Like many modern brewers, Mike Pallen began his career in a basement. He started homebrewing before leaping into the professional world at established breweries like Pipeworks and 18th Street. Now, Pallen is the owner of Mikerphone Brewing Co., one of the hottest breweries in the Midwest. The brewery combines Pallens’ passions for beer and music, and every beer he makes includes a music reference — see Smells Like Bean Spirit, Cat’s In the Cradle, or Say Me Fantastic.

Pallen has stayed ahead of trends by bringing hazy IPAs to Illinois and reshaping big coffee stouts. We chatted with Pallen about his history in the brewing industry, and he gave us a few songs to add to a killer bottle share playlist.

JP: How’d you get your start in the brewing industry?

MP: I started as a homebrewer making beer in my basement. I would take my beer to anyone who would try it and provide me with honest feedback. One of those places was Pipeworks Brewing in Chicago. Eventually, they let me help package and brew with them, which led me to meet Drew Fox from 18th Street Brewery. He became my mentor and I helped him in the early stages on 18th Street. Finally, after cutting my teeth for a few years, I got the courage to go at it alone and officially make Mikerphone Brewing a professional brewery. I wouldn’t be where I am today without the guidance and assistance from Gerrit (Pipeworks) and Drew (18th Street).

JP: What are your thoughts on the state of hazy IPAs in the industry?

MP: Mikerphone was the first to make and release a “New England-Style” Double IPA in Illinois, if not the Midwest. We had a great following before, but once we started making that style, our brand took off. We had people chasing our vans down as we were going to distribution. Today, our lineup is 60 percent Hazy IPA. It’s safe to say that I love them, we love them, and our consumers love them! I’m also super excited that the Brewers Association has recognized the style. We’ll see who takes home the top prize this year.

JP: What is your favorite beer to drink now?

MP: Hands down, it’s Eeek! by Off Color. To make Eeek!, they brew Miller High Life, which is a near and dear to me because my dad worked at Miller Brewing while I was growing up, then add their yeast culture to it. It’s a complex, delicious beer. Truly my desert island beer!

JP: What’s the best idea you’ve ever had?

MP: To say “Fuck it, let’s start a brewery!” I was working in the music industry. I had a great job but just knew there was more. It was a huge risk but has totally paid off. And it’s so funny to see where I was 5 years ago, and see where I am, where my family is, and where my staff is now. There’s no turning back!

JP: Describe your ideal taproom.

MP: My tasting room right now is in Elk Grove Village, Illinois, very close to O’Hare airport and a short drive to Chicago. It works out great, but I am a Wisconsin boy, so my ideal tasting room would be located in Wisconsin on a lake. People could send in orders via their cell phone while on the lake, pull their boat up to our dock, and scoop up beer. When they’re done with their time on the lake, they can come up to the tasting room to enjoy live music and great beer.

Give us a few songs to add to an all-star bottle share playlist.

MP: All of our beers are named after music references so I’ll give you my top five:

“Smells Like Teen Spirit,” Nirvana
“My Baby’s Got Sauce,” G. Love and Special Sauce
“Teleport Massive,” Bassnectar
“Buggin’ Out,” A Tribe Called Quest
“Breakfast At Tiffany’s,” Deep Blue Something

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