I first encountered Bucket List Brewing at the beginning of this May in Bridgeport. I was attending a beer tasting for new craft beer brewers from Chicago and environs. Bucket List was among the dozen or so breweries participating in Mash Tun's New Wave Brewers Bash. As far as beer events go, this is one of the great ones; nice vibe, not too crowded, and plenty of time to talk with the brewers about their beers. I thought that there were multiple good breweries, with a few standouts. Bucket List was among those exceptional breweries that day. Tai Hei, Bucket List's white IPA, was in my opinion (I was not alone in this view) the best beer I drank at the New Wave Brewers Bash.
I reaffirmed my opinion of Bucket List just a few weeks later during Chicago Craft Beer Week. Bucket List was again a standout, with a well-balanced rye farmhouse ale. They also had a fantastic and complex English brown ale called Hell Fire Club.
I knew I wanted to write about and document the current renaissance in craft brewing in Chicago, a place that is already established as a great brewing city. Even though a lot of good beer is brewed in and around the city, Chicago is on the verge of a massive expansion of its craft brewing industry. Dozens of breweries opened in 2013 and 2014, and there are plenty more in the works.
Having become acquainted with a number of these foundling breweries this spring, I came upon the notion of documenting the evolution of some of these new enterprises. Bucket List seems like an excellent choice for several reasons. First and foremost, Bucket List brews good beer, which is a prerequisite for being noticed in today's hyper-scrutinized craft beer scene. Bucket List is, in addition, well-connected to Chicago's craft beer brewing community. They are able to use these connections to save on equipment and other essential costs. Finally, market conditions are favorable to new craft brewers. Although it might seem like everyone is drinking craft beer right now, it only comprises about ten percent of the overall beer market in Chicago. There are still plenty of new consumers out there waiting to be converted. And Bucket List Brewing is but one of multiple new breweries vying for Chicago's beer consumers' attention.
|Kevin Salvi outside the Arrogant Frog|
For instance, Salvi eventually started providing transportation for the monthly meetings of the Illinois Craft Brewers Guild. And through this event, he made the most important connections for someone attempting to start a brewery on a shoestring budget. But before we get ahead of ourselves, the business of taking people on tours of breweries also led Salvi to his next idea. At some point, he thought it would be cool if his Brew Bus tours were going to his own brewery. And thus, another Chicago brewery was born.
This is only the beginning of what will be a longterm project for me. My goal is to tell Bucket List's story; how it fails or succeeds over the coming years. There are many personalities who are guiding Bucket List, and we will meet them all. So more is to come.