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Local brewing operation Hop Butcher for the World recently opened a new brewery, taproom, and store in Lincoln Square in the hopes of bringing more hops to Chicago.
Although their spot on Lincoln Avenue in a space formerly occupied by Half Acre Beer Company is new to them, Hop Butcher for the World has been around since 2014 and sold their first beer in 2015. Co-owners Jeremiah Zimmer and Jude La Rose met while they worked for the Chicago Rush arena football team.
“We weren’t best friends. We weren’t enemies. It wasn’t like we knew each other and then opened a brewery,” Zimmer says.
They started getting into craft beer in 2009, and beer became the foundation for their friendship. It was a gradual start, with Zimmer and La Rose talking through Twitter. The friendship grew: “Let's go out for beers sometime,” led to, “This beer is really good. Have you ever had something like this?” That then became, “Should we homebrew in the backyard?”
“The more we tasted craft beers from around the region, and the more that we were able to compare those against what we were brewing, the more the delusion grew that we could maybe make a go at this thing,” Zimmer says.
They finally indulged that “delusion” when they bought their own tank at a North Side brewery. Their operation grew steadily, and eventually they bought more production space and started to self-distribute at local Binny’s stores, gaining a loyal following on social media. They purchased the former Half Acre taproom space in 2021, opening the doors to their taproom and store in November of 2022. (They started brewing in the space in August, while a production brewery in southwest suburban Bedford Park that they also bought in 2021 is responsible for brewing much of the volume of their beers.)
They haven’t always gone by the name Hop Butcher for the World. They initially called their company the South Loop Brewing Company, but another company had a similar name so they switched for trademarking purposes. Zimmer said the new name fit them well, tapping into their appreciation for Chicago history. “Hop Butcher for the World” plays on Carl Sandburg’s famous poem, which begins: “Hog Butcher for the World, Tool Maker, Stacker of Wheat, Player with Railroads and the Nation's Freight Handler; Stormy, husky, brawling, City of the Big Shoulders.”
“It wasn't even forced. It was like, that was who we were already. We love Chicago, and leaning into Chicago culture was something that we were already doing,” Zimmer said. “The whole Carl Sandburg thing, the fact that it didn't feel kitschy, it was like, ‘Alright, let's do it.’ That gave us further license to do what we're still doing, which is focusing on Chicago cuisine and our history.”
That’s clear in some of the names of their beers: Corn Cob Towers, Blizzard of ‘67, Cricket Hill, Chicago Henge, and even the city’s official motto, Urbs in Horto. They get even more specific with Chicago’s food history, with names like Crinkle Cut (referring to the style of fries), Kielbasa King, and Tavern Cut (for the thin-crust style pizza).
They have brewed one beer, called Minted, that pays homage to Chicago’s beloved Frango Mints. Zimmer says they worked with Garrett Brands, which owns Frango Mints, and used the same oil that’s in the mints in the beer. While experiments like this don’t always work, it did for this particular brew.
“In that specific instance, it worked and the beer was phenomenal,” Zimmer says.
Zimmer and La Rose love to experiment with flavors and recipes. He says that he and La Rose have always been inspired by local breweries that focused on hoppy beers.
“There's no shortage of people who love hoppy beers—IPAs, double IPAs, triple IPAs; you have the hazy side of things,” Zimmer says. “You can twist it in your own way.”
Beyond experiments such as Minted, their twists come via their use of hops. Zimmer says that he and La Rose have each always kept a list of all the different hop blends they want to try.
“When you’ve got a list of more than 100 things that you want to do, and all of them are different hop blends that excite you … It wasn't hard for us to come up with a huge list of beers we wanted to brew,” he says.
Hop Butcher has stayed true to who they are even as they’ve grown, according to Zimmer, putting out a “constant churn” of different beers. They don’t have any single beer that’s available all the time. Sometimes they return to beers they’ve made in the past, sometimes they turn to their dream list to create new beers, and sometimes their production is a mix of all of the above.
“There's a lot of really kick-ass breweries in Chicago that are making great beer,” Zimmer says. “That’s still very much a part of who we want to be.”