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July 4- The Brewpub will be closed all day


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2323 N. Milwaukee Ave
Chicago, IL 60647


Taproom + Production Brewery

Upcoming Closures

May 26 — Closed for a Private Event


Mon-Tue / Closed
Wed-Thu / 2-9pm
Fri / 2-10pm
Sat / 12-10pm
Sun / 12-6pm


3340 N. Kedzie Ave
Chicago, IL 60618


The Return of V.S.O.J.

In a beer culture predicated on what’s new and rare, how can you possibly measure up to your most beloved beer of all time?

The original Very Special Old Jacket, released in cans in the fall of 2018, has had a much longer life as an object of discussion than as an item available at our Taproom. But we still hang on to those unforgettable sense memories: the interlocking complexities of sweetness, from caramel and toffee to creme brulee and candied date. The punchy oak that didn’t overwhelm with tannins, but held the line perfectly against the sweetest beer we’d brewed to that point. Most importantly, the absolute harmony of everything together in one sip.

Of course nothing’s ever going to be the same as that first out-of-nowhere taste of something you’ll never forget. You can’t go back and see Dr. Strangelove for the first time again. But with time and familiarity, one can come to appreciate something even more.

So we set out to capture a thunderbolt. Again.

Batch ‑1

The original V.S.O.J. started as a sweeter-than-planned turn of our Straight Jacket English Barleywine to be released in January 2018 at the end of the 2017-2018 Deep Wood Series.

We pride ourselves on making balanced barrel-forward beers, so this outlier was new to us, and some got extra time to develop in bourbon barrels. Part was set aside for a draft-only test batch of V.S.O.J. that debuted in January 2017 and scored a bronze at FOBAB the same year. Even more hung out an extra year for scaling up into the first canned V.S.O.J. release the following year.

In the intervening time, that same January 2018 edition of Straight Jacket turned some heads and brought home a bronze from the Great American Beer Festival.

“We took to calling that particular Straight Jacket ‘Stoner Michael Phelps’,” Barrel Program Lead Marty Scott said. “Everywhere it went, it won bronze. And that beer, with a little more age on it, was what really drove the character of V.S.O.J.”

With an extra year-plus on the books and more time for barrel and oxygen to work its magic, V.S.O.J. released in 2018 and became one of the beers we always point to when expounding on what American oak and a little waiting can do.

Moving From How to Why

Three years, in the context of brewing history, isn’t a very long time. But in terms of how we approach the Deep Wood Series, we’re in a different epoch. Our barrel-aged offerings now rest on a mathematical foundation that balances purpose-brewed sweet components with balancing dry components and an exacting blending process to produce the final result.

In going back to construct the first iteration of V.S.O.J. in three years, we had a selection of barrels to choose from ranging from two to five years old. The lumber itself is of a higher quality, as barrel sourcing has also improved.

Nothing in brewing is completely static, and there’s no copy/paste function for replicating a fan favorite. But you don’t shoot for the same target – you go for better, because that’s what you did when you impressed folks in the first place.

The most productive thing we have now that we didn’t have then is a fuller understanding of what happens to different components over the course of years. What bourbon and oak and evaporation and oxygen and aging sugars do to not just one barrel’s worth of beer, but across an entire blend in the final product. We’ve applied those lessons and created V.S.O.D., V.S.O.R. and Double Barrel V.S.O.D. in the meantime. The barrel program is better-developed than ever, and we’re moving away from the idea of a “barrel-aged beer season,” because they taste pretty phenomenal regardless of what page of the calendar we’re on.

If lightning strikes once, it’s great. But being able to call it down yourselves? That’s what we work on every day among the barrel stacks.

Bigger … Everything

One of the lessons learned from this batch is the importance of going bigger. With a bigger selection of well-aged barrels, oak and tannin and sweetness all come through even more exceptionally. Evaporation tilts even the dry components toward a sweeter presentation. The lumber took its own time and got even more powerful in the sip.

To draw out those same intricate complexities of sweetness against the oak, we adjusted for a higher balance of sugars than last time. To showcase the wood in the way we treasure, we used more expressive barrels. To balance it all, we blended, adjusted, tasted, and compared notes. And then we did it again. Once our thoughts started wandering back to the Fall of 2018 (the Bears might win it all!) we knew that we’d finally found our way back to the flag we planted back then.

When V.S.O.J. rolls out into the world the night before our release at the brewery, the tide of photos and check-ins and batch one vs. batch two takes will roll in. And we’ll dive into all of that in due time. But before we do, we’re going to put the phones down, close our eyes, and take a long, slow, lingering sip of the Barleywine we’ve been waiting three years to meet.

And it’s going to taste perfect.

Featured Release Variants

Unmitigated Audacity - 17.2 %

The last two Weller Special Reserve casks of Double Barrel V.S.O.D. get the Supermassive Café treatment with over ten-pounds-per-barrel of Freshly Roasted Dark Matter cocoa-fermented coffee ... just because. The result is, essentially, Supermassive Café Double Barrel V.S.O.D.

X.O.J. – 16.3%

Batch 1539 has been a component in each iteration of V.S.O.J. since its inception on draft in 2017. Experience now its lean, lumber-laden swan song -- a full five years in the making. Subtly hazy with American oak tannin and fully-oxidized, evaporatively-concentrated malt sugars, this may be the most boldly flavourful English Barleywine we've ever produced. Goodnight, sweet prince.

Boss V.S.O.J. – 13.3%

Two-and-a-half years after filling these WhistlePig Boss Hog Calvados finishing barrels with sweet component Barleywine they've reemerged with mind-bending oaky nuances and a silky, mature malt structure the likes of which we've not hereto seen.