bowling alleys Burnt City Brewing

Burnt City Brewing Rises From the Ashes in True Chicago Tradition

Sunday, July 31, 2016 Louis Vasseur


 Chicago has long been known as a city of grit and perseverance.  We pride ourselves on our ability to withstand any and all adversities life throws at us.  Like the “85 Bears”, we look our opponents directly in the eye and say “bring your best”.  Life may knock us down, but then we push ourselves up off the ground, ready to go another round. Even the Great Chicago Fire of 1871 couldn’t keep the City down. Not only did Chicago survive, but its citizens rebuilt the City into something even greater…. a world class City, second to none.



Chicago-based Burnt City Brewing, is a local craft brewer with a never-say-quit history that would make Mike Royko or Studs Terkel smile.  Businessman Steve Soble was looking to start up a brewpub when he met brewers John and Ben Saller. The two brothers were also planning to start a new brewpub so they decided to join forces in a new enterprise and Atlas Brewing was born.  Soble loves Chicago history (his Southport Bowling Lanes still has human pin setters) so reviving the name of a Chicago heritage brewer that operated from 1896 until Prohibition made sense.  In 2012, Atlas Brewing opened their new brewpub in the Lincoln Park neighborhood and joined the ranks of an increasing crowded local craft brew scene. A few years later, Atlas Brewing found itself involved in a trademark naming dispute with a Washington DC brewery called Atlas Brew Works.  In 2015, after two years of legal dispute, Soble and the Saller brothers lost their legal fight and needed a new name.




In true Chicago tradition, Soble and the Saller Brothers were determined to use this adversity to rise from the ashes and build something even better.  As they reevaluated their situation, they realized they had been merely content in an industry that thrives on creativity. Their beer was good, but was it good enough to stand out in an increasingly crowded craft brew market? Yes, the Atlas identity paid homage to Chicago’s past, but did it truly reflect who Soble and his partners really were?  With 80 brewers in Chicago alone and over 4,300 nationwide, Soble knew they not alone needed a name but to use this opportunity to reinvent their brand.



The result was the brewery’s reincarnation as Burnt City Brewing.  The new brand is reminiscent of Chicago’s rebirth after the Great Fire of 1871 and it reflects their own recovery. According to Soble, ”Burnt City Brewing is about getting back up, overcoming obstacles, and perseverance. But most of all, it is about great beer.”  The May 2016 rebirth allowed the partners a fresher, eager approach to the business. The new Burnt City Brewing is bolder than Atlas.  The old geometric can designs have been replaced by yellow-eyed, post- apocalyptic silhouette characters in motion - residents of Burnt City.    The brewery features three year-round beers:  Face Melter Hibiscus IPA; Dick the Butcher Pale Ale; and Balloon Boy Farmhouse Wheat Ale. Seasonal offerings like the popular Retrofit Lime Radler and Pearadise City Tart Pear Saison (in collaboration with Penrose Brewing) fill out the portfolio. The partners have had some fun coming up with the names. Dick the Butcher is a Shakespearian reference (extra points if you guess how).  Burnt City’s canning facility is located in the former Jays potato chip plant in the Pullman neighborhood.  In its first year in operation, Burnt City expects to brew 3,000+ barrels at the canning factory to be distributed throughout Chicagoland, Northern Illinois, Northern Indiana, and parts of Alabama.



Burnt City Brewing’s brewpub is located at 2747 N. Lincoln Avenue in a building that also houses one of Soble’s bowling alleys.  The decor pays homage to Chicago’s brewing history as well as “hidden in plain site” references to Burnt City’s year-round beers (hint, check the shelves on the walls). The brewpub’s menu features elevated pub food made fresh from high-quality ingredients, specializing in meats smoked in house, along with a variety of hearty sandwiches, entrees, and pizzas. Many of the items incorporate smoke and/or Burnt City beers in the recipes.  The bar includes 12 to 15 rotating taps of original Burnt City beers, as well as a handful of guest drafts with a local focus.  The brewpub provides a workshop for the Saller brothers and Pub Brewer Christian Burd to explore a wide variety of brews before selecting the most successful to be packaged and distributed out of the canning facility.  The adjacent intimate eight-lane bowling alley allows guests to enjoy friendly competition while enjoying great food and beer in hand.  The bowling alley also hosts a weekly bowling league for teams made up from local craft breweries.  
Burnt City Brewing Founder Steve Soble




Despite the adversity of the trademark dispute, the future looks bright for Burnt City Brewing. With the popularity of some of the seasonal recipes, such as Retrofit Lime Radler, the partners may expand the year-round beer offerings. Distribution is strong and growing. The brewery is a strong supporter of Chicago and their neighborhood. They are active participants in several neighborhood festivals and the Lincoln Park neighborhood’s efforts to gain the return of the #11 bus route.  As Brewer John Saller puts it, ”Burnt City Brewing is giving us the opportunity to bring a whole new attitude to what we were doing before….all of a sudden nothing is sacred and that’s liberating.”



Burnt City Brewing is located at 2747 N. Lincoln Avenue, Chicago, IL, 60614.  You can check them out at www.burntcitybrewing.com

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