Botanicals, the properties gleaned from herbs and plants, are often associated with gin, in different configurations. For the first time that I’m aware of, a brewery is focusing on botanicals. Forbidden Root debuted in February in in Chicago’s Ukrainian Village, in Hub Theater’s former home. The space features rusted sun chandeliers, a square bar, brick walls, and caged botanicals by the entrance that help fuel creative, flavorful beers.
I ordered a four-taster beef flight, which included Honey Vee Vienna Lager (5% ABV) brewed with cranberry blossom honey; WPA (5.6% ABV) wildflower pale ale brewed with marigold, elderflower, and sweet osmanthus blossoms; Sublime Ginger (3.8% ABV) golden wheat ale crafted with ginger, Key lime, lemon myrtle, and honeybush; and Cherrytree Amaro Ale (9.2% ABV) a cherry old ale featuring cherry stems and spice roasted blood orange.
I enjoyed all of Forbidden Root’s beers, and even got a sense for things to come by touring the 15-barrel brewhouse with head brewer BJ Pichman, a longtime homebrewer who fellow homebrew club member Randy Mosher tapped to brew pilot batches for the brewery that became Forbidden Root. Pichman even poured two beers right from the tanks: rye saison with coriander, Meyer lemon peel, Kaffir lime and palm sugar; and a Belgian dubbel with fig leaf and Mission fig puree. He just brewed beer inspired by gin and juice with juniper berry and grapefruit peel that will eventually take on white grapefruit juice. With efforts like these, Forbidden Root should be able to carve out a unique niche in the craft beer world.