Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Chicago Craft Beer Week Spotlight: Jerry's Sandwiches

With over 300 events happening during the 11 day span of Chicago Craft Beer Week, choosing a handful to attend can be a bit overwhelming. Upon scanning the schedule, one of the venues that stood out the most to me was a... sandwich shop? I had heard of Jerry’s Sandwiches, but not having spent much time in Wicker Park, never had the pleasure. I was excited to see that they had recently opened an Andersonville location AND eager to find out about all of the great craft beer events they had lined up.

I was able to share a pint with Bar Managers/Beer Buyers Nick Bondi (Andersonville) and Chris Coons (Wicker Park) at the new location on Clark St. Both fellow beer nerds and former Haymarket Brewpub employees, they have an undeniable passion for craft beer. Nick has been with Jerry’s for 6 years now, previously at the Wicker Park location until this past fall when the Andersonville construction got underway. They anticipate doubling in size within a few months when the beer garden opens, which Nick has played a part in designing and constructing. Nick brought in Chris at that time to manage the bar in Wicker Park.

Both were previously craft beer fans, but seeing how beer is brewed and the community operates made them want to pursue careers in the industry. All Jerry’s servers and bartenders are Cicerone Certified, with the idea that people who are curious about craft beer can come to Jerry’s and get an educated answer. “As more people get into craft beer, we feel it’s important to have staff that can walk them through that without feeling intimidated. We take that part of training seriously, building a knowledge base and promoting an image of approachability”, says Nick.

“It’s a fun time to have so many great breweries making great beer to choose from. It’s a really good problem to have - more great beers than tap handles available”, says Chris. Their focus is North American Craft Beer, anything with an American connection or influence. Of course there’s always personal preference and the public’s preference. With 50 taps in Andersonville and 20 taps in Wicker Park, the goal is to have a balanced representation of different styles.

“There are certain breweries that we know, no matter what they’re doing we want to be a part of", says Chris, “Balance is huge. If a brewery’s core, year round beer is consistently good and they offer some great, specialty stuff - as a beer drinker myself, that’s what makes a brewery interesting to me”. As people’s moods and tastes change, their goal is to have tap handles that reflect those needs.

Their favorite Craft Beer Week event planned is the Division St IPA Crawl on Wednesday, May 22nd, which is a collaborative event between 3 craft beer bars - Small Bar represents the West Coast, Jerry’s the Midwest and Bangers & Lace the East Coast. Chris is lining up 8-9 fantastic Midwest IPA taps for Jerry’s Wicker Park.

The Solemn Oath Brewery night (at both locations) on Monday, May 20th is also a really cool concept. The event, called “Viking’s Feast” pairs old Viking movies, Nordic metal music as the soundtrack and 8 taps and a firkin of Solemn Oath beer.

And of course I had to ask about their favorite sandwiches. Let’s not be so blindsided by the beer list that we forget Jerry’s offers over 120 different sandwiches. Nick’s favorite is the “Steak Sandwich” - grilled sirloin, fried portobello mushroom, swiss, aioli, horseradish dressing on an italian roll. Chris’ favorite is the “Luis M” - chicken salad, smoked sirloin, avocado, swiss and mango-chipotle chutney on a choice of bread. I took their advice and went for the Luis M, paired with the new Stone Dry Double Hopped Ruination, which did not disappoint.

For a full list of their Chicago Craft Beer Week events, visit www.jerryssandwiches.com

Keep an eye out for the Andersonville location Beer Garden announcement. It is definitely a summer “to-do” that you don’t want to miss!

They’ll also be doing a 6th Anniversary event at Wicker Park on July 12-13th with live music and a collaboration beer on tap, to be brewed at Haymarket. Follow them online for more details.