Check out my editorial about the Geek Bar Beta event on Star Wars Day (May the Fourth) on Ruby Hornet, a site dedicated to all things culture and media.
Check out my article here or click below to read the text-only version.
“The Force Awakened at Geek Bar Beta”
By Danielle Levsky
Posted on May 8, 2015
When I left for Geek Bar Beta’s “May the Fourth” Star Wars party, I realized I was not at all dressed for the occasion. Before I rushed out of my workplace, I tied my hair into two side-buns. Unfortunately, I looked more like ’90s-Gwen-Stefani than Princess Leia. People were too nice/friendly to tell me about it, though.
When I arrived, I immediately found Brittany Yantos (Geek Bar’s Director of Business Development, but her official title is Trader of the Nerd Sea). Her and I spoke before the event so it was nice to put a face to the name. She was hyped and excited about the turnout of the event. Every table and bar stool was occupied with cosplayers, fan girls, fan boys, regulars and newbies.
“A lot of planning went into this event,” Brittany said. “More than others, actually.”
Geek Bar Beta collaborated with several other small businesses and companies for this event. To start, they created a prix-fix tasting menu (one night only) curated by Chef Joshua Mutchnik (Official title: Archmage of Fire). They also teamed up with Surly and Destihl local breweries to create a “Light Side vs. Dark Side” beer sampling menu. For entertainment, “MacSith” (A combination of the Scottish play and Star Wars, i.e. “Shakespeare goes sci-fi”) was prepped to perform lightsaber demonstrations, give a panel on Star Wars trivia and philosophy, and sponsor a custom cocktail. On the television screen, fanfiction Star Wars clips played along with some Cartoon Network programs. The night finished off with Star Wars raffle prizes from sponsors like Chimera Comics, BrickLoot, MacSith, 3DFX and Threadless.
“Do you like beer?” Brittany asked me, and before I had the chance to say yes, she handed me a beer can wrapped in a custom cozy and a specialty beer glass, “Here you go. Have this. I don’t like beer very much but they gave me one anyway after I bought my raffle ticket.”
This was my first sampling of the evening’s beer repertoire. I started with “the Light Side,” a Belgian-style abbey ale from Destihl Brewery. It was light and went down smoothly, a good, conversational beer. After her introduction into the evening’s events, I walked toward the bar, shamelessly double fisting a beer can and a pretty beer glass. I ran into two college-student girls at the bar who had never been to Geek Bar before. They were there for Star Wars night and wanted to sample the many beer flights. We talked Star Wars trivia and Disney film expectations until two gloriously beautiful Jedi warrior-knights stepped in front of us.
“Clear the area!” a woman dressed in a long, white gown called out, motioning towards us with her arms.
The knights introduced “MacSith” and talked about their programs, amenities and training processes for lightsaber fighting. It was probably best that they gave their spiel before the demonstration because the restaurant was hushed as they began fighting.
After the demonstration, I found some other guests at the bar, who also happened to be the owners of the two beer distributors featured that night. Chris Jecha, Illinois Market Manager from the “Dark Side” (Surly Brewing Company) and I talked about the brewery, its inception in 2004 and how far they’ve come in 2015, their varieties of dark, hoppy and flavorful beers, and of course, Star Wars. I still had a beer can in hand at this point, but Chris ordered me one of their beers to try from a Geek Bar bartender. I received a can of “Coffee Bender,” an American-style, coffee-flavored and oatmeal brown ale. I honestly wish I could drink this beer at work because it tastes delicious AND it is caffeinated.
Chris took off and I started chatting with a businessman (he asked to remain nameless). He sat directly next to the Dark and Light Side brewery men. He casually walked into Geek Bar this evening, looking for a drink and maybe some grub. As an avid Star Wars fan, he was delighted to find that the bar/restaurant was hosting “May the Fourth.” He already finished off most of the “Light Side” beer sampling menu and was making his way to the “Dark Side.” I’d like to think it was because I tipped him off with my can of “Coffee Bender.” He told me about how, unlike other fans, he had no expectations for the upcoming film and steered away from promotional material as much as possible.
At the end of the bar, I stumbled upon Deana “Tig” Pollum. I thought she was a staff member at first. She had a big smile, seemed quite comfortable speaking with Chef Joshua and other employees, and was working diligently on her iPad. Tig hails from North Carolina and is a self proclaimed “Geek of all Trades.” She has worked for a variety of conventions as a panel speaker/booth employee. Tig also leads a discussion group in her hometown on Stars Wars; the new film is a major point of discussion. She is known by her online persona, Tignatious D. One of her best friends, David Zoltan, is also the leader of Geek Bar Beta (Official title: Fleet Admiral). She and I bonded over geekdom, talked about moving across the country, college experience and tried to define true geek love.
I then met David Zoltan, who built Geek Bar from the ground up. He stopped by to say hello, and Tig got us all quickly acquainted. As an entrepreneur, he saw that there was no space for geeks to meet, eat, drink, and of course, geek out in Chicago, so he took the opportunity to create that space.
“There was a huge subculture here that was being totally ignored,” he said. “The staff make this place. Without them, I wouldn’t be here, we all wouldn’t be here.”
Geek Bar truly is a warm and welcoming space for geeks. In their bathrooms, next to the Ministry of Magic toilets, they print a disclaimer about a zero-tolerance harassment and discrimination policy.
General manager Rob Stein (official title: Galactic Overlord) and Chef Joshua approached us next, said hello to Tig and welcomed me to Geek Bar. Joshua handed both of us a “pâte de fruit,” French for “fruit paste” and Culinary for “best dessert ever created.” They were green apple flavored and in the shape of light sabers.
“I like to do a little something special at the end of the tasting menus. A little surprise,” Joshua said with a smile.
Chef Joshua moved up and down the east coast, from New York City to Washington D.C. and finally, to Chicago, where he’s been working as a chef for several years.
As a Star Wars fan and self-proclaimed geek, I was definitely not disappointed. From sampling delicious beers and foods to meeting Star Wars nerds from all walks of life, I am highly anticipating Geek Bar’s next event. They plan to expand into the Loop area in the near future, so soon there will be two venues for geeking out in Chicago.
May the force be with you, friends.