CHICAGO - These days it seems you can’t turn the corner in the Chicago area without running into a craft brewery.
But it wasn’t always so, which is why hundreds of people will gather this week to celebrate the 25th anniversary of Two Brothers Brewing, one of the first, and most successful craft breweries in the Chicago area.
"We’ve got a lot of customers that have been with us for years and years, familiar faces. And I sure hope we see them," said Jim Ebel, who along with Jason Ebel are the two brothers of Two Brothers Brewing.
"I always say if we weren’t so stupid or stubborn, we would’ve quit years ago. I’m not sure which. Turned out OK," said Jason.
The brothers were both University of Illinois architecture students when they fell in love with good beer while studying in France. When they returned home, they began homebrewing, until their mom made a fateful decision.
"It was really our mother who was the catalyst," Jason remembers. "We were at family dinner one night and she said you guys either need to start a brewery or shut up because you’re driving me crazy."
"And we said that’s the green light," Jim chimed in. "Let’s do it."
The brothers opened their first tiny brewery in Warrenville in 1997.
"We did everything from brewing to cleaning to sales and deliveries out of our cars," said Jason. "We’d walk into a bar to try to sell it and they had no idea what it was and no desire to pay more for beer."
But thankfully, the beer world changed, and now Two Brothers employs more than 200 people at the Warrenville Brewery and the Round House in Aurora.
The company distributes 50,000 barrels a year to eight states.
"We’re not trying to be huge," said Jim. "We are trying to make the best products, the best quality…so that the sense of community beer brings to our consumers and customers."
On Thursday evening, hundreds of those customers will gather at the Two Brothers Roundhouse Brewery in Aurora to celebrate a quarter-century of good beer and good community.
"We’ll have bands playing all night," said Jason. "Beers from our past, beers from our archives. Brewed up some recipes we haven’t had in years. It’s gonna be a ton of fun."
Two Brothers will grow next month when Jason‘s son graduates from college and joins the business, to help guide the next 25 years of making beers.
"Well it’s turned out OK," said Jason. "It’s been a labor of love. And a lot of heart and soul and blood sweat and tears into this. But we’re pretty darn proud of what we built."
Two Brothers has also expanded into coffee roasting and pre-mixed drinks.