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The Standard Tap Room is pouring a wide selection of craft beer in downtown Whiting.

Longtime craft beer aficionados Jason Miller, his wife Lisa Toleikis Miller, her brother John Toleikis and his wife Lindsey Tolekis opened the 2,500-square-foot taproom at 1346 119th St. in downtown Whiting a few weeks ago. It's in a former dance studio where both Lisa Toleikis Miller and Lindsey Tolekis took dance lessons growing up that's sat empty for the last eight years.

The new owners have spent the past year and a half renovating the building, which now has 75 seats, including 25 at the bar and along bar rails in the window displays, which are opened when musicians play at the amphitheater across the street at Sheridan Park.

The craft beer bar — which features hardwood floors and exposed brick walls — offers cocktails on tap, wine and 20 craft beers on tap.

"There's no question about it: craft beer is our main focus," Miller said. "We have a lot of taps for Whiting and this area of northern Lake County or Southeast Chicago. We have beers from as close as Pokro Brewing and as far as St. Petersburg in Russia."

Its name alludes to the Standard Oil Refinery that long has shaped Whiting. And the taproom aims to set the standard for craft beer bars in north Lake County, Miller said. The hope is that its wide and frequently rotating selection will make it a destination. 

"We've loved craft beer from the very beginning, going back to the late 1990s and the early 2000s," Miller said. "We enjoyed the beer and started to make really good friends in the craft beer industry. We've gotten involved with so many of the local breweries from Lake, Porter and LaPorte counties, as well as Southwest Michigan. We started expanding our palates a little, trying newer and cooler beers and seeking out smaller breweries and newer guys."

They would travel great distances to visit new craft breweries. Miller frequently dropped by Cigar City in Tampa while traveling on business to Florida, and his family visited several breweries in South Dakota and Wyoming while on a trip to Yellowstone National Park.

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They hope to introduce customers to beers they themselves enjoy.

"We have a pretty solid rotation," he said. "We'll always have four or five taps from local breweries, from a lot of our friends like Four Fathers, Pokro, Burn 'Em and Windmill. We'll make sure we have their best stuff. We really want to expose our customers to good beer. We want to offer unique beers you may have heard of but haven't tried."

A goal is for the taps to rotate so frequently someone can come in and try two or three new beers, and then do the same the next week, Miller said. They plan to carry all styles.

"Tastes change over the years," he said. "My wife and I, for instance, are big fans of dark beers like stouts and porters, while my brother-in-law loves sours. But we always find something else that strikes us in a good way, whether it's an imperial double IPA or a summer wheat ale. One of the great things about this industry is how there's always something new and interesting that's going to captivate you. So many breweries are prolific, rolling out a new beer every few months, coming out with a different take on a similar style. You can try four different stouts from four breweries and they all taste different. It's part of what makes craft beer so often."

The Standard Tap Room plans to roll out food options after Pierogi Fest. But mainly, the owners want people to bond over craft beer in their establishment.

"We just want to create a community place where people can come in and sit down with friends or family and have a nice relaxing time with good beers," Miller said. "It's a place where people can come in and drink some really good beer while talking to their neighbor or someone they met with two minutes before."

For now, the hours are from 4 p.m. to 9 p.m. Wednesday and Thursday, from 2 p.m. to 11 p.m. Friday and Saturday and from 2 p.m. to 11 p.m. Sunday.

For more information, find the business on Facebook and Instagram.

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Business Reporter

Joseph S. Pete is a Lisagor Award-winning business reporter who covers steel, industry, unions, the ports, retail, banking and more. The Indiana University grad has been with The Times since 2013 and blogs about craft beer, culture and the military.