Story URL: http://news.medill.northwestern.edu/chicago/news.aspx?id=231098
Story Retrieval Date: 4/17/2015 11:16:26 AM CST
Paulo Cabral Filho/MEDILL
Half Acre Beer to expand after reaching full capacity
Half Acre Beer to expand after reaching capacity
Sitting in the heart of Ravenswood, at 4257 Lincoln Ave., among other bars and stores, 7-year-old Half Acre Beer Co. is well-known and confident enough to expand. In fact, it has to if it wants to grow.
Half Acre sells roughly 15,000 barrels per year through 1,200 locations in the Chicago metropolitan area. In 2013 Half Acre produced 50 different kinds of beer, among its six permanent varieties and seasonal, collaborative and one-off brews, which are one-time products.
To produce all this beer the company now has 40 employees. Even so, because of production and space limitations, its volume is stagnant.
“We don’t add new business,” said founder and owner Gabriel Magliaro. “From a capacity perspective, we’re completely topped out here. We can’t make any more beer.”
Confident of Half Acre’s place in the market, Magliaro believes in both a consumer's and a brewer's approach to beer.
“We do a lot of hops beers, and there are so many breweries that focus on hops, because people love drinking hoppy beers,” he said. “And I think it’s natural to gravitate towards what you like drinking and also what people like buying.”
Amongst consumers, Half Acre stands as tall as any craft brewery, based on both the quality and the variety of flavors it explores.
“As any craft beer, their beers are tastier,” said sales executive Bruno Munaro, who said he is a big wine and craft beer consumer. “You can taste the difference between different kinds of beers, you can taste the different characteristics, while the industrial ones are all pretty much the same.”
Beatrice Vallone, a lawyer and beer enthusiast, agrees with his vision and adds that this variety is beneficial when choosing which beer to drink.
“All the ingredients’ flavors stand out,” she said. “So you are able to find something more personalized to your own taste.”
Responding to the demand, Half-Acre is now opening a second, bigger location, just north at 2050 W. Balmoral Ave.
With 60,000 square feet, the location will house not only new brewing facilities, but a new tap room and all the company offices, which will enable an expansion of the brewing activities and tap room on Lincoln Avenue.
“Right now we are very defensive,” Magliaro explained. “We began the process of building a second facility that will allow us to again approach the market and add business. That will dramatically change our brewing company.”
Founded in 2007 by Magliaro, Half Acre has come a long way. Although based in Chicago from the beginning, the company originally produced its beer in a third-party brewery located in Black River Falls, Wis., for almost two years before being able to build its own brewing facilities.
“Out the gate, we couldn’t afford to build a brewery. At that point it was just me working for the company,” Magliaro said.
But when the time to build came, he said it was a natural decision to build in Chicago.
“We were a Chicago beer company, just without the brewery, so this was the logical step for us,” he said.
Now a significant player in a market that has experienced a boom of growth in the last couple of years with new breweries starting everywhere, Magliaro is optimistic about the future and remains confident of Half Acre's place in it.
“There’s so many breweries now,” he said. “One important piece to that is how other breweries are gonna differentiate themselves from us, rather them how we are gonna differentiate from them.”
For those interested in getting to know the brewery better, its tap room is open every day except for Monday, and it offers tours on Saturday mornings.