“Community” is the quintessential term that captures the spirit of the craft brewing industry. However, few embrace a commitment to their community more than Chicago’s Middle Brow Beer Company. By donating half of their profits to charitable causes, they have found a way simultaneously to brew beer and help thy neighbor.
Middle Brow Beer’s Peter Ternes explained, “My partner Nick [Burica] and I were desk jockeys back in 2011. We found ourselves looking around at the city around us, the people. It’s a luxury we have with money we spend on craft beer and restaurants, but at the same time, we see people starving outside in the freezing, cold winter. We hit a tipping point and wanted to do something. Nick emailed me and said ‘let’s put our money where our mouth is.’” After they had bounced a few ideas around, an email arrived in Ternes’ inbox suggesting they brew beer. Ternes was instantly on board; Middle Brow Brewing was born. Ternes explained, “Since people are already willing to spend money on craft beer, let’s’ let the money that’s spent on beer go to helping people who really need it.”
The next step involved finding the right cause to support. Ternes explained, “We paused and thought the most important one, the one we focused on, was the gun violence problem in our city. We wanted to find a charity and organization that fought against violence in the city.” As a result, they developed a relationship with Cure Violence (locally known as Ceasefire). These are people that hit the streets, protect people, and assist in obtaining perpetrators. Additionally, they fund the Greater Chicago Food Depository, and the Immigrant Youth Justice League.
Of course, good intentions only go so far. The beer needs to be good enough to generate a profit because fifty percent of nothing helps no one. Rest easy, because the beer is good – really good. Middle Brow brews fresh, vibrant beer involving and an array of ingredients, such as lemon, lime, vanilla, cinnamon, and…popcorn. Yes, popcorn. It may sound odd, but adding gobs of popcorn to the mash provides for nice, creamy ale.
Ternes talked about Middle Brow’s brewing profile, “You could say we are partial to Belgian styles, Saisons and things like that. But, in reality, it’s more accurate to say we focus on European batches, Scotch ales, and other varieties. We love IPA and stouts. Our imperial milk stout has done very well for us. We’re stoked at how it has turned out and we also have our take on an IPA. But, so many other killer brewers already have done their take on IPA. For us, we have had a lot of fun experimenting with yeast. Our longer term goal was to acquire a facility that would allow us to brew some really cool sours.”
One problem, though. When you donate half of your profits to great causes, obtaining larger brewing facilities is not that easy. Nevertheless, Peter explained, “Yes, we are growing very slowly. But, we stay really true to our objective, and we feel that if we do that and brew great beer, we’ll succeed, and things will eventually grow as a business, and we can also make huge donations. That’s the goal!”