Begyle Brewing Co.: Welcome to Community Supported Beer


moss’ newest brewery project, Begyle Brewing Co. (formerly Argyle Brewing Co.) models itself after the increasingly popular CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) and is Chicago’s first “CSB” (Community Supported Brewery). Founders Matt Ritchey, Kevin Cary and Brendan Blume decided to start their subscription based brewery after a few brainstorming sessions. Like CSAs, members will receive a share of craft beer on a weekly, bi-weekly or monthly basis. Begyle is expected to open its craft beer programs starting this summer.

Though it’s new to Chicago’s shores, community-sustained brewing finds its roots deep in German history. In the 13th and 14th centuries, central brewhouses in each town would produce the liquid base of beer, called the wort, which was then collected by individual citizens. These select few would ferment the wort, and then place a special sign on their door (Zoigl, pictured above.) The six-pointed star looks just like a Star of David, but it’s actually a brewer’s star, one point for each beer-making element: hops, yeast, malt, grain, water and brewer. The Zoigl signaled to townsfolk that their neighbor had opened a temporary, communal pub in his home, a.k.a., to come over and have a cold one. After the beer from that house was gone, the next home brewer would collect his wort and so the good people of the town were never without local beer (one hopes.)

In a previous post, we explored the concept of Artisanal Capitalism, whereby a consumer, using his values as a touchstone, nudges change in the ethics and sustainability of industries with his purchasing power. The definition, solidity and illumination of these values increases with the acquaintance of consumers with their suppliers and producers. Fortunately, with the growth of the Slow Food/Everything movements it has become easier each year to find things locally grown, made and sourced. Businesses like Begyle Brewing are helping to increase the visibility of the local movement. Not only will they be invested in their community (they plan to use their excess space to harbor Chicago artists,) the midwest natives aim to partner with existing CSAs and meat co-ops eventually, too. “Its all about enabling consumers and making it easier for them to be able to make the choice to shop local and support the local movement,” said Cary, “the more options and presence for consumers, the more people who will participate.”

Shots of the soon to be Begyle Brewing Co. exterior

moss has designed a space for Begyle Brewing following the ethos of Slow Food as applied to building: Slow Architecture. In contrast to the austere, changeless models borne of the International Style of the ’20’s and ’30’s (motto: form follows function), Slow Architecture, like Slow Food, favors regional methods and materials of production. Not only that, it takes cues from the region itself to build into the landscape, rather than simply on top of it. Slow Architecture favors efficiency, and low-impact decisions over more destructive ones that waste energy in a constant battle for dominion and consistency over a building site. Examples include building with reclaimed materials and excavating existing masonry as we’ve done at Flirty Cupcakes (below) and Brew.

Exposed masonry at Flirty Cupcakes

Another benefit of the CSA model is it may be a better avenue to gather start-up funds based on actual consumer preference. In contrast to the government subsidy model, of say, corn, CSA produces according to demand. But it’s not only the supply/demand stream that CSA/B’s improve. Like the co-op model, exemplified by our Logan Square project, The Dill Pickle, when the management is kept local, decisions benefit the immediate community better, well, because they’re involved in those decisions.

Begyle also aspires to be a net zero waste company, meaning they’ll utilize all their waste in productive ways and not have to send any to a landfill. They plan to reuse their spent grain to make dog treats, removing excess water with an in-the-works dehydrator, and are strategizing about water conservation. They secured a waste hauler that offers free recycling and are working with a grad school student from the University of Dayton to make their heat transfer process as efficient as possible.