ODE TO TWO BROTHERS

When people ask me what my favorite Chicago brewery is, I’m often perplexed, because my favorite isn’t actually in Chicago. Two Brothers Brewing Company’s main brewery is about 30 miles west of the city in Warrenville, Il., very close to the town where I grew up.

The brewing company was started and is still run by brothers Jim and Jason Ebel. They are very proud of the whole family-run thing. They brew a whole family (ha, get it?) of beers and have become a local favorite.

Kid Carboy has mentioned Two Brothers a few times, but I thought I’d put in my two cents… one cent really. Maybe half of one cent. A hay-penny. Here’s my hay-penny.

The Warrenville brewpub has a wonderful restaurant. Seriously, the best fish tacos in the area are made there. The chef is amazing, but gets mad when you try to modify your order. They have a variety of menu items and the servers are quick to suggest a beer pairing with each dish. The place is usually packed and they only take reservations more than 24 hours in advance. I’ve waited more than two hours for a table before, and even though it is worth it in the end, it is much better to have a table ready. Packed is actually an understatement.

Luckily, Two Brothers recently acquired a very large piece of property in Aurora (yes, the same town as Wayne’s World). The place used to be Walter Payton’s Roundhouse — I went there once and it was very large but obviously not busy enough to stay afloat — which made it perfect for Two Brothers, who were bursting at the seams in Warrenville.

Okay, here’s the good part — the beers.
Please excuse my lame reviews. I am in no way a seasoned beer reviewer and I hate using terms like “finish” and “aroma” so I’m just going to tell you straightforwardly what I think:

“Domaine DuPage” is their French Country Ale. It might be my favorite. It’s my go-to beer to pair with dinner because it’s not too heavy. In case you didn’t know, Warrenville is in DuPage County.

“Cane and Ebel” is their Red Rye Ale. I’m a huge fan of Red Ryes and this one is exceptional. It has this sort of creaminess that’s very distinct… This is why I don’t rate/review beers I can’t find the words!

“Prairie Path Ale,” their Golden Ale, I’ve only had once. And I really need to remedy this. From what I remember it was very light and refreshing. It’s also certified gluten-free. The name is a reference to the Illinois Prairie Path that goes through DuPage and a few other bordering counties.

“Ebel’s Weiss” is an unfiltered Hefeweizen. It is very flavorful and has one of my favorite notes: banana. I can’t tell you how much I love banana-y beers. I’ll ad more to this once I have a bottle in front of me.

“The Bitter End” is their year-round American Pale Ale. The name is a very accurate description. And the hop flavor, oh the hop flavor!

“Resistance IPA” is aged in oak foudres, according to the bottles — which I had to look up because I wasn’t quite sure what a “foudre” was. Apparently it’s a “French term for a large cask of indefinite size.” That still didn’t help, but I’m imagining large barrel-ish things made of oak. It’s a very good, kind of citrus-y IPA that I’ve also only had once. Stop with the sighing, I’m a poor graduate student.

“Heavy Handed” is one of their other IPAs. It’s only released in the fall — I think I read something about celebrating the hop harvest. Anyway, it’s different because they use fresh hops. It has this great hoppy, fresh plant-y taste.

“Heavier Handed” is like “Heavy Handed” on crack.

“Hop Juice” is a Doulbe IPA. I don’t think I’ve had the chance to have a full one on my own. But the hops pretty much smack you in the face, and from what I recall, the ABV is higher than the others.

“The Long Haul” is also aged in oak foudres. I’m pretty sure I’ve had this one at least once. But my memory escapes me. I apologize. I’ll come back and update this once I get my hands on a few bottles again.

I plan on drinking “Dog Days,” their summer seasonal lager a.s.a.p. to review it here for you all.

The family of Two Brothers beers are currently only available in Illinois, Indiana, Ohio, New York, and Minnesota. I feel bad for you if you live outside of these states because you are missing out on truly wonderful beer-drinking experiences.

Check back for updates. And leave comments if you’ve had any of these and want to chime-in on my terrible attempt at reviewing — Kid Carboy, I’m looking at you.

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8 comments

  1. Two Brothers is perhaps the major production brewery that I have the most direct connection to. It’s the closest of what I would consider “real production breweries” to my hometown, and the two brewers went to my alma mater.

