Strange Pelican

Strange Pelican's bottle art (June 14, 2012)

Philip Tadros is one busy man. In addition to opening Bow Truss Coffee Roasters (2934 N. Broadway) later this month, the entrepreneur behind Dollop, Kickstand Espresso bar and numerous other businesses has partnered with local brewer and designer Eric McNeil to turn his home brewing hobby into yet another serious business to add to his investment portfolio.

“[McNeil has] a whole line of beautiful beers, and he has beautiful illustrations and artwork that he does himself and that he taps other illustrators to do,” Tadros explained. “So, we kind of felt like, all in one, this is a good person to invest in and help build the brand.”

Under the name Strange Pelican Brewing Company, McNeil will brew about 3,000 barrels a year in a 10,000-square-foot space near the intersection of Damen Avenue and Fulton Street. Strange Pelican’s philosophy evokes maritime history – in other words, strong beers that were made to travel. While McNeil is still experimenting with recipes, he’s planning to start with two flagship beers (a citrusy rye IPA and an imperial oatmeal stout brewed with a specialty roast from Bow Truss) that will be available in four- or six-packs, as well as two different 22-ounce bottles and a rotating seasonal selection inspired by local grains, herbs and other ingredients. 

Many of McNeil’s beer names and designs have music themes, especially jazz. For example, Bebop, a spring seasonal that McNeil served at this year’s Chicago Beer Festival, is a playful acronym for its ingredients -- “be” for honey, and “bop” for blood-orange pale ale -- was served in a bottle with a Dizzy Gillespie-inspired image on the label. McNeil and another artist he works with will design all the visuals for Strange Pelican.

Tadros and McNeil hope to sell kegs to Chicago restaurants (they’ve already done tastings with several chefs), as well as package bottles to sell at retail stores such as Whole Foods, Binny’s and small groceries. They’re in the process of ordering equipment and finalizing their lease, and are targeting January or February for an opening.