The Beer Drop: Temperance Birdsong


Good ol’ Evanston, Illinois. Aside from being the “Home of Evanston’s Big Ten Team” (sorry NU grads, a shameless Illini over here), Chicago’s neighbor to the North is also home to great beer, a la Temperance Beer Company, and we’re excited to take this week’s Beer Drop to celebrate the first-ever cans of their Birdsong Saison! I recently had the chance to catch up with Emily Kwasny, Brewery Operations Manager at Temperance, to dive into the beer, their Evanston roots, and much more. Crack open a fresh one and read on – cheers!

Tell us about Birdsong Saison! Hit us with the tasting notes:

A little sweet, a little acidic, just the right amount of peppery funk. It’s a very well rounded beer that can be paired with food or enjoyed on its own.

Best served?

Best served chilled in a tulip glass or right out of the can! I think it pairs well with grilled chicken salads, citrus, and soft cheese. It’s light and inoffensive but the peppery funk gives lighter foods a great punch-up.

On Temperance

How’d you get into craft beer?

I ran into someone doing a beer tasting at Binny’s in about 2011 and I said, “What do you do that this is your job??” He put me in contact with the sales manager at Louis Glunz Beer who called me in for an interview and hired me as a merchandiser. I moved into sales and then ran our beer tasting program as well as managing special events. I’m so grateful to my now good friend Bob Egan (sales extraordinaire at Revolution now) for taking the time that day at Binny’s to answer my questions and put me in touch with the person who ultimately changed the course of my career.

What were you doing prior?

I did operations and facilities management at the Lyric Opera in downtown Chicago. I had no idea what I was getting into when I took the job and ended up loving the work, which is essentially the same thing I do now. Just in a brewery, and not a 3,400 seat opera house.

How long has Temperance been around, and how did it get started?

We’ll be celebrating our 5 year anniversary on September 14th! Our owner, Josh, was an architect and during the recession business was slow so he decided to follow his dream and opened up the very first brewery in his hometown of Evanston.

Where did the name come from?

Evanston was a dry city for most of its history, only allowing alcohol to be sold in the 1970s! It was the home of the Women’s Christian Temperance Movement and its matriarch, Frances E. Willard (ever hear of Evanston’s F.E.W. Distillery?), so the name Temperance is an homage to our town’s history. It being the first brewery in a previously dry town, I think Josh wanted to acknowledge the history.

While we’re on the topic, how else is the brewery involved with the community there?

We enjoy being the hometown beer. We hosted 6 concerts in our parking lot this summer with Evanston concert venue SPACE that saw over 1,200 people come through our brewery each night. We have a yoga class once a month where proceeds go to a different hyper-local charity each session. And we also participate in block parties and donate raffle items to local charities.

What’s the story behind your labels and branding?

We have a designer named Nick Gomez who creates most of our beer labels, though our owner Josh has a huge hand in the look and feel of the branding and labels as well. Recently we’ve been teaming up with local artists to design new can labels and it’s been a really fun process. Jay Ryan created the Birdsong logo and I think it’s one of our most fun labels we’ve put out and definitely a conversation starter.

How do you come up with beer names?

That’s Josh’s job! It’s a tougher job than you may think since you never really know whether a beer will be a one-and-done or become a larger brand so you need to think carefully about how people will react to it. But we also need to be behind it as well. A lot of our beer names come from song lyrics.

What’s been the favorite part of your Temperance experience?

My favorite thing about Temperance is the people – the people I work with and the people who come through our doors. I love my job and love coming to work every day (and trust me, not every day is fun). It’s incredibly satisfying to pour your blood, sweat and tears into a product and be able to walk into the tap room and talk to customers who are enjoying what you’ve labored over. They come visit us to celebrate, enjoy time with their friends and families, and kick back and relax. To see people excited about what you’ve created makes everything worth it. We work hard to make well balanced beers that appeal to everyone. I still get excited when I see one of our 6 packs on a store shelf or one of our tap handles at a bar or restaurant. I will never take it for granted that people buy our beer. There are a lot of choices out there and I’m grateful that they chose us.

How do you measure success there?

Success to me is needing to brew and expand because our beer is selling. Success is appreciating that we have a great group of people on our team that all depend on each other and trust each other. We’re a family. And success is expanding and evolving, not just staying stagnant and doing the same thing. Being comfortable and secure enough to try new things and processes.

Hot Hop Takes

Favorite spot in the brewery:

My favorite spot in the whole brewery is a section of the concrete floor in the back where, in wet cement, someone wrote “EMILY SUX.”

Favorite craft beer festival:

The Great Taste of the Midwest in Madison is incredible. Not only are some of the best breweries from around the Midwest available at one festival it’s also incredibly well run and organized by volunteer staff. It’s a fun festival to work and it’s even more fun to get together with brewery friends that weekend and let loose.

Biggest beer pet peeve:

I don’t like when people try to talk down to people who might not be as well versed in the ins and outs of beer than they are. Beer is for everyone and you can enjoy it without knowing IBUs/hops/gravity/the brewer’s mother’s maiden name.

Favorite beer other than your own:

I’ve been drinking a lot of lagers lately. Metropolitan has a great Zwickel. When I’m with family in Wisconsin I love drinking New Glarus Two Women. And honestly, Miller High Life.

Emily – thanks for chatting with us, and happy almost 5 year anniversary to Temperance! Whether it’s by bike or L, we highly recommend a trip to Evanston for even more brews, including plenty of tap room-only offerings!

1,265 check-ins and counting – toast (or roast) what Sean’s been drinking here. Have a beer or brewery you think should be our next drop? Hit us up ✉