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5 Questions with Maplewood Co-Owner & Head Brewer Adam Cieslak

5 Questions with Maplewood Co-Owner & Head Brewer Adam Cieslak
Taylor Laabs

Chicago’s Maplewood Brewery & Distillery has produced excellent beers and spirits from their quaint brewpub since 2014. Their 10BBL and 250L Kothe hybrid brewhouse is easily viewed from one of several plush chairs that adorns their always-popular “Lounge” space that looks into the brewhouse through several large windows. With beers like Son of Juice IPA, Fat Pug Oatmeal Milk Stout and Charlatan Pale Ale, lines to get into the Maplewood Lounge are frequent and long—especially on a nice Saturday. Although the in-person bar visits have stopped (for now) due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Maplewood’s popularity within its Logan Square and larger Chicago craft beer community remains. To find out more about what makes the small but mighty operation hum, how Maplewood has adjusted its business to current times and what comes next, we asked Co-Owner and Head Brewer Adam Cieslak five questions. 

Adam Cieslak. Photo Credit: Dustin from Brewtography Project

Maplewood has established itself as one of the more popular breweries in Chicago. To what do you attribute your success? What makes you stand out? 

“Our success is a testament to the quality of our entire team and the quality of the beer and spirits we are producing. We have an outstanding group of dedicated people who make everything happen. It is definitely the sum of a lot of moving parts: sales, production, the Lounge, design, marketing and social media – we try to focus on the fine details in all of those areas in order to create a brewery and distillery that folks connect with.”

What have been your key takeaways to craft beer’s response to the pandemic so far? How have you reacted? What has been successful? 

“The craft beer community’s response to the pandemic has been remarkable. Craft beer has largely always been about a sense of community and working together, but it has been awesome to see breweries helping other breweries out where they can, particularly during this time. We’re all in this together and the craft beer community seems to really get that. Illinois is also fortunate to have a strong Illinois Craft Brewers Guild, who has been great about providing guidance and information as the situation continues to evolve daily.  

Maplewood has reacted by very quickly ramping up our to-go and canned offerings. We leveraged our webstore to allow customers to place orders directly through the site for safe, no-contact pickups. In addition to the no-contact pickup options, we quickly turned on delivery support via GrubHub and Caviar, which has allowed us to get beer and spirits to people at their homes.  

We’ve also been coming up with unique items to offer on top of just beer, including cocktail packages with unique syrups for mixing, take ‘n bake Pizzeria Uno’s + beer packages, etc. We have plenty more ideas in the works, such as partnering with our friends at Chicago’s Metric Coffee for an upcoming breakfast box containing their coffee, our whiskey-barrel aged maple syrup, and a Maplewood mug. People respond well to the creative offerings and it keeps things engaging. We also launched our first pre-order with pre-scheduled “drive thru” pickups for our recent release of Cuppaccino and Dripping Citra. We received such an overwhelming amount of positive feedback about the first pre-order process that we plan to hold more pre-orders for our limited and sought-after beer releases in the future.”

What has consumer reaction and support been like during this pandemic? What have you been most surprised by? 

“We have been blown away by consumer, community and retailer support. We absolutely thank every individual and account who has continued to support us during the pandemic. We’ve also received a tremendous amount of support directly for our Lounge staff via our GoFundMe.”

Do you think the increased demand for beer delivery will continue even after the pandemic ends? Are you planning to keep up beer deliveries afterward?

“Yes, absolutely. We were always considering offering delivery and this situation just made us get it sooner. I think consumers enjoy receiving beer deliveries (I know I personally have ordered beer for delivery from some local places a few times so far and it’s awesome). Delivery is up and running for us now and I don’t see us removing that option in the future.”

What will be the one factor that shows that things are back to normal? Or, do you think business-as-usual is changed permanently?

“That is an extremely difficult question to answer and honestly, I don’t know the answer to it. Personally, I think there will eventually be a “new normal,” but I don’t know that things will return to business-as-usual as we used to know it. Our industry has been, and continues to be, hit very hard. We need to continue to support workers and businesses in the beverage and restaurant industries until we can all safely reach the ‘new normal,’ hopefully sooner rather than later.”

Feature image courtesy of Maplewood Brewery & Distillery

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