Pipeworks Brewing Co. in Bucktown Wins Best New Brewery in the World

By Alisa Hauser on February 1, 2013 10:45am | Updated on February 1, 2013 12:52pm

BUCKTOWN — It's cheers all around at Pipeworks Brewing Co., named best new brewery in a worldwide competition.

The brewery, in a nondescript black building on the southeast corner of Wabansia Street and Western Avenue, beat out nearly 2,000 breweries worldwide evaluated by RateBeer.

Pipeworks, at 1675 N. Western Ave., is owned by Beejay Oslon and Gerrit Lewis, two friends who met while working at West Lakeview Liquors on West Addison Street.

"When we opened this place, we were shooting for best new brewery, but there was a lot of competition," said Oslon, 31.

According to RateBeer, 1,914 new breweries opened worldwide in 2012, which was a 17 percent increase over 2011.

The ranking was based on a formula that includes RateBeer user reviews. Overall, among all brewers worldwide, Pipeworks is ranked 39th.

Reacting to the news Thursday, Oslon said, "I'm happy and couldn't be happier considering how far we've come."

Oslon was taste-testing his newest creation, "Last Kiss," a Scottish-style beer using vanilla bean and Fenugreek seed, which he described as an "Indian spice reminiscent of maple."

Wednesday was the brewery's first anniversary and a lot has happened since it opened after a successful Kickstarter campaign that raised $40,075.

Pipeworks has grown from three  to 12 tanks and brought 39 beers to market, all with unique names such as Unicorn Galaxy, an Imperial India Pale Ale that is part of the Ninja vs. Unicorn Series.  The beers are brewed in small batches.

The bottles feature colorful labels drawn by Oslon, who attended Von Steuben High School and studied fine art at Columbia College.

Oslon and Lewis added a few new helpers to the team including Mike Schallau, 24, an intern, Nick Murray, 43, and Drew Fox, 41.

Fox, a brewer, said he's been with Pipeworks "since batch eight" and commutes to Bucktown from Hammond, Ind.

Fox has been learning the ropes from Oslon and has his own Kickstarter campaign to launch the 18th Street Brewery in Gary. That campain ends in three days and has already raised more than $20,000.

 Pipeworks Brewery opened in January 2012 at 1675 N. Western Ave. and was named Best New Brewery in the World Wednesday by RateBeer.
Pipeworks Brewery opened in January 2012 at 1675 N. Western Ave. and was named Best New Brewery in the World Wednesday by RateBeer.
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DNAinfo/Alisa Hauser

"It's exciting, I come here every day on the South Shore train and grew up in Humboldt Park," Fox said of his job at Pipeworks, which turned full-time about six months ago.

The Brotherhood is 18th Street Brewery's first bottled beer, which was produced as a collaboration with Pipeworks (read more about Fox in the Chicago Reader).

Lastly — and perhaps importantly in an industry that Oslon described as "very close knit and supportive" — the guys recently won first place in the Illinois Craft Brewers Guild's bowling league, which had about 10 teams in it and wrapped up its season in December.

Oslon said that no one on the team was an experienced bowler but that "we were all really into it and very excited about it."

About 80 retail outlets carry Pipeworks beer, according to Lewis.

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