Beer Barons

Chicago couple gets national notice

Tracy and Doug Hurst, the founders of Metropolitan Brewing, just got a big boost from the Wall Street Journal.

There they are, after all, right there on the front page of the paper's Personal Journal section from Wednesday, arms folded in front of what are apparently large stainless steel vats of their beer, smiling at readers atop the story "In Lean Times, Stout Dreams."

"The economic crisis has stifled entrepreneurial activity in many industries," the Journal reports. "But it's done little to dent the ambitions of those who dream of brewing their own beer and offering it to the world."

The Hursts are but one example cited - but they're ours.

"In Chicago, Mr. and Mrs. Hurst are also relying on volunteers for Metropolitan Brewing, which began selling its German-style lagers to a few dozen bars and retailers this winter. The couple raised about $600,000, including money from private investors and a small-business loan," the Journal

"'This is a lot of work,' Ms. Hurst, 36, said on a recent afternoon while standing next to a row of stainless-steel fermentation tanks, each named for a secondary character on the original Star Trek television series. 'It's 12-, 13-hour days.'

"Ms. Hurst previously ran a portrait studio. Her husband, 40, who wears a bushy goatee, earned a brewing diploma at the Siebel Institute of Technology & World Brewing Academy several years ago and left a career running audiovisual systems for corporate events. Now, the couple helps teach a class on starting a brewery at the school, which is based in Chicago and Munich."

Metropolitan Brewing is located in the Ravenswood Industrial Corridor, described on the brewery's website as "a unique 'urban preserve' of light industrial business."

The Hursts hope to begin offering brewery tours this month or next. You can catch a glimpse before then, though, by attending a showing of "Beer" at the brewery this Friday or Saturday, "a magical, musical, puppety journey brought to you by The Neo-Futurists!"

Among the beers currently brewed by the Hursts: Dynamo Copper Lager, Flywheel Bright Lager, and I-beam, "an Alt style beer."

"Lagers, unfortunately, have earned a bad reputation over the years as a cheap and watered-down macrobeer," CLTV reported in a feature about Metropolitan last November. "Metropolitan Brewing hopes to rectify lager's position by returning it to the artful craft that it once was and by bringing rich and delicious flavors into it."

Long before the Journal found the story, Monday Night Brewery interviewed Tracy Hurst and asked her about her favorite part of the business. Her answer?

"The beer. I’m not kidding. Doug’s beer is damn good."

Steve Rhodes is the proprietor of The Beachwood Reporter, a Chicago-centric news and culture review named after a bar and officially in favor of beer.

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