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Craft Beer Boutique Comes to Avondale

By Janet Rausa Fuller | January 1, 2013 12:17pm
 Chris Quinn stands at the tasting counter of his new Avondale shop, the Beer Temple, 3185 N. Elston Ave.
Chris Quinn stands at the tasting counter of his new Avondale shop, the Beer Temple, 3185 N. Elston Ave.
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DNAInfo/Janet Rausa Fuller

AVONDALE — Chris Quinn comes from a family of wine lovers. His aunt owned a wine shop on the South Side. Wine is their preferred beverage.

That Quinn is a certified cicerone, or beer sommelier, if you will, and will open a shop Wednesday called the Beer Temple, then, is something of a minor controversy among his loved ones.

"My father thought I was absolutely nuts. He tried to talk me out of it," Quinn, 35, said. "But he's kind of come around."

Quinn is serious. The shop at 3185 N. Elston Ave. will carry between 450 and 500 craft beers from around the world, the obscure kinds with funky names and cool labels, but also "beers that maybe people have had but forgot how good they are," he said. "Beer distributors look at me kind of hawk-eyed when I say I don't want any Coors Lite."

Quinn envisions a place where customers might have their first taste of sour beer, the production of which he said Chicago's own Goose Island is doing better than anyone in the country right now.

To that end, he will offer beer tastings daily at the front counter, which was crafted from wood barrels used to make Goose Island Bourbon County Stout.

To preserve the quality of his product, he installed UV coating on the windows and LED lights in the store and coolers instead of fluorescent lights. Sunlight and fluorescent light degrade beer over time.

He said he also will post the bottling dates of beers or in some cases, the date he received the beers so customers will know they're not getting skunky beer.

The store, open from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. Tuesday through Sunday, is modeled after one Quinn visited in Belgium in 2009. Its name: De Biertempel. "It was really like a wine boutique, but with beer, and I thought, this is what Chicago needs," Quinn said.

He wasn't quite ready then to give up his career in software development for beer. But he started a website in 2011, craftbeertemple.com and filled it with podcasts — him tasting and talking about beer. As it gained a following, his plan for an actual store started to take shape.

"Right now in America, it really is the best time for beer," Quinn said. "There's so much more diverse and interesting beer being made, even in our own backyard."

The neighborhood has been welcoming. "The day we had the signage installed, people were screaming out their car windows at him, 'That's awesome!' " his wife, Margaret Quinn, said.

Quinn isn't turning his back on his roots entirely. The Beer Temple also will carry 50 to 75 "wines with character" as well as craft spirits.