ROSELAND — Pizza and beer simply go together.
Argus Brewery in Roseland has found a unique way to marry these two favorites beyond a case of the munchies. The craft brewer last month launched a line of frozen pizzas with crust made from a byproduct of its beer production.
About 15 percent of the pizza crust is made from mash — a mixture of malted barley that's soaked in water in the early stages of beermaking, said Patrick Jensen, 28, who founded Argus with his father, Robert, in November 2009.
Mash looks a bit like oatmeal after it's been used to make beer. This grainy concoction is placed into storage bags, frozen and shipped to a kitchen in St. Louis where pizzas are made using the special ingredient, Jensen said.
Argus Brewery Pizza debuted at Jewel-Osco in November after a full year in development. The Chicago-area grocer will exclusively sell the brewer's four varieties of frozen pizza for the next year, Jensen said.
"The great thing about beer is that it goes with about any pizza," he said.
Still, the independent brewer has some recommendations, much like the way a brew pub would suggest certain beers to complement different types of food. He likes Argus' Santa Fe Grilled Chicken Pizza with a tall glass of the brewery's signature Pegasus IPA. The five-cheese pizza goes best with the copper-colored Holsteiner Lager, and the Sicilian and sausage pizzas are perfectly complemented by the medium-bodied Ironhorse, Jensen said.
Argus operates out of a building that once was a stable, brewery and distribution center for Schlitz Brewing Co. Jensen bought the building at 11314 S. Front Ave. out of foreclosure. It still has the Schlitz horse sculptures looking down onto the street below and an elevator that once lifted kegs to the second floor by attaching it to a team of horses.
Today, Argus has 14 production employees and five full-time salesmen. The craft brewery sold 5,000 kegs last year. The other half of its business comes from the sale of bottled beer, which is packed into six-packs by hand.
The name of the craft brewery is a nod to his Jensen's parents, who met in a Greek Mythology class. Also known as Argos Panoptes, Argus is a 100-eyed giant. Jensen said this also reflects the brewery's all-seeing business approach.
Another example of this is the South Side brewery's private-branding initiative. Early on, Argus was approached by several bars and restaurants wanting to add a signature beer to their menus. Argus responded and now makes about a dozen private-label beers for customers including the Chicago Marriott Downtown Hotel. Argus relies on the honey made from bees on the ninth floor of the hotel to make the Marriott's Rooftop Honey Wheat Beer.
And still Argus' brew master, Grant Johnston continues to experiment with different recipes. Johnston, 60, makes test batches of beer five gallons at a time.
"I brew my a-- off," Johnston said.
His favorite recipes are tested by a group of Argus beer enthusiasts, known as the Private Reserve. The members of this beer focus group provide feedback on the small batches.
"If that group really likes it, then we will put it into bottles," Jensen said.
He believes Argus has the potential for continued growth, and envisions the craft brewery to someday be the same size as Wisconsin-based Jacob Leinenkugel Brewing Co. Indeed, Argus has recently expanded its beer operations to Florida and hopes to soon find a spot on store shelves in Wisconsin.
Still, Jensen takes a humble approach to beer.
"My favorite beer in the whole world is the next one," he said.