Mickey Finn’s works on crafting the perfect brew
Mickey Finn's owner Brian Grano holds a Santa's Magic Belgian strong ale, which is brewed and sold at the establishment in Libertyville. | Buzz Orr~Sun-Times Media
Updated: February 11, 2013 1:58AM
LIBERTYVILLE — “What’s happening with beer now is what happened with wine in the ’80s and ’90s,” Brian Grano says while sitting at the bar of his restaurant and brewery, Mickey Finn’s.
People’s knowledge was narrow and their understanding limited, he said. Now there is an entire culture of wine drinkers who know about the different grapes, varietals and much more. The same revolution is happening with beer, he said.
Craft beer, as it’s commonly called by enthusiasts, is beer that is produced in small batches with no preservatives. This, Grano said, is what sets it apart from the large, commercial brewers such as Miller and Budweiser.
It may just be a sudsy, yeasty drink to the uninitiated, but like a wine afficionado who can detect the difference between a pinot noir and a chianti, craft beer fans can distinguish between ales, lagers and more.
The space Mickey Finn’s occupies has been a bar since 1935. Owners who came on the scene in 1998 built the brewery, and Grano bought the business in June 2004. The craft beer craze was just rolling into the Midwest then from the east and west coasts, and Mickey Finn’s was poised to take advantage of the trend.
These days, they’re not the only brewery in the area, with Mundelein’s Tighthead and Lake Bluff Brewing Company being newer entrants in craft beer in Lake County.
“People’s education level about beer is a drastic improvement from five-six years ago,” Grano said.
If you’re new to it though, Mickey Finn’s is happy to teach you. There are small, sample size beer glasses if you want to taste one of the eight to 12 varieties on tap on any given day. There are also monthly beer classes. They’re free and, yes, attendees get free samples. Grano said the last class had about 40 people.
And if you think it’s just about having a beer and a good time, you haven’t met Brewmaster Greg Browne.
Browne has been brewing beer on his own since 1995 and at Mickey Finn’s for eight years. He has a certificate from Chicago’s Siebel Institute of Technology, which offers various options for learning about brewing.
“They have a huge waiting list now,” Browne said. “Apprently everyone wants to be a brewer.”
Browne listed chemistry, engingeering and microbiology as sciences that all play a part in brewing the perfect beer. But what he enjoys most is the creative aspect of tweaking recipes and coming up with new ones.
“I can’t imagine doing anything else to be honest with you,” he said.
Grano likely shares Browne’s sentiment. Despite the daily challenges of running a service business, being at the helm of Mickey Finn’s has figured prominently in both his personal and business success. He met his wife there and in eight years has grown sales by well over a million dollars.
That’s a lot of beer.