released a version fermented for six weeks in a cabernet barrel—one of 22 beers served at their tap room in its first two months. By the time you read this, fine Penrose beverages will be aging in 30 wine barrels and 26 bourbon barrels, and any day now the brewery should start shipping its first four-packs of 12-ounce bottles, filled with Proto Gradus and P-2 Belgian-inspired pale ale.
Philip Montoro has been an editorial employee of the Reader since 1996 and its music editor since 2004. Pieces he has edited have appeared in Da Capo’s annual Best Music Writing anthologies in 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2010, and 2011. He shared two Lisagor Awards in 2019 for a story on gospel pioneer Lou Della Evans-Reid, and he’s also split two national awards from the Association of Alternative Newsmedia: one for multimedia in 2019 for his work on the TRiiBE collaboration the Block Beat, and one in in 2020 for editing the music writing of Reader staffer Leor Galil. Philip has played scrap metal in Lozenge, drummed with the Disasters, the Afflictions, and Brilliant Pebbles, and sung for the White Outs. He wrote the column Beer and Metal from 2012 till 2015, and hopes to do so again one day. You can also follow him on Twitter.More by Philip Montoro