Crystal Lake Brewing & Signature Room | Top View Brew
Crystal Lake Brewing may be located on the outer edges of the Chicago Metropolitan region, but the brewery is as much a “Chicago beer” as any brewery located within the city limits. So much so, the Crystal Lake Beach Blonde Lager has become a staple at the Signature Room, a posh restaurant & lounge located 1,000 feet above Chicago on the 95th & 96th floor of the John Hancock Center. And now, the brewery has created Top View Brew Golden Wheat Ale exclusively for the Signature Room and Signature Lounge. “Aside from occasionally being on draft at the Crystal Lake Tap Room, it’s only available 95 floors up in the Hancock building. Guests at the restaurant will be able to order this beer year-round while they enjoy the great menu and amazing views of Chicago,” explained Crystal Lake Sales Manager, Jesse Able.
So how does a brewery located fifty miles from Chicago’s iconic John Hancock Center (where the Signature Room is located) end up on the menu?
“I actually went to high school with Jay Roman, who’s the Executive VP at The Signature Room,” said Ryan Clooney, CLB Brewmaster. “Jay’s family owns the restaurant and he and his team were kind enough to ask us to bring some beers in to taste out and determine if they would work well on their menu. They began serving our Beach Blonde Golden Lager about three years ago and it has consistently been one of their top selling beers.”
The Signature Room opened its doors in 1993 and has been winning awards ever since. Noted for its incredible, romantic views, the restaurant and lounge offers guests upscale dining and drinks. The Signature Room has won such illustrious awards as Restaurant of the Year by the Food and Beverage Equipment Executives, one of “America’s Top Tables” by Gourmet Magazine readers (consecutively since 1997), and 22 Wine Spectator Restaurant Awards of Excellence (every year since 1994).
And in recent years, the room has added craft beer to its repertoire. As one would imagine, the room isn’t looking for any old beer; they demand quality and Crystal Lake Brewing has met the Signature Room’s standards.
“It’s really amazing to have two beers available in such an iconic location in Chicago. We’re all very appreciative of the relationship between Crystal Lake Brewing and the Signature Room. They’ve been awesome to work with,” said Able.
So, after three years, Crystal Lake decided to something special and create a beer specifically for Signature Room guests. “Ryan brewed several test batches and we evaluated them internally and with the Signature Room team,” explained Able. “They ultimately landed on this recipe for a Golden Wheat Ale.”
Clooney explained the process of making Top View Brew Golden Wheat Ale:
“Sticking to tradition for the Top View Brew, we used only water, malt, hops and yeast to create the recipe. We treated our water to emulate the soft water from southern Bavaria. In addition to our base Weyermann German Pilsner malt, we also used Weyermann CaraHell malt to lend a mild, honey-like sweetness, as well as pale wheat malt for a soft mouthfeel. The citrus characteristics in the beer come from the Lemondrop hops we get from Hopsteiner out of Yakima, WA. They provide great lemon-citrus notes in both the flavor and aroma and are perfect for sessionable beers. Adding them to the kettle during the last stages of the boil help accentuate those bright lemon qualities. The ale yeast we used was fermented slightly warmer to add further underlying fruity esters.”
Top View Brew will appeal to lovers of both approachable ales and lagers, “It’s very approachable and also extremely versatile from a culinary standpoint. From the beginning, we all were looking for a beer that would have wide appeal, but be unique, memorable and most of all, delicious,” said Able.
Though Top View Brew is created specifically for the Signature Room, it’s a beer that speaks to the nature of Crystal Lake Brewing: “Our tagline is ‘Easy to drink. Hard to put down.’ and I try to approach a lot of the beers we make with that in mind.”
I’ve sort of adapted my litmus test for the beers we brew from something I heard from Garrett Oliver, of Brooklyn Brewery: If I can’t sit down and enjoy three of my own beers in a row with out wanting to turn to something else, I should go back to the drawing board and try to find out why.
Finally, Clooney said, “I love making one-off beers with unique or challenging flavors or higher ABV, but we’ve also really emphasized brewing very high quality, well executed beers that a broader group of drinkers will like.”
Indeed, Top View Brew serves as one of several wheat beers (or wit biers) produced by Crystal Lake along with plenty of other ales and lagers begging to be consumed while while relaxing on a lawn chair, sitting in front of a fire, or with a meal — either matching the season or working seamlessly with one’s daily life. So, to enjoy Top View Brew while also gazing upon the amazing view, sampling an appetizer and enjoying friends fits the Crystal Lake Brewing mold quite well.