Motor Row's Broad Shoulders Brewing aims to debut this summer
01/18/2012 10:00 PM
Frank Lassandrello has been brewing beer since he was 18. No, it wasn’t necessarily legal, and no, it wasn’t necessarily good, but it certainly gave him a head start on his peers.
As a freshman at Green Mountain College, he found it was simply an easy way to do what so many college students enjoy doing: imbibing alcohol.
“Once you realize you like really good beer and you can’t buy it at the store, but there’s a guy at the home brew shop that’ll sell you all the grain and yeast you need, it’s time to start brewing your own beer,” Lassandrello said. “We were quite the rage out in Poultney, Vermont. We supplied the beer to a lot of parties.”
But 12 years later, with professional brewing experience at some of the Midwest’s most prominent craft beer breweries under his belt, Lassandrello is striking out on his own again with Broad Shoulders Brewing, set to open this summer at 2337 S. Michigan Ave.
The brewery has been one of the projects with the biggest buzz in the South Loop’s Motor Row neighborhood since Ald. Bob Fioretti (2nd) began his crusade to redevelop the area as an entertainment district. In an area that’s seen plenty of buzz but little concrete development as of yet, Broad Shoulders is one of the few projects that’s moving forward full steam.
Lassandrello and the project’s backers, including his father, haven’t yet begun to rehab the building. Right now, its stately white-tile façade with green accents is marred by cheap siding that covers up what clearly used to be a large showcase window in front. Slapped above the siding is a sign advertising the Speedometer & Clock Co. Inside, there’s nothing but barren brick walls, a dozen pieces of plywood and a cooler.
However, markings on the cement floor indicate that something’s going to happen in the space soon. If everything goes according to Lassandrello’s plan, by this summer the building will be a lot different. While roughly three quarters of the building will be devoted to the brewery itself, the front quarter will have a 20- to 25-seat bar.
Originally, the brewery was just going to have a tasting room up front, where folks who strolled in could try 2-ounce tastings of Broad Shoulders’ beers. But Lassandrello decided they’d be better off applying for a full-on tavern license, so they could serve folks a proper brew.
“I decided two months ago that we needed to serve a whole pint; we’re interested in having people come and sit down for more than a minute,” Lassandrello said. “We’re interested in the convention crowd. Ald. Fioretti is extremely interested in bringing them in — they frequently park in front of the building, actually. We’re interested in having them come in for 15-20 minutes, having a beer, and we want people in the neighborhood to come in and have a beer.”
They’ll be open from 2 to 8 p.m. every day of the week, he said, and they’ll have weekly brewery tours as well. The building will be available to rent out for private events, and if it gets really popular they’re planning to expand the bar to the second floor.
Lassandrello has already solidified a list of his offerings, working in the back room of a building next door that’s also owned by Broad Shoulders’ backers. He’s well acquainted with craft brewing on a large scale, having worked at Goose Island as a “button pusher” as he modestly puts it. There he helped produce the first batches of the now-immensely-popular 312 label, as well as Goose Island’s line of premium Belgian beers, including Matilda and Sofie.
His primary goal with Broad Shoulders, though, will be to create beers that are acceptable to the general public. The flagship brew will be called Lake Shore Drive Lager, an American-session lager with a full flavor profile and relatively low alcohol levels.
“The craft beer segment has largely left lagers behind,” Lassandrello said. “Basically, what I’m looking to do is produce a beer that can be produced year-round by anyone who just likes to drink beer. ... Imperial IPAs [India Pale Ales] are great, I love them; double, triple, quadruple Belgians are fantastic. I’m all about creativity and innovation, but I’d like to reach a larger marketplace. I’d like to reach people who just like to drink beer.”
That’s not to say he doesn’t like brewing those more complex beers, too. He’s also got Broad Shoulders Pale Ale, a “vaguely fruity” pale ale. Blue-Eyed Blonde, named for his 13-month-old daughter, Ophelia, is a Belgian blonde beer with strong notes of banana and a hint of clover. He’s also got a double red ale, a hopped-up wheat ale called Hoppily Ever After, a black schwartzbier version of Lake Shore Drive Lager, and a brown lager called Easy Ryeder that’ll be freshly infused with hops from Aurora.
In their bar at Broad Shoulders HQ, they’ll always have four beers on tap, he said: Lake Shore Drive Lager, Broad Shoulders Pale Ale, a seasonal beer and a specialty one-off beer.
Lassandrello’s planning on distributing to other bars around the city as well. Locally, he’s hoping to get his beers on tap at Kroll’s and Reggie’s in the South Loop and Haymarket in the West Loop. It should also be available in larger liquor stores like Binny’s, as well as at the brewery itself.
Overall, Lassandrello says he’s gunning to create an unpretentious product for people who just enjoy beer.
“I’m not a brewmaster; I’m a brewer who’s been properly trained and I love to brew beer,” he said. “There’s no pretention here at Broad Shoulders Brewing. You come in my door, no matter what level you are as far as a beer consumer, I’m more than happy to talk to anyone about my beer, about how it’s made. It’s really all about serving the needs of the greater good — I want to make beer that people like.”