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Monthly Archives: June 2012

Diversey & Lille The first collaboration beer from a French Craft Brewery – Castelain & Two Brothers

Announcing the first ever collaboration beer from a French Craft brewery, Brassserie Castelain of Benifontaine France and Two Brothers of Warrenville, Illinois. The name Diversey & Lille is a riff on Chicago’s first brewery, Diversey & Lill (a Franco-American collaboration that dates back to 1833) and Lille (the capital of the North of France and a city near the Castelain brewery).

The nose of this dry hopped Biere de Garde sparkles with notes of citrus grass and apricot. Flavors of ripe fruit spices and toasted almond round out this slightly sweet, full beer. We are very excited to introduce it to the nation at large and most especially to Chicagoans.  For the first time since 1871, Chicago has a beer called Diversey & Lill(e).

The beer was brewed in Benifontaine and is a collaboration between Nicholas Castelain and Jason Ebel. It is coming to your market in July. Vanberg & DeWulf imports and distributes nationwide – except in Chicago where Windy City is in charge.

 A True & Veritable History of the Original Diversey & Lill

Chicago’s  streets are paved with malt.

Begun in 1833 as the first commercial brewing venture in Chicago, Diversey & Lill was started by William Haas and Andrew Sulzer – recent arrivals from Watertown, NY. Sulzer sold his stake to William B. Ogden. In 1839 William Lill bought out Hass’ share. These men were pioneers.  Cook county was organized no earlier than 1831, when the population of Chicago-to be was under 200 and the place was only an Indian agency.

William Ogden was the first mayor and one of the most important property owners and promoters in town. He had a hand in virtually every commercial scheme of any significance in Chicago history.  (Ogden’s Slip bears his name). Newberry Library was built on the site that was once Ogden’s home. Ogden had family connections in and was active in procuring supplies from upstate New York… in Madison County (near the Vanberg & DeWulf headquarters in Cooperstown) that by the 1820′s had become a center for hops growing. The hops were shipped west via the Erie Canal  (opened in 1825).

Michael Diversey was an immigrant from Alsace Lorraine who came to Chicago in the early 1830′s. He advanced himself from a good and faithful milk seller to a partner in the firm Diversey & Lill, shortly after 1841.  Ogden had relinquished ownership by then.

*Interestingly, streets were named after Diversey and Lill in the dark days of Prohibition (source Chicago Tribune) “Michael Diversey was active when Chicago was enjoying its greatest rate of increase in population (1840-1850). It grew from 4,470 to 29,962 in that period. Mr. Diversey saw the first railroad locomotive arrive here in 1848. He survived the cholera epidemic of 1849. A brewer in Mr. Diversey’s day had a business and a social ranking with bankers, railroad presidents and such. ”

Lill & Diversey developed their “Chicago Brewery” into what was called, in 1857, the largest in the west. They survived the financial panic of that year (1857) and continued together successfully selling ale and porter in the face of strong competition from the German lager beer brewers in the 1860′s till Diversey’s death in 1869.  Lill, who lived to 75, carried on the business until 1871 himself when the  famous fire in which Lill’s was one of five breweries destroyed.

Why this name for the collaboration beer between Two Brothers and Castelain imported by Vanberg & DeWulf?

In the winter of 2012 at the Two Brothers restaurant in Warrenville, Jason Ebel followed up on a conversation we’d had the year before….he asked me if I would introduce him to one of our brewers to discuss a collaboration beer project. After not more than a minute’s contemplation and quick confer with Don, I proposed Castelain as the natural partner. Castelain (a brewery whose beers we have long imported) is a champion in the revival of the Biere de Garde style in the Nord Pas de Calais/French Flanders region in the 1970′s. This is France’s only indigenous beer style. They are regarded to be the leading artisanal practioners of the style. Meantime – Two Brothers is well-regarded for their iteration of the style: Domaine DuPage.  Once the outline of the plan was organized between the brewers on each continent (Jason Ebel and Nicholas Castelain), with input from the owner, Annick Castelain, and the export manager, Loic Falce and with an assist from us at Vanberg & DeWulf, I set about to see if I could find a Franco American connection in Chicago brewing history. Bingo! I happened to have a copy of Brewing in America on hand. The details are related above. These names will be familiar to most Chicagoans as street names. Add and “e” to Lill and you get the name of the capital city of the Nord de la France which is just a stone’s throw from Brasserie Castelain.

This was a marvelous collaboration. Annick Castelain (one of the most prominent women in the field of brewing in Europe) invited the entire staff of the brewery to a picnic so the American delegation could meet the French craft team.

Jim and Jason brought their wives and Jason’s kids added a lot to the party. After the brew we had lunch in a local brasserie cafe and took a tour of Lille in the rain with Loic and Alexis who is soon to arrive as the French Craft beer representative.

Two Brothers beers are sold in just 5 states: New York, Illinois Minnesota, Ohio and Indiana. But in the case of the collaboration beer (label design courtesy of our friend and fellow Chicagoan Randy Mosher) because Vanberg & DeWulf distributes, Diversey & Lille will be available nationwide.

The nose of this dry hopped Biere de Garde sparkles with notes of citrus grass and apricot. Flavors of ripe fruit spices and toasted almond round out this slightly sweet, full beer. We are very excited to introduce it to the nation at large and most especially to Chicagoans.  For the first time since 1871, Chicago has a beer called Diversey & Lill(e).

For further information on the beer debuting in all Vanberg & DeWulf markets in early July (and in time for Bastille Day!) contact Wendy Littlefield co-founder, 607-547-8184 office and 607-287-3419 (cell).
Though Vanberg & DeWulf is based in Cooperstown, for the last three years the principals – Don Feinberg & Wendy Littlefield have made Chicago’s Lakeview neighborhood their home.

Check out all five beers from Castelain, pioneers of organic production in France, and the revival of  France’s only indigenous beer style – the Biere de Garde – produced in the Nord Pas de Calais region also known as French Flanders.

p.s. Diversey & Lille can also be found outside of US borders – it is being carried by all the best bars in Lill, France.

architecture of Lille



Press and medals

Don and I are back from three months of living and working with our brewers in Belgium, France, Italy, and Iceland. We welcomed almost 60 VIPs during that time, and our new Belgian experts range from press members to sales teams from California, Massachusetts, New York, and New Jersey.

In addition, we are proud to announce a host of new beer medals: we entered nine beers into this year’s World Beer Championships and walked away with 2 platinums, 4 golds, and 3 silvers. Look all the way to your right for information on some of the award-winning beers.

There has been an enormous amount of press about our beers, and there will be more to come between now and the end of summer. Saisons are perfect for the onset of warm weather; Time magazine thinks Saison Dupont is one of the 9 beers you should be drinking this summer and the Weekly Pint pays homage to this “reigning, definitive example of the style.” The recently launched and beautifully curated Food Loves Beer magazine believes saisons are in style all year round, and also named Bière de Miel a wedding-worthy beer.