At Metropolitan Brewery in Ravenswood, head brewer Doug Hurst, who studied Brewing Technology at the Siebel Institute in Chicago and Munich after home brewing for more than ten years, doesn't take bottling his German lagers lightly. He mans the finicky bottling machine (it often goes kaput and needs a little kick in the side) with an eagle's eye and a Maglite, ensuring that each and every bottle is properly filled and capped. Those that miss the mark are capped manually or sometimes imbibed on the spot.
Requiring several helpers to maintain a brisk pace, bottling day involves folding boxes, labeling-filling-capping bottles, and packing the fresh brews in the folded boxes. Janna Mestan (right, one of around ten rotating volunteers) labels bottles while Doug grabs new bottles to fill and volunteer Paul Kim folds boxes in the background. The husband-wife team and their helpers switch positions throughout the day, which usually lasts around ten hours. "We don't do anything besides this. We don't have kids; we don't have other jobs; we barely have other hobbies," jokes Tracy Hurst, Doug's fellow brewer and wife. "Holistically, this is what we do every single day."
The labeling machine, like the bottling machine, is a rather simple contraption that necessitates a steady clip and a quick hand. Janna pushes a foot pedal to spin the sticker wheel, keeping both hands free to remove one bottle and place the next. She labels up to 4,000 bottles a day, which exemplifies how Tracy explains the significance of their name and crankwheel logo: "It looks industrial and metallic and working. You can hear metal clanging, but it's still very sexy and human and organic—and that's how we see the city. The city is glittering lights and glass and steel girders, but really what makes Chicago what it is, is all of us who live here."