When we got wind of the soon-to-open South Side brewery Open Outcry Brewing Co. (10934 S. Western Ave., Morgan Park), we were obviously thirsty for details. Outside of what’s brewing—including pale ales, seasonally rotating IPAs, stouts, porters, a cream ale, and (eventually) some barrel-aged beers—owner John Brand gave us a preview of the new watering hole, set to open in late spring.
Fill us in on your backstory.
I worked in the futures industry for about 16 years; it’s where I had spent my entire career. I started homebrewing about 10 years ago and fell in love with it. [Ed note: Did he ever! So much so that he converted the second bathroom of his downtown condo into a microbrewery, going so far as to set up fermenting tanks in the shower.] But I was engaged in my career and wasn't in a position to assume the risk of becoming an entrepreneur. Frankly, you never really are; you just need to take the leap.
Last March, I purchased the property and existing business inside it [O’Brien’s Pub]. I operated it for seven months while I went through the arduous, long zoning-change process. I ran the tavern, which helped float the project for awhile.
What’s the deal with the name?
“Open Outcry” is the term used to describe the method of trading on the floor of the Merc and the Chicago Board of Trade. It is the ultimate form of capitalism; people in the pit screaming and yelling and punching each other. Since my identity was in the futures industry for awhile, this represents who I am and where I came from.
What about this part of the city appealed to you—other than the fact that it’s where your wife grew up?
It’s a great neighborhood. It’s always has been a great neighborhood. The economics of Western Avenue haven’t evolved in the last decade, but really cool things are starting to happen now. There’s Horse Thief Hollow, which is killing it; and Blue Island Beer Company is down the road. There’s also a beautiful meadery [Wild Blossom Meadery, due to open next month] coming to Beverly. It’s all within a four-mile stretch. If I can execute on my plan and beat everyone’s expectations, Western Avenue really becomes a destination.
Give us the virtual tour.
[I’m planning for] an aesthetic and space that you don’t typically see [on the South Side], working with an architect and an interior designer to make it look cool. There will be 110 seats. The bar will seat around 35. There will be a row of high-tops, some pine barn-wood tables and a communal table made by hand by my friend and I. We sourced the wood from a barn down in Wing, Illinois. The gentleman who owns this barn told us all the wood came from a hardware store that was built in the late 1800s.
We heard you teamed up with chef Cesar Lopez (Fuller House in Hinsdale) for the food component. What does he have planned?
There will be a grill and the other things you would typically see in a restaurant kitchen. The food will be simple, fresh, and good. Wood-fired Neapolitan pizzas. Hand-held panini. Some really nice salads. Probably sliders. Cesar makes crazy-good half-pork and half-chuck sliders with seasoning and spices.
You’re entering a pretty crowded space. Why are you, as you said earlier, “taking the leap?”
I think craft beer and locally produced and sourced artisanal products is a macro trend that is not going away. People want to know who is making the stuff that they buy and consume. Craft beer can’t grow this fast forever, but it is here to stay.