The Chicagoist will be launching later but in the meantime please enjoy our archives.

A First Look Inside Half Acre's New Tap Room

By Jason Baldacci in Food on Oct 31, 2012 9:20PM

Every time we stop into Half Acre's retail shop for a growler fill, there's always something new happening: a limited release beer is being debuted; some freshly printed shirts are on the shelves; or there's a new oddity being displayed in the shop, like a suit of armor. Over the last year or so, though, most of the new things have been happening on the other side of the wall in the brewery itself.

Half Acre bought the building their brewery is housed in about a year and a half ago, and just recently finished a 10-month expansion and redesign project. This endeavor has completely maximized the space they have and boosted their workflow so they can crank out as much beer as possible.

This is all very good news for the craft beer drinkers of Chicago, but what's even more exciting is that the brewery has also moved into the former chiropractor's office that was next door and has spent the last six months building out a tap room.

The tap room is beautifully minimalistic, with skylights cut into cedar plank ceilings to let sunshine into the space. Behind the concrete bar, a sculpture of Half Acre’s iconic Sticky Fat Bear, a reference to one of their seasonal beers, is laid into the wall.

The tables and benches have been built out of Douglas Fir wood, which Half Acre founder Gabriel Magliaro says, "isn't usually used for tables and chairs, since it's pretty soft. I'm looking forward to seeing how they get beaten up over time."

One of our favorite design elements is the interior wall that separates the brewery from the tap room. Half Acre acquired 110-year-old wood from Northern Wisconsin that was once the inside of a grain elevator. You can see and feel the age in this rough and uneven wall, and it helps to give the rest of the sleek and simple space the feeling that it's all going to be there for a while.

What inspired Half Acre to build out a tap room after five years of business? According to Magliaro, "We really wanted to explore the hospitality industry. We've sold our beer through distribution, and through our retail shop, so this is really the last tier we haven't gone to yet. We're excited to have a gathering place and be a kind of community center."

Magliaro will openly tell you that neither he nor his partners had much of a background in the brewing industry, but he feels like that's been a strength more than a weakness. They've always been able to approach the business with a fresh perspective, and they've built their understanding of it from the ground up. He told us how they have a really young crew of employees, and that he tries to utilize each of their talents and foster their growth as individuals while they all grow the business together.

Up to this point, they've done a fantastic job in turning Half Acre into a staple in Chicago's exploding beer scene. All we're really concerned about now is if they'll be able to keep it up. Half Acre is on track to brew about 12,000 barrels this year (breweries measure volume in barrels; one barrel equals 31 gallons), up from the 8,000 barrels they brewed in 2011. With the new expansion finished, they can brew up to 15,000 barrels a year, but they have no more room to grow in the space they're in. We asked Magliaro if they had a plan to keep up with increasing demand, to which he replied in a sage-like way, "We will grow beyond these walls. How, I'm not sure."

If you brew it, we will drink.

The new tap room is set to open any day now (start sniffing around this weekend) and will feature 10 drafts and one cask beer, all of which will be by Half Acre. They will feature all three of their year-round beers, as well as seasonal releases and even some brews that you'll only be able to find at the tap room. They plan to stay open until 11 p.m. from Sunday to Thursday, and all the way until 2 a.m. on Friday and Saturday.

Half-Acre Brewery is located at 4257 N. Lincoln Avenue.