We’re proud to be one of Chicagoland’s first craft breweries, firing up our first batch of Paddy Pale Ale back in 1996.
We chose the name Wild Onion in honor of the origins of Chicago’s name. “Che-cau-gua” was the phrase the original inhabitants of the region, the Potawatomi, used to describe the wild onions that grew throughout the area’s wetlands near the shores of Lake Michigan. We loved the imagery of the early French Canadian fur traders paddling their canoes down the Chicago River, surrounded by the distinctly aromatic wild onions as they approached the “big lake”. We believed it was the perfect name for a new brewery with old ties to the city.
From Dairy to Brewery
Our original brewery was built from used dairy tanks, scavenged from the fields of northern Wisconsin. It was fate, after all, to start with old dairy tanks for the Wild Onion. Joe Kainz, family patriarch and CEO of the brewery, had grown up working in the dairy business his grandfather, Anton started in Chicago in the early 1900’s. Mike Kainz, founding brewer of the Wild Onion, was drawn to brewing, in part, because of the stories his Dad would tell him of the Kainz Dairy on Mohawk street in Chicago’s Lincoln Park neighborhood.
During Prohibition, Joe’s grandfather, father, and uncles converted part of their dairy’s production to brewing and selling beer to a well-known Italian-American “merchant”. For 13 years in the early part of the last century, the Kainz Dairy helped keep thirsty beer drinkers in Chicago happy during the single largest failed government experiment in U.S. history. Having heard the stories of fermenting beer in stainless steel milk tanks, and barrels being rolled in the dairy’s back alleys, Mike felt he was following in his family’s tradition when he pitched the idea of opening a family brewery again to his parents and brothers in 1995.
Family Owned. Family Brewed.
The Kainz family all agreed to take the plunge into the brewing business. Brothers Mike, Pat, and John converted a leased 2,400 square foot warehouse in Lake Barrington into a brewery. The first kegs rolled out the door of the brewery in 1997, and the Wild Onion began bottling its beers the following year. In 2000, the Kainz family purchased a shuttered tavern down the street from the brewery, located on a former gravel quarry. The dream of building an English-style Pub in which to serve their beers had been a shared vision of the family, and they broke ground in 2002. In July 2003, the Onion Pub and Brewery opened its doors to the public.
For the past 17 years, Wild Onion Brewery has strived to brew the best damn beer you’ll every drink. We have been in a perpetual state of expansion, it seems, and just finished the crown jewel of our production facility with a new 50 barrel brew house, housed in a 5,000 square foot addition. Our existing 17 barrel brewery will allow us to brew inspirational “one-offs” and other R&D for new styles, while the new brewhouse will help us keep up with the demand from our growing customer base.
Wild Onion beers are now distributed throughout Chicagoland,
along with 5 other states in the Midwest.