AVONDALE — There's no need to go all the way Downtown to drink beer along the Chicago River.
Metropolitan Brewing recently opened its first taproom in an Avondale complex, offering stellar views of the river to go along with its signature German-style lagers.
Nestled in a former tannery, the taproom at 3057 N. Rockwell St. has walls of floor-to-ceiling windows overlooking the river, and at this time of year, the beautiful fall foliage.
It's a location business owners only dream of — and co-owner Tracy Hurst isn't taking it for granted.
"This is an amazing resource the city has had and a lot [of people] don't come in contact with it unless we go over a bridge, cross over Belmont," said Hurst, who founded the brewery with her business partner, Doug Hurst, nearly nine years ago.
"Now we get to really feel the Chicago-ness that is our natural resources."
In 2008, Metropolitan was the first Chicago brewery to open in a decade. The brewery's drafts — almost exclusively lagers — are sold across Illinois and Wisconsin.
After years of planning, the taproom opened to the public Sept. 28, serving a rotating selection of Metropolitan's "core" brews (Krankshaft Kolsch) plus special releases (Grindamo Dynamo Copper Lager) from a dozen taps.
Hurst wants to open an outdoor patio off the taproom, which will jut out over the river, by the summer. She's also working on getting kayak and canoe docks installed along the river near the taproom.
By creating a connection to our natural surroundings, Hurst is hoping to bring people together and foster meaningful conversations.
Customers "sit together, shoulder to shoulder, at these long tables, and they have contemplative conversations, looking out at the river. That means a lot to me. That is our part of the revolution," she said.
Right now, the taproom doesn't serve food, and Hurst doesn't see that changing anytime soon, though patrons are welcome to get food delivered or even bring their own crockpots from home.
"No license or desire," Hurst said bluntly. "The culinary scene in Chicago is such that I don't think you should be entering it unless you're bringing it your A game. And our A game is beer."
Next to the taproom is Metropolitan's huge new production facility. In total, the brewery occupies 22,000 square feet in the 125-year-old building, which is also home to Metropolis Coffee's roasting facility.
It's quite the upgrade for the brewery, which operated out of a 4,500-square-foot facility in Ravenswood for years before moving west last month. The taproom alone is half the size of the old production facility, Hurst said.
Hurst said the move was significant because she and her team finally can connect with consumers. That, plus her employees have more room to grow.
"It feels like we can serve our community better," she said. "Being holed up in a tiny brewery, just scraping to make sure we can make enough beer, is exhausting. Now we have the energy to really be creative, flesh out our skills, develop new skills and try new things."
Also in the works is more collaborations with other breweries and local restaurants. The dedicated taproom will allow Metropolitan to finally host its own events. Hurst said she's already got several events on the books.
This weekend, a rowing tournament on the river is bringing a group of supporters to the taproom. Metropolitan is donating 20 percent of every beer sold to a rowing charity.
"We're bringing something we've always had: A staunch belief that we're working together. We all have our eye on that goal — to make really great beer and use it as a catalyst for coming together," she said.
Getting to the taproom isn't easy. The building is undergoing heavy construction, requiring folks to navigate through an active construction site and walk through a long path marked only by small signs in order to reach the riverfront watering hole.
But it's worth the trip if river views are your thing.
"When people tell me it's amazing, I say, 'Thank you,' because that's the proper thing to say. Honestly, it was a huge team of people who pulled this together," Hurst said, crediting her team, including developer Paul Levy, who is known for creating the Bridgeport Arts Center.
Plans for the former tannery include up to 10 businesses, offices and 40 parking spots. Neighbors asked Levy to design a more scenic riverfront along the building, and the developer said he hoped to build a boating dock at the river's edge as well.
For more information, including hours of operation, visit the brewery's website.