The Brotherhood of Brewing
In a city that’s never had a shortage of fine beers, it might seem odd to say Chicago is on the verge of a brewing revolution. But with more and more breweries of all sizes calling this city home, the statement’s not too farfetched. Smaller, independent operations are hoping to make a big splash in the brewing scene now more than ever.

BreakRoom Brewery is one of those independent operations. With its doors set to open in June 2014 at 2925 W. Montrose Ave., founder Aaron Heineman is prepared to open in a neighborhood thirsty for craft beer. created by a tightknit team of brewing enthusiasts. The brewpub’s approach is based upon recruiting brewers from around the city to brainstorm and brew together.

To brew the beers, Heineman brought on Mike Pallen, Head Brewer and Manager of Brewery Operations at BreakRoom. Pretty badass title, huh? The title goes hand in hand with the brewpub’s unofficial motto: “Bigger, badder, and ballsier.” The motto is a testament to the guys’ mission to brew the unexpected; the off-the-beaten-path types of craft beers. In addition to the beers Pallen will be creating, BreakRoom plans to dedicate two of their ten serving tanks to collaboration beers, allowing fellow brewers from both the Chicagoland area and around the globe to work hand in hand with the BreakRoom team.

“BreakRoom wants to expose the public to the brotherhood and comradelier of brewers by having collaboration beers brewed at the space,” says Mike.

“No matter if you are a large brewery or small, all are welcomed. If you are big, let’s brew a style of beer you typically do not do. If you are small, let’s get your name out there.”

BreakRoom’s launch will feature 10 different beers, including a French Saison brewed with chamomile and white peppercorns and a Coffee Porter which showcases fresh Costa Rican coffee beans. Stop in to try them for yourself and support Chicago’s growing brew scene.

Brewmaster Q&A

Interview by Steve Heald

BreakRoom Brewery is weeks away from its grand opening. We had a chance to sit down with Head Brewer Mike Pallen and get his take on the Chicago beer scene.

How long have you been brewing and where did the interest come from?
The first batch I ever brewed was in 2002 for a Botany class when I was in college at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. But my real interest came from my dad when I was young kid. My dad worked at Miller Brewing Company in Milwaukee for 17 years. My mom and I would take lunch down to my dad and when we entered the Miller Valley, I was blown away. The size of everything was incredible. I was immediately interested, especially since my dad worked there.

Jump ahead to 2010 when my wife and I purchased our first house. It had a basement with a second kitchen and a cellar. I set up my home-brew operation and began brewing as much as I could. Based on feedback from friends and industry leaders combined with winning some medals in competitions, I realized that this was something I not only loved, but something I was good at. I decided I’d do everything I could to turn my passion into my career.

What’s the current state of the Chicago beer-drinking scene? Impressed with the beers coming out of the city?
After coming to Chicago from my hometown of Milwaukee, and brewing here, I realized Chicago was the new beer city pushing the boundaries and creating some of the best beers out there. I had visited Fort Collins, Colorado several times and thought that city was where beer was at. But in the last few years, the beer scene in Chicago has blown up. Major breweries have taken notice, like MillerCoors and AB InBev.

Plus, there are several talented, creative and passionate nano brewers opening up smaller operations. These nanos are the ones pushing the envelope with ingredients and hops. I have had the privilege and honor of being able to brew with over 15 local breweries over the past few months. It has been such an amazing experience. Not only are there tons of great breweries here, but there are just as many great brewpubs and craft beer bars. The Chicago people are thirsty. You can find some of the best and largest craft beer menus, and they are constantly packed.

Do you expect to see a growing number of breweries in Chicago in the near future?
Over the past few years, Chicago has seen a surge of new breweries. Sure there will be a lot of them competing for space, but what I think will win out is quality. Beer drinkers are smart. They know that they can get the best of the best, so we must give them that. They also like to try new things, so brewers should not be afraid to try something outside of the box. I also think there is an untapped market for sour beers in Chicago. BreakRoom has plans to brew sour beers, but it is truly an art and game of patience.

Which type of beer is your favorite to brew?
I have a love/hate relationship with sour beers. To achieve the sourness I desire, I use special yeast strains that are wild. If you do not isolate them and keep your equipment clean, you could infect all of your other beers. That is a big reason why most breweries do not do sours. On top of that, the souring process takes several months, if not years. You have to be patient with sour beers in order to achieve that ultimate funky sour flavor. But when you do wait, it is all worth it. I hate that they take so long, but love how they end up tasting.

What’s your favorite type of beer to drink?
If I had to pick, it would be sour beers. But just like music, what I pick to enjoy really all depends on my mood and surroundings. It may be a super-hot day out, so I am not going to grab a heavy Russian imperial stout.

Is there a traditional Chicago food item that pairs well with beer?
Chicago is known for its deep-dish pizza. Nothing goes better with pizza than beer. One of my favorite Chicago pizzas is Pequods. It’s thick and has a burnt onion crust. For me, since this pizza is heavy, I love to pair it with an IPA like Spiteful’s Spiteful IPA.

Pick three celebrities you’d love to have a beer with, dead or alive.
He may not be a celebrity to you or the general public, but my dad would be number one. Unfortunately, he passed away a few years ago and never got to see me become a Head Brewer. He is a big part of why I do this and what pushes me.

Secondly, and I know this is more than one person, but I would love to share some beers with the band Guster. Guster has been one of my favorite bands for a very long time—I even repped for them in the past. I would love to bring some beers to their studio and just hang. I would ask them if I could brew a collaboration beer with them that they could have on their tour bus.

Finally, I would love to have a beer with Bill Murray. That guy is a legend. I have plans to invite him to our pre-opening party.

BreakRoom Brewery is a pub making big moves for the thirsty people of Chicago. Want to be a part of it?

BreakRoom Brewery is looking for outgoing people to join BreakRoom International, an exclusive club with incredible perks. BreakRoom purchased a 1948 International Panel Truck which will be used for marketing efforts and festivals. With the money raised through the club, BreakRoom will restore the truck and get it festival ready.

For more details, visit