Argus brewery is relatively small and may seem like nothing special to the outside eye. But I will say that from the moment I opened my first Pegasus IPA, I knew there was something different about this place and I couldn’t put my finger on it. Pegasus IPA, Clyde’s Ale ESB and Iron Horse Common Ale are all strong names that are obviously related–just look at the horse head crest of the brewery. It all feels majestic, like the brewery’s hometown, Chicago, Illinois, a place of pride and history. But still there is something deeper and something that seemingly didn’t make sense and just kind of stood out in the crowd, a pink elephant in the room so to say, the Jarrett Payton All-American Wheat Ale Sweatness. This one brew, which became my favorite in their line-up, still sticks out–why break their naming tradition with something like this? It wasn’t until I got the chance, and honor, to meet a few of the Argus guys that it all fell into place.
During dinner with the co-owner/son of the owner, an upbeat marketing director and Jarrett Payton, son of the legendary Chicago Bears’ Payton #34, we dove right into the beer line, getting history, tasting notes, personal notes and the story behind all of their brews. We talked about the history of Argus, and where the horse theme came from. The co-owner told us about his father and starting the business, leaving the real estate business as the market was falling and joking about starting a brewery out of one of the properties they owned. As they moved in the equipment and realized they were making a reality of their homebrewing dream, they learned the history of the building; it was once the oldest Schlitz distribution building. They were bringing this brew house into operation, so they left the original life sized terracotta Clydesdale heads on the front of the building and used the horse as their mascot. But the pink elephant remained. What does a football player have to do with this company? That’s about when Jarrett stood up and gave us his story.
He was working out one day before practice and happened to get one of the Argus brews between working out and practicing football. He fell in love, grabbed his card and handed it to the vendor, told them he wanted his own beer. Thinking of it as a joke he walked away, but about a week later they got a hold of him to start talking business. Next thing he knew he was at the brewery with his mother holding a sample of what later became the Jarrett Payton Sweatness Wheat.
This truly is a Chicago brewery where beer is made for the people of Chicago, by those from Chicago. My dinner with the Argus guys showed me the love and passion they have for their beer. That love and passion is put into something they have a love and passion for, and you can taste it.
Josh Gillen, ABC Fine Wine & Spirits beer consultant
Follow me on Twitter @abcbeerjoshg