Ballast Point is one of the country’s most popular (and widely distributed) craft beer brands. Their beer has been in Chicago for a long time, but now a huge Ballast Point Tasting Room and Kitchen (212 N. Green Street) is coming to the West Loop.
“Chicago is one of the most progressive culinary scenes in the nation, if not the world,” says Colin MacLaggan, Ballast Point’s corporate executive chef. “It’s a really hot beer scene. This is the number one spot that jumped out at us. It’s always been talked about.” Ballast Point is based in San Diego and has a number of California tasting rooms, but this is the first Midwestern location for the brewery.
The West Loop location is a 12,000-square-foot space in a restored building. While the majority of the space will be used for the restaurant, there will be a brewing operation, mostly for R&D and small batches. MacLaggan also plans to make special dinners that come with custom, tiny-batch beers made just to pair with the food.
Day-to-day operations will be run by chef John Diaz, a veteran of kitchens in Washington, D.C., and Virginia. His vision for the spot is to do something that speaks to his fine dining roots. “You can take food that isn’t very intimidating and still make it fundamentally sound, and refine it so people are surprised at the end result,” Diaz says.
Of course, beer will be a common ingredient in the dishes. There will be mussels made with Ballast Point Thai Chili Wahoo, ribs with a black garlic and beer barbecue sauce, and plenty of dishes braised with beer. Diaz will get to stretch his muscles a little during the regular beer dinners. “There we will hit you with a lot more technique, a lot more items you wouldn’t necessarily ever see on a brewpub menu,” he says.
At first, Ballast Point Tasting Room and Kitchen will offer daily lunch and dinner service. Eventually, they plan to expand to brunch, served on a fourth-floor terrace.