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A Beer for Chicago History Geeks

Made with corn and cluster hops, Seipp’s Extra Pale Pilsner is modeled after one of the city’s most popular pre-Prohibition brews.

Seipp’s Extra Pale
Photo: Jeff Marini

When it debuted in early July, the Conrad Seipp Brewing Co. was at once the oldest and newest beer maker in Chicago. The original brewery, which German immigrant Conrad Seipp founded in 1854, closed its doors in 1933 (thanks to Prohibition), but last year, Seipp’s great-great-great-granddaughter, Laurin Mack, teamed up with Metropolitan Brewing’s Doug Hurst to re-create Seipp’s Extra Pale, the most popular of the original brewery’s five beers.

The Extra Pale available now isn’t the exact version that Chicagoans would have sipped after a visit to the 1893 World’s Fair — the original recipe was lost to the ages — but by researching Pilsners of the era and poring through Seipp’s old marketing materials, Mack and Hurst think they’ve gotten close. Their Pilsner is made with corn and cluster hops. “They’re the oldest existing hop variety in the U.S.,” Hurst says. “They’ve been around since pre-Prohibition.” The beer is crisp, with a spicy, floral bitterness from the hops.

The Extra Pale is one of a number of pre-Prohibition-style beers that have popped up nearby recently, with places like Geneva’s Art History Brewing and Bloomington, Indiana’s Upland Brewing Co. releasing their own throwback brews. Like Seipp’s, all of them are easy-drinking, and as such they deliver a certain sense of historical comfort, as if to say: “We made it through Prohibition, so we can make it through this.”

Try Seipp’s at Metropolitan’s taproom (3057 N. Rockwell St., Avondale), or pick up a six-pack at Binny’s.

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