Milk Money Brewing, a brewpub opening in La Grange this spring, started almost by accident. When brothers Matt and Lucas Bumba, who closed their Western Springs restaurant Solstice last year, began to develop the concept, they decided they wanted to make a single beer.
“We were never going to be a brewery,” Lucas explains. “We just wanted a one-barrel brewing system as a neat feature.”
As these things tend to do, somehow, one barrel turned into three, which turned into seven, and now the brothers are opening a full-fledged brewery with a dozen beers on tap.
The difference between most brewpubs and Milk Money is that the food is going to be seriously interesting. The concept is almost reminiscent of the new Moody Tongue, but with one key difference: Rather than a formal dining room with a fancy tasting menu, the tasting menu at Milk Money will be a chef’s counter in the main room, without any formality. Matt’s goal is to create an upscale take on bar food, in a tasting menu format. That means dishes like a corn dog stuffed with pig’s head terrine, or shell-on prawns grilled over the open hearth.
Even if you aren’t doing five to seven courses at the counter, the regular dining room menu will still offer dishes that feature cheffy techniques. The brothers worked on creating a menu that’s minimal-waste and uses as much local produce and beer byproducts as possible. For example, as part of a fermenting program, Matt has been working on creating beer vinegar from leftover brew, and coffee soy (for a redeye gravy) using leftover coffee grounds.
The crudité platter will be a mix of raw and fermented veggies, served with a blue mussel emulsion. Chicken wings are lightly smoked and cured with housemade miso, then fried and served with buffalo sauce. Large shareable plates will include some familiar favorites, like a fried chicken platter and smoked barbecue pork, served with Parker House rolls.
Of course, the beer at Milk Money, created by brewer Erik Pizer, is central to the concept. Pizer isn’t making the nerdiest beers around; instead, he has a love for English styles that are a little easier to drink.
“I’ll always have an English mild on the menu,” Pizer says. “We’ve been working with good Belgian table beer, something that’s nuanced, delicate, and full of flavors without being too esoteric and weird. The whole point of beer is to enjoy it and have it with a group.”
One thing you won’t find at most brewpubs is an extensive cocktail program, but Lucas has developed a creative set of drinks for Milk Money. Most of the cocktails are on draft and specifically designed to be low alcohol.
“I like simple, spirit-forward drinks, but they don’t play well in the suburbs,” he says. “People are out with the kids; they’re driving. So, we thought, What if we make some things like our beer that have great flavor, and you can enjoy two to three of them?” Expect drinks like a strawberry-basil milk punch and a sous vide mojito.
Despite the upscale flavors and techniques, the food and the space are designed to be as approachable as possible. The room is well-lit, with the brewing equipment encased in glass so the dining room can view the process. The restaurant has pops of bright color (like turquoise crushed velvet bar stools) courtesy of Matt and Lucas’s mother, who acted as the interior designer.
At the end of the day, Milk Money is hoping to serve many different audiences. It’s kid-friendly, good for a drink after work, and equally good for a fancy date night.
“We hope you come in looking for a great brewery and find a great restaurant, and you come in looking for a great restaurant and find a great brewery,” Lucas says.
Milk Money opens this spring at 75 S. La Grange Rd.