Today Laura and Sara are joined by James Moriarty of Urban Renewal Brewery. Established in 2017, Urban Renewal Brewery is a craft brewery serving patrons with locally inspired beer brewed with the utmost attention to detail. You can visit their brewery located at 5121 N Ravenswood and beer fans can soon visit their new tap room space coming soon to the former Andersonville Brewing location at 5402 N Clark. Be sure to order online for curbside pick up and delivery!
Listen to episode 102 with James Moriarty of Urban Renewal Brewery!
- James hosts us today from the brewery! Urban Renewal Brewery just finished packing “The Humble Gator,” their double IPA – now available. World Beer Cup would have been in April, with brewers from all over the world convening and sharing beers. This would have been their first year.
- James started home brewing in college, and volunteered for a local brewery where he worked once graduating, with the stipulation that they would have to close at the end of the summer in 2006. He learned as much as he could, and when that brewery closed, he went to the Siebel Institute in Chicago in 2007 and studied brewing. He worked for Pennichuck Brewing in Milford, New Hampshire from 2007- 2009 until the brewery closed. He then went to Cape Cod Beer, and became a consultant and opened Henniker Brewing. In 2014, he and his family moved to Virginia as he was asked to come and expand a new brewery facility. And then, he was asked by an old partner to go to Jacksonville, FL to open yet another brewery. In addition to James’ vast network, we noticed that breweries are constantly evolving. Moving to new projects allowed James to learn more at each brewery, but moreover to be helpful to friends.
- All this movement didn’t happen with the intent of him opening his brewery. Through his moves, James realized he loved the “start up” phase of building a brewery. Which led him to be in-house brewery consultant for a brewing equipment company, Alpha Brewing Operations, in Lincoln, Nebraska. Upon the birth of their third child coinciding with lots of international travel, in June 2017 James saw that a Turnkey brewery was for sale in Chicago. James was familiar with the area, investigated, and made plans to purchase the brewery. James’ family is from Chicago, which made it a great fit. He knew it was time for one more move, and to settle in in Chicago.
- Prior to Urban Renewal, Metropolitan had the space prior. They are federally licensed as a brewery, which took 100 days. Then, you get your state license which takes 45-60 days. James used that time to plan, clean, update, and purchase new equipment. They sold their first keg March of 2018 – they’re almost 2!
- The term “urban renewal” – is an interesting phrase about communities being changed. Their corporate name is Wicked River Brewing, but a distillery was already using the trademarked same name. It’s a brewery within the city, and they renewed the space with new life. That’s the story, without much conflict. Go see it for yourself, it’s a beautiful space with a bow truss ceiling built somewhere between 1910-1912. Since then it’s been a lumber mill, t-shirt shop, and factory, and more.
- James has unique experience, with his mechanical engineering and brewing background. This allowed him to manage a lot on his own. Of course, challenges always come up, like plumbing and infrastructure, but his background allows him to tackle these things. And, the customers of Urban Renewal are great. Also, they were able to begin canning and distributing right away through all of Illinois which has benefited greatly. Up next, Andersonville!
- As for products, Urban Renewal is always creating something new. Urban Renewal offers lots of options. “K.I.S.S. Kolsch” (Keep It Simple Stupid) a light German ale, a touch of fruitiness, and a New England IPA called “Packy.” “Hazy River New England IPA”, is a fresh, seasonal offering. Next up: a Belgian Wit with grapefruit for spring. Then, Lazy River, a hoppy blonde for summer. In the fall, they Orion’s Milk Stout and Schwartzweather Black Lager, both darker beers. Other offerings are Resting Peach Face, Humble Gator, and others. Typically 8-10 offerings circulating.
- With lease in hand, Urban Renewal will open at the Balmoral and Clark tap room space (formerly Andersonville Brewing). They’ll produce and serve their own beers, hopefully this summer. James brought back his old company, Alpha, for new equipment. He has a blank space to work with, with history and connections coming together.
- Currently, at the brewery on Ravenswood you can order a wide array of beers and merchandise online. All beers are canned in 4, 16 oz. cans. They also offer growlers. During a normal season, they see about 200 visitors on the weekends, and have a great neighbor in Koval.
- If James could swap places for one day with another Andersonville business it would be Little Bad Wolf. He loves their space, and especially their mac ‘n cheese. It’s irresistible.