Forbidden Root pushes the ‘anti-establishment’ boundaries of craft beer with botanical brews

By Mary Ellen Shoup

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags Beer

Located in Chicago’s West Town neighborhood in a former 103-year-old movie theatre is Forbidden Root, a brewery focused on providing a full sensory experience not only with its signature roster of botanical beers but with its seasonal dishes served alongside of them.

Forbidden Root’s point of differentiation is its laser focus on incorporating botanical ingredients into their brews while maintaining a technical and exacting approach.

Forbidden Root said its mission is to “bring the rich American tradition of brewing with natural ingredients into the modern craft brewing scene.”

“It’s a very methodical process, rife with failure along the way,”​ Forbidden Root founder and rootmaster Robert Finkel told BeverageDaily.

Forbidden Root developed for two and half years before releasing any of their beers, according to Finkel.  

“We were very exacting in dialing our beers in to where we thought it was right, it’s a very scientific and methodical process of an artistic idea.​”

Foraged flavors

Forbidden Root Brewery gets its flavor inspiration from botanical sources: bark, stems, flowers, herbs, spices, and leaves.

 Finkel said his team at Forbidden Root is never short on ideas, and is constantly innovating its 16-tap beer menu for customers, which currently includes a WPA (wildflower pale ale, made with elderflower and marigold) and a honey triple IPA called Orange Bomb using Seville oranges.

“Botanic beers are the forefather of beverages,”​ Finkel said. “Our take on it is pushing the sensory experience by a different process and approach.”

Finkel acknowledges that there is a risk associated with experimenting with different flavors such as cherry bark and stems for its Cherry Tree Amaro beer with a 9.7% ABV.

“We realize it takes time to dial these flavors in, which why this place exists,”​ Finkel said. “We want the feedback, but we’re not going to release it unless we think it’s pretty special and different.”

If a particular beer is resonating well with consumers, Finkel and his team takes it as an opportunity to fine-tune the flavor even more.

For example, the flavor for one of the brewery’s most popular beers, “Money on My Rind​”, has been adjusted multiple times and is now available in six packs in Whole Foods Market and Trader Joe’s retail locations in the US Midwest region.

Guests can also purchase 64-ounce growler for $35 or a 32-ounce howler for $25 at the brewery. 

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