All The Details On Half Acre Brewing's Huge Expansion
By Ben Kramer in Food on Nov 18, 2015 5:44PM
All Half Acre/Jason Baldacci
By now, you probably know Half Acre Brewing Co. has added a new location. The new brewery operates at 2050 W. Balmoral St., 1.8 miles away from their other facility (and taproom) on Lincoln Avenue. It's here they now brew year-round beers such as Daisy Cutter, Pony Pilsner, and Lead Feather. The new brewery has 60,000 square-feet (interior), about 100,000 in total, and they plan on eventually adding a taproom at Balmoral Street, along with a restaurant and outdoor beer garden.
On the surface, the expansion means more Half Acre beer is being brewed. It's giving people greater access to the company, which now distributes to all eight Chicagoland counties. They have plans for new canned beer releases, though when and what those beers will be hasn't been decided. That being said, there's more to Half Acre's expansion than just more beer for more people. It's given birth to new opportunities and ideas.
To start, the expansion has allowed people to be granted positions of leadership. They now have a head brewer, sales director, director of operations, controller and business operations manager, a full time lab person and quality control person. As Half Acre Founder Gabriel Magliaro told me in an email, “Our scale requires levels of leadership, management and departmental effort that weren't required before.” With the expansion, Magliaro didn't set out to be a brewery with “big titles” but he did want to offer, “a place where people can stay and make a career.”
Career opportunities may be a by-product of the expansion, but so too have the creative ones. The Lincoln Avenue location, while no longer the center of the universe for Half Acre, is its own galaxy. Moving production/packaging of year long and seasonal beers to Balmoral has allowed Lincoln to flourish as a creative lab, where several one-off and small batch beers are being produced.
This creative freedom has enabled Half Acre to, “focus on doing things that we've never been really able to do before,” claims Magliaro. “We have a wood program, mixed fermentation program happening (at the Lincoln Avenue) now, which is really exciting for us, definitely a new frontier for our brewery.”
They acquired at least 16 to 53 gallon oak barrels for that mixed fermentation program, with the number of barrels growing. Obviously, the plan is to work with wild yeast and bacterias, but don't expect beers from the program to be ready by next week. This is a first for Half Acre, so they're taking it slow. For Magliaro, the hope is to release those mixed fermentation beers in the next 5 months or so.
Balmoral, like Lincoln, will have their own barrels, except they'll be bourbon barrels. Don't expect to see anything released from them until next year.
Lincoln, like Balmoral, will soon have its own kitchen, with an opening targeted for sometime in January. The Founder wouldn't commit to saying what will be on either menu, but did say they've, “been working really hard on dialing all the food in...but we change things all the time.” In the end though he says, “We'll put out two menus that we're proud of.”
Much like the menus, the opening date for the Balmoral taproom/restaurant/beer garden is To-Be-Determined. Half Acre recently had to re-zone the building, which is slowing things down. For Magliaro though, it's all okay. “All we care about is that it happens in the right way. Much less so exactly when it happens.”