Sommelier Michael McAvena of The Publican - Biography

Chicago, IL

January 2011

An Ohio native with a creative penchant, Michael McAvena didn’t set out to work in the food and beverage industry, and he certainly didn’t set out to become one of the first 150 Certified Cicerones (beer sommeliers) in the country. Instead, he took his creativity to the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, where he focused on performance and sound. But even as his schooling evolved, so did McAvena’s appreciation for the world of food and drink—and especially home-brewed beer.

Entranced by the process as much as the product, McAvena immersed himself in the world of beer. Like a chef who works his way up the ranks from busboy, McAvena cut his teeth hauling cases and stacking coolers in the world of beer retail. Meanwhile, he cultivated his own knowledge of everything beer, from old standbys to the marginalized and misunderstood.

By 25, he was already a veteran of some of Chicago’s best-known industry spots, including Saltaus and early cocktail haven The Violet Hour. And in 2008, McAvena joined The Publican as its beer director. And it’s here that he plies his extensive knowledge of the craft and culture of beer and beer pairing. While the self-titled “beer boy” and 2010 StarChefs.com Chicago Rising Star Beer Sommelier might not like fancy titles, he’s likely to keep earning them.