The Arcade’s Project

Courtesy of Plant Chicago/flickr

“I still get really excited about Zelda,” Chris Tourre says, not hesitating to respond when asked if there are any recently released video games he’s jonesing for. In a gray hoodie, sneakers, and thick, black-rimmed glasses, he is at once cute and nerdy, like overgrown kids always are. After all, he co-founded a company based on what he calls the “untapped marriage of video games and beer.” This seemingly juvenile obsession with beer is misleading, though, because Tourre is into good beer, really good beer. He and his business partner Lance Curran are the two guys behind Arcade Brewery.

Surprising ideas come from surprising places: an experiment with poultry was Tourre’s inspiration for the project. For his MFA thesis from the University of Illinois at Chicago, Tourre raised a flock of chickens and delivered the eggs across Pilsen. Traveling around the neighborhood, he realized he could bring together the South Side’s bourgeoning culinary scene and its blue-collar population to create a unique, community-oriented product.

Soon after the egg delivery experiment, Tourre started holding brewing workshops and participating in local beer conventions. Sparked by his love of the brew, the part-time artist began concocting his own beer at home before taking his craft public.

Although the word “artisanal” never came up in conversation, Tourre is obviously a craftsman. His recipes are playful and seasonal–take, for example, the Arcade Grapefruit IPA, a golden hoppy concoction with a quirky grapefruit kick. The brewers are also open to customers’ input on what ingredients to use. “From conception to consumption,” Tourre says, “our customers will have a stake of what goes in the bottle.” After the 8-Bit Series, Arcade’s first line of beer, the brewery will release Six Pack Stories, a line that aims to blur the boundary between maker and taster.

Each bottle will have a custom-drawn comic frame, and Tourre hopes to get one artist for each series, who will be chosen by popular vote on Facebook or Twitter. Graphic illustrator Tony Moore–more famously known as the illustrator of the comic book series, The Walking Dead–is the first artist signed on to illustrate what Arcade hopes will be a dynamic, custom label, rather than a typical company masthead.

Arcade has located a physical space for their project–they are the latest planned addition to the Plant, an abandoned warehouse in Back of the Yards that is in the process of becoming the city’s first self-sustainable vertical farm. They will share the 16,800 square-foot first floor space of the Plant with another brewery, the New Chicago Beer Company. Both companies intend to use the space for brewing, bottling, and kegging, and–if things go according to plan–they will eventually be joined by a beer garden. As of now, however, the first floor feels like it belongs in an episode of Ghost Adventures, not in someone’s memories of a half-drunk night in Back of the Yards. Construction won’t begin for another five weeks, but once work on the space begins things will have to move quickly–both breweries want to be up and running by March of next year.

Like many fine alcohols, time is what the Plant needs: time for construction, and time for a $2.1 million anaerobic digester (a fancy power generator) to come through the mail. In the meantime, both Tourre and Curran are keeping busy. Curran is working full-time at Threadless, and, in anticipation of Arcade’s grand opening, Tourre has managed to get ahold of a Winnitron 1000–an old-school arcade console that he and Curran plan to deck out in Arcade “schwag.” The Arcade aesthetic is slowly coming together, but Tourre and Curran don’t plan on becoming beer snobs anytime soon.   “I’m not a style Nazi,” Tourre says. “I just like to make fun beers that are enjoyable.”