    I respect their beer, but they’re not really a place I would think of as a “favorite brewery.” More often, I just think of them as the makers of solid beers that are usually good examples for their styles. Beers like The Bitter End, Domaine Dupage and Ebel’s Weiss are all quite good, and I find they are good ways to introduce other people to styles, and to craft in general.

    The foudres are indeed large wooden containers, but they’re used as fermenters. Mother, you’ve been to the Warrenville location I assume, and if so you’ve probably seen the foudres. In the taphouse, if you look through the window that goes into the brewery, they’re the large wooden tanks. That is something I think is particularly nice about the brewery, by the way–they have a line of two oak-aged year-round beers that are not “imperial” styles. There aren’t a lot of other oak-aged session ales around, for people who like that sort of thing.

    Some of their specialties are particularly good. The best stuff I’ve probably had from them–and I’ve had most of it–is the Cane and Ebel, the Northwind imperial stout, their “Askew” sour, the blackened version of Hop Juice, and the Red Eye Coffee Porter which was just rereleased.

    However, I’ve also had my gripes with them from time to time, beginning with their website. Indeed, their entire web presence can often be laughable. http://www.twobrosbrew.com/ As you can see, the website still lists upcoming selections for 2009. It’s bad. The Facebook is the only place they ever announce anything, and a Facebook profile does not constitute a marketing department. If I go online, I should be able to find a list put together by the brewery of which beers they make and when. It’s not a Herculean effort for them to do this.

    They’re also not the best organized when it comes to throwing events. The last few years of Hop Juice release parties have been kind of messy. I didn’t get to go to this year’s one, which was moved to the roundhouse, but I hope that things were a little bit more efficiently organized.

    In the last few years, I think they have gotten progressively more interesting as they try more unusual things. They certainly seem to be doing well. I look forward to trying their new Outlaw IPA, which just came out in cans. I hope to pick some up the next time I’m up in the Chitown area. We get plenty of Two Brothers downstate, but I’ve yet to see any of that.

    1. I’ve definitely seen the foudres, I just had no idea what they were called. Thanks master yoda. They actually did a pretty well organized event in Glen Ellyn recently that I enjoyed, “Shops and Hops.” The weather was terrible, but it was a fun idea and they had reps there pouring who were very fun to talk to. I agree that their site is really bad and they desperately need a spell/grammar checker.
      I’ve been dying to try Northwind, but I never catch it when it’s in season. I didn’t even know they made a sour — this has moved to the top of my “must purchase immediately” list. Is it year-round or will I have to wait?

      1. I think that Askew was just a one-timer, but they probably have others that I’m not aware of. Once again, I would love to be able to go to someplace and get all that information, but there’s nowhere besides beeradvocate and whatnot that you can look up the things that they’ve made, when, and if they’ll be made again.

  2. I love the stories behind food and beverages products, specially if its family business. Oh and I really like the orange-yelowwy label at the bottle. Brightens up the beer value, that usually have rather masculine-rustig atmosphere around it.
    Thanks for sharing

  3. I’ve only had two of their beers, the Heavy Handed IPA and the Cain and Ebel. I picked them up on a whim at a small beer store in Philly. I really enjoyed both of them and hope that they increase distribution to the Philly area. Another brewery that was founded by two brothers (2 different brothers) is Maine Beer Company. They are quite a bit smaller scale that Two Brothers, but also make great beer. Since I am the father to two sons, I would be super proud if my boys stay super close and build a business together one day. A dad can dream. 🙂

    Cheers!
    G-LO

  4. As noted by G-LO, we also get some of their tasty brews in Pennsylvania. It’s inconsistent and somewhat uncommon, though, at least where I live. I’ve had the Cain and Ebel, Ebel’s Weisse, and Domaine DuPage here. Always makes me feel a little closer to home.

  5. Jimmy Hoppa · · Reply

    I bought a 6-er of the Domaine DuPage the last time I was in Chicago whilst slithering back to my hotel from the Clark Street Ale House. I remember I enjoyed their take on a French country ale quite a bit. Good beer to pair with cheese.

    1. It is indeed a good food beer.

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