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Arcade Brewery's Art Beer Series Starts With Hyde Park's 'Concrete Traffic'

By Sam Cholke | October 12, 2016 12:00pm
 The Concrete Traffic beer is the first in a series of art-inspired brews from Avondale-based Arcade Brewery.
The Concrete Traffic beer is the first in a series of art-inspired brews from Avondale-based Arcade Brewery.
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Courtesy of the Smart Museum of Art

HYDE PARK — Arcade Brewery’s new beer has some arty notes, but is still very drinkable for an avante garde beer, according to the brewer.

Chris Tourre, founder of the Chicago brewery, has partnered with the University of Chicago Smart Museum of Art to launch the first in a series of artist-inspired beers, starting with a German-style beer influenced by Wolf Vostell’s “Concrete Traffic.”

Vostell’s work from 1970 of a 1957 Cadillac encased in 16 tons of concrete just finished a six-year conservation effort and returned to the University of Chicago’s campus on Sept. 30. Tourre’s job was to come up with a beer that evoked the intentionally heavy and stark work, but was also drinkable.

RELATED: A Cadillac Encased In Concrete, Considered A Major Piece Of Art, Is Back

“I originally thought of populating some wild yeast from the sculpture and then brewing beer from that,” Tourre said. “Conceptually, it would have been great, but I definitely wanted to deliver a beer that was drinkable.”

Tourre said he eventually decided to make a Roggenbier, a German rye beer rarely made in the United States.

Anna Weiss, the lead conservator on the project at the museum and a homebrewer herself, said it really works and captures the ideas of the artist in a delicious way.

“A lot of people were really nervous because it was a kind of beer no one had heard of,” Weiss-Pfau said. “It’s a great fall and winter beer for sure.”

Weiss-Pfau and Tourre said the bite of the rye is meant to evoke the sharp lines of the sculpture. The work was damaged and stained by salt, so Tourre added sea salt at the end of the brewing process. Orange and lime flavors balance out the brew and symbolize the work’s rebirth.

Tourre said he started working on the recipe in March and then dove headlong into making a full batch, which is now at nearly 100 stores around Chicago, including Kimbark Beverage in Hyde Park.

“We didn’t even do a test batch,” Tourre said. “We’re really impressed with it, we’re super happy.”

The beer is the first of Avondale-based Arcade Brewery’s vanguard series of beers, where Tourre will partner with an artist or arts institution to brew beer that’s almost an art project in itself.

Tourre said he started the brewery as an art project while working on his master of fine arts degree at the University of Illinois at Chicago, so it makes sense to bring back some of that spirit now that the brewery is a full-time commercial venture.

“We plan to do it again, but I’m not sure yet where to go with it,” Tourre said. “We’re not in a huge rush to get the next in the series out.”

He said he wants to see how the Concrete Happenings brew does first and then he will put out a call for artists who want to collaborate with the brewery.

For people who want to try the beer while looking at the sculpture, which is now in the university’s parking garage at 5505 S. Ellis Ave., it will be served at a Friday event.

At 6 p.m. Friday in the parking garage, the museum will serve the beer during a screening of films by Vostell and other artists in the fluxus movement.

The free event will feature Arcade Brewery’s new beer and a selection of German food.

U. of C. art history professor Christine Mehring and conservation research fellow Lisa Zaher will open the event with a short talk about the films and the process of conserving “Concrete Traffic.”

Wolf Vostell's "Concrete Traffic" sculpture returned to the University of Chicago during a Sept. 30 procession from the Museum of Contemporary Art, which commissioned the work in 1970, to campus. [Courtesy of the Smart Museum of Art, Eddie Quinones]

It's taken almost six years of work to get the 1957 Cadillac encased in concrete back to the University of Chicago campus for display again. [Courtesy of the Smart Museum of Art, Chicago Vintage Motor Carriage, Stephen Murphy]

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