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Sugar Grove man finds success with craft beer

Published: Wednesday, Dec. 19, 2012 5:30 a.m. CST • Updated: Monday, Dec. 24, 2012 2:01 p.m. CST

SUGAR GROVE – When Mike Cohoon and his brother got the idea to start a craft beer company, they were doing what many other motorists do: dreaming while stopped at a red light.

“We just acted on ours,” the Sugar Grove resident said. “That’s all.”

Since launching Chicago Beer Company two years ago, the Cohoons have gotten their six-packs into such retailers as Jewel-Osco, Dominick’s, Trader Joe’s, Target, Binny’s Beverage Depot and Woodman’s Food Market, along with U.S. Cellular Field.

They are in the process of expanding to Indiana and plan to see their brand in 15 other states by the first quarter of 2013, Cohoon said.

“I never thought it would grow this quickly,” he said. “It’s been a fun journey.”

The St. Charles natives began Chicago Beer Company – a name Cohoon said they lucked out to get – by selling Windy City Wheat, a Belgian-style wheat ale brewed with honey and spices. Their Chi-Town brand since has added Pier Pale Ale and Lake Shore Lager. A new flavor – named 1871 after the year of the Great Chicago Fire – is in the works, Cohoon said, noting his brother Kevin generates the recipes.

“I couldn’t do it without him,” Cohoon said.

Wanting their brand to “scream Chicago,” the brothers feature a different Chicago cityscape on the product for each of the three beers and incorporate the city’s flag – altered to include the company’s clover logo – into the Chi-Town label.

Soon, their company will have another Chicago connection. The Cohoons are in the process of relocating their operations from a contract brewery in Stevens Point, Wis., to a brewery of their own in the West Loop. Cohoon said the new outfit should be ready by the end of the year.

Cohoon said he’s humbled by the company’s success.

The White Sox fan said it’s especially satisfying to have their beer sold at U.S. Cellular Field – a partnership that began with Cohoon sharing Chicago Beer Company’s story at a meeting at the ballpark on a winter day two years ago.

About a month later, he said, he was asked to provide cases for Opening Day.

“To be in White Sox Park, then to see people enjoy it, made me proud and humbled people consider us as an alternative,” Cohoon said.

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Visit chicagobeerco.com for more information.

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