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The Pluses and Pitfalls of Brewing House Beers

When done correctly, producing exclusive beers for bars and restaurants can be a sales and marketing win. However, they also come with production challenges and regulatory hurdles.

Kate Bernot Sep 12, 2022 - 10 min read

The Pluses and Pitfalls of Brewing House Beers Primary Image

The Usual is a house beer produced by Fullsteam for the Arrow barber shops in North Carolina. Photo courtesy of Fullsteam and Arrow.

What could a beer bar as iconic as Hopleaf in Chicago serve to celebrate its 30th anniversary this past February? The bar already features 62 draft lines of some of the best beers in the world, plus an exemplary bottle list featuring Belgian lambics and Trappist ales. To celebrate, owner Michael Roper decided to tap a beer the bar had never poured before: a proprietary house beer, designed exclusively for the restaurant.

Doubtless, many breweries would have jumped at the chance to brew Hopleaf’s house beer. However, Roper chose a brewery that, until last summer, he had never heard of: Art History Brewing in Geneva, Illinois. (“I thought it was kind of a weird name for a brewery,” Roper says of his first impressions.) He was so impressed by some beer samples delivered by the brewery that Roper and his friends wanted to know the name of the person who brewed them. When he found out it was longtime Chicago-area brewer Greg Browne, Roper decided it was fate clicking into place. A veteran local brewer with a focus on impeccable, classic styles was just the person to brew Hopleaf’s first-ever proprietary beer.

“The only tricky thing [was] that I [knew] there [were] other breweries saying, ‘Wonder why they didn’t use us,’” Roper says. “That was inevitable because everybody would like to be that brewery. But I [had] to choose one.”

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