Temperance in all things
Josh Gilbert, the founder of Temperance on his journey of setting up a brewery
Saturday 31 July 2021
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I manage to grab the founder of Temperance Beer Company, Josh Gilbert in his car, between visiting customers in his home town of Evanston. Concerned that time might be limited, I jump straight in with my most pressing question: why on Earth would you name a brewery after a movement dedicated to crushing the evils of alcohol?
“It’s a fair question,” he replies. “When Northwestern University first set up in Evanston, it drew a four-mile radius of dryness around the campus. Big-time Methodists. That lasted right up until 1972, but even today, we still don’t have tavern licences; there has to be some food aspect to every place that serves alcohol. So we’re not dry, we’re not wet, we’re… damp. So, as the first brewery in Evanston, we wanted to nod to that somewhat tortured history.”
Riding the front of the wave in Chicagoland’s great craft expansion, the impetus for Temperance came during the last big recession of 2008, when Josh was practicing as an architect, mostly doing residential work.
“When the 2008 financial crisis hit, our growth ground to a halt pretty quickly,” says Josh. “We were still getting marginally more revenue each year, but not enough to move out of the basement or hire anybody. It was a two-person practice and in reality there was probably enough work for half of one of us. So I was approaching 40, not really happy with the way the architecture thing was going, but really enjoying homebrewing.
“I’d also just moved back home to Evanston, just outside of Chicago, a couple years before. Having spent so long in Chicago proper, I really felt the area was missing a brewery or a brew pub or something like that, so I naively thought ‘well, maybe I’ll just do that instead’. I was blissfully ignorant enough to just launch myself into that, which is lucky because if I’d known all of the hurdles I’d have to overcome, I’d definitely have thought two or three more times about it.”
Suburban Evanston isn’t the most obvious location for a brewery, but Josh managed to snag a rare former industrial building on a spacious lot, with classic post-war redbrick architecture and plenty of natural light. It was the perfect spot for a destination brewery tap, renovated with a stylish glass front and plentiful outdoor seating. In the eight years since Temperance opened its doors, it’s become a firm favourite with Evanston locals and beer lovers from right across Chicagoland.
“I definitely got into this for the brewing, but there’s so much I love about it now. For example, over the past few years we’ve had this annual outdoor summer concert in conjunction with a small music venue in town called Space. We actually turn the whole parking lot into what really feels like a music fest, with amazing bands like Big Boi, and George Clinton and Funkadelic. And there’s so much more,” Josh says.
That said of course, the brewing remains very much central to Temperance, and it’s clearly still where Josh has his heart. Temperance’s original brewer came from Goose Island, and the launch beers were a mix of her recipes and Josh’s own from his homebrewing days, mostly straight-down-the-line English ale styles. This eventually expanded into Belgian styles, barrel aged imperial stouts and, a few years ago, moved into lager; a wide spectrum of beers that have picked up a slew of awards across multiple categories.
“We have a broad portfolio; there are a lot of newer breweries around Chicago that just do two or three styles, and I respect that approach, but it’s not us,” says Josh. “Right now we have 14 beers on tap and one guest cider, and those are everything from a pineapple blonde ale to and an old ale, a lager, a dry hopped cream ale… So hopefully there’s something for everyone. I like to think of our beers as accessible and approachable, but if you’re an expert beer drinker you still recognise they’re well-made and nuanced. Our beers are about the symphony, not the soloist.”
In terms of the wider scene, Josh acknowledges that Chicago was late to the craft party, but also argues it’s now easily equal to beery meccas like Portland and San Diego.
Our beers are about the symphony, not the soloist
“For a long time it was all about Goose Island, then Revolution came along, but it really wasn’t until the late 2000s that you saw many new breweries coming through. Now I believe we have the most square footage dedicated to brewing of any city in the US. I know that’s kind of a weird way to measure it, but there you go!
“In so many ways though, it’s the perfect place to be a brewery. The bars here are always very excited about getting something unique or small batch and stuff like that, but it’s also such a great place for eating and drinking. So in terms of new recipe development, maybe we’ll have someone else’s beer and think it’s a great style, or maybe one of the team will come in and say ‘I just had this cocktail,’ or ‘I just had this really interesting meal’. Anyone can have these ideas and our brewers love the challenge of trying to turn that into a beer. So, really, inspiration is all around.”
IN THE BOX
Karaoke Tears Hazy IPA
“I tasted a can from the Beer52 shipment yesterday and honestly I think this is the best batch of this beer we’ve made yet. It was a total scramble to get it finished though, and we had to call in a few favours from the amazing brewing community around here. The biggest challenge was actually labelling the beers; we don’t have an in-house labeller, and the lead time for that sort of thing is usually around two months. So we put out a call to the community and, amazingly, a mobile canning company in Milwaukee was able to come in at two days’ notice. They brought the labelling machine and just ran it all day Saturday and Sunday, getting through these 1500 cases of beer. It was quite something.”
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