A Half-Acre and Growing

By Chuck Sudo in Food on Aug 24, 2007 3:30PM

2007_08_Half_acre.jpgSo it's been a little more than a week since Half Acre Beer Company started placing their lager at various bars and package stores around the city. By "around the city" we mean "Wicker Park and Bucktown, save for a couple locations."

There's going to be a lot written in upcoming weeks about Half Acre owner Gabriel Magliaro's decision to have his beer brewed on contract in Wisconsin, and whether the knowledge that the beer is contract brewed makes it any less local (some of that questioning has already begun). But Magliaro has offices in Chicago, creates his beer recipes in Chicago, has been been making face time with bar owners and distributor reps working to promote the beer locally, and ultimately wants to bring the brewery operation home. Sharing a couple bottles of Half Acre last night with Magliaro at the Charleston, he seemed sincere when we asked him that very question. He cited the expenses he and his partners would have incurred in trying to build a brewery from scratch as the reason behind contracting the brewing out, while emphasizing that he's worked thoroughly with the brewer to ensure his vision for the beer. From a business perspective it seems as though Magliaro is committed to growing the company slowly, letting word spread and finding more places to carry Half Acre's lager. He mentioned Goose Island and Brooklyn Brewery as examples of beer companies he'd like to emulate.

The ultimate question to ask is "how is the beer?" Half Acre lager, brewed using a blend of Munich and pale malts, and copious amounts of Saaz hops. It's a dark lager, with a mouthfeel and flavor comparable to an India pale ale, only without the gravity. The combination of Munich malt and Saaz hops give it a warm citrus flavor - one Charleston customer who sampled the beer since its launch said that it "tasted of grapefruit" - and it finishes clean. Half Acre has good carbonation, with a head that fades into little floating pods of yeast, leaving faint traces of lacing on the glass. For a city whose breweries focus on seriously hopped ales for the hirsute, Half Acre lager should find a fast audience among casual beer drinkers, people who want a beer with some character and folks looking to take those initial baby steps past thin, mass produced lagers.

The saying goes that Rome wasn't built in a day. The same could be said for a beer company that's worth its weight in brew. Right now, Magliaro is content to just let the beer do the talking when he can't.