After a century hiatus, the beer that built Chicago is back

Chicago Scene

The Conrad Seipp Brewing Company, once the largest brewery in Chicago, is back after nearly a century hiatus.

Eighty-seven years after the brewery’s closure, Seipp’s great-great-great-granddaughter, Laurin Mack, is bringing back The Conrad Seipp Brewing Company.  Wanting to both connect to her family’s legacy and the legacy of Chicago’s brewing history, Mack has set out to revive Seipp’s beer and bring it to the present. “I think a connection to history is vitally important in understanding cities, communities, and individuals. As I have learned more about Chicago’s history, I see what a critical role brewing played in the development of our city.”

Chicago has an amazing craft beer scene–one of the best and biggest in the country—but it doesn’t have a direct connection to its rich brewing history like some other midwestern cities. By recrafting Seipp’s beer, Mack hopes to help fill that gap by linking the past and the present.

Mack grew up with reminders of Conrad Seipp all around her. She has visited the summer home he built in 1888 for his family on the shores of Lake Geneva her whole life. As Mack studied Conrad’s life, she began to understand more about the leading role he played in the evolution of Chicago and the beer business. Reviving Seipp’s beer has helped her feel closer to a man that she has always admired.

Founded in Chicago in 1854 by a German immigrant, Conrad Seipp, The Conrad Seipp Brewing Company was one of the first breweries in Chicago. When the Chicago Fire devastated the city, Seipp’s was one of the few breweries to survive. Seipp’s beer was the beer of choice for workers as they rebuilt the great American city.  Seipp was a dominant player in the U.S. brewing industry, producing over 250,000 barrels at the brewery’s peak. As with so many American breweries, it was unable to survive the impact of WWI and Prohibition and closed its doors in 1933.  

While the times have changed, the principles of Seipp stay the same: a well-crafted beer made from high-quality ingredients that is accessible to all.

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A similar philosophy is what led Metropolitan Brewing, one of Chicago’s best German lager breweries, to collaborate with Mack. Together they have recrafted Seipp’s Extra Pale, one of Seipp’s most popular brands.

Doug Hurst, head brewer and Co-founder Metropolitan, describes the Extra Pale as a pre-prohibition Pilsner brewed with traditional North American malted barley, corn, and heritage hops varieties. The beer is full-bodied, clean, and crisp with noticeable hop bitterness balancing a slightly sweet malt roundness.

“Conrad had six daughters and two sons. I have often wondered what would have happened to the brewery if it had been more acceptable for women to run businesses in the early 20th century. Would it have closed if Seipp’s daughters or granddaughters had taken over? I find it especially empowering as a female descendant of Seipp, to be able to bring back his beer. It is meaningful for me to work with other female business owners like Tracy Hurst, Co-founder and President of Metropolitan brewing, as we reintroduce Seipp’s beer to Chicago,” says Mack.

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