Iconic drive-in Superdawg teams up with craft brewery

Written By By Ben Meyerson Sun-Times Media Posted: 07/13/2014, 05:00pm
Array Lake Effect Brewing owner Clint Bautz (left) and Ben Ustick from Superdawg toast their collaboration beer Wednesday, June 11, in the Chicago Sun-Times newsroom. | Ben Meyerson/Sun-Times Media

Superdawg, the old-fashioned Northwest Side drive-in known for its boxes stuffed with fat franks and fries, has expanded into a new domain: beer.

The restaurant has teamed with Irving Park’s Lake Effect Brewing Company to make Super Bier, a German-style brew designed to pair with hot dogs.

The idea was born after the restaurant’s Wheeling location held a tasting event with Lynfred Winery last July, according to Superdawg’s social media manager, Ben Ustick.

“A lot of customers were saying, ‘This would be so awesome with beer,’” Ustick said.

That was music to self-professed beer nerd Ustick’s ears.

“In Chicago hot dog history it’s always been small businesses making their way. The Chicago hot dog stand always dominates the chain places,” he said. “The craft beer market’s the same way, so I really saw an opportunity where we could open up a whole new audience.”

So he reached out over Twitter to Lake Effect’s founder and head brewer, Clint Bautz.

“I was trying to get a free lunch one day and decided to invite him over,” Bautz joked. “It just seemed like a no-brainer to look at the Superdawg and to take the challenge to try to figure out what beer would go best with it.”

Meat-paired beers have been done before — even hot dog-themed ones. But while other brewers have actually brewed beers with hot dog ingredients, Bautz decided to go a more traditional path.

“In this case, we decided to go the German-style route, where beers pair really well with the sausages and the bratwurst and those types of meals,” Bautz said. “So we gravitated towards the lager profile, which is clean and refreshing.”

The result is a Kolsch-style beer, crisp and slightly sweet with a little bit of smoke and a hint of spice on the back end. That spice is a result of the beer’s “secret ingredient,” Bautz said. At 5.2 percent alcohol by volume, it’s also not as strong as many other craft beers.

“I think it’s a very quenchable beer, a very sessionable beer, it goes with the hot dog.” Bautz said. “You can drink a few of them and still carry on a conversation.”

The beer will be sold at liquor stores near both Lake Effect and Superdawg on the city’s Northwest Side, soon after a June 26 launch party. Eventually, it’ll spread to more stores around the Chicago area that distribute Lake Effect’s beer.

Superdawg can’t sell the beer themselves at either location, being a drive-in — but Ustick hopes that won’t stop people from pairing the two.

“We envision it being a ‘to-go’ kind of thing, and if you can’t get a Superdawg, one of the other great Chicago dogs will do,” he said.

It’s not exclusively for hot dogs either, Bautz added.

“It will work for other things, it can go with meat, it can go with pickles, it can go by itself,” Bautz said.

“But not ketchup,” Ustick said. “It won’t work with ketchup.”

Email: bmeyerson@pioneerlocal.com

Twitter: @bmeyerson

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