Friday, December 19, 2008

Meat By The Bottle


I grew up in a small town by the name of Lambertville, NJ. It quietly sits along the Deleware River exactly where George Washington made his historic crossing on Christmas day. Every year on Christmas morning they reinact the event for locals and tourists that make the trip to Washington’s Crossing Park.

I try to get home as much as I can because I enjoy spending time with my family, but there’s a charm about the place that I appreciate more and more as I get older. Others that travel there for the first time will remark how quaint and cozy it is, and even though it is unbelievably quaint, almost cartoonish, I just like getting lost on the backroads and spending time in an environment that moves slower than my home in Chicago.

One thing that I try to do while home is go to a small butchershop named Meresca’s Country Style Provisions that’s located in Sergeantsville, NJ just north of Lambertville. When home for Thanksgiving we paid a visit to the two owners Joe and Emil, a duo that’s owned the place for longer than I’ve been breathing. In a world of automation and efficiency, these guys dig their heels in and run their business in a historic, wonderfully outdated fashion. All their meat is locally raised by men they trust before coming to them whole. If you want a certain cut at a certain size, then they’ll hobble back and open the wooden cooler door to grab the appropriate side and cut it for you then and there. If you’re in a rush, then you’re shopping at the wrong place. Emil has been standing over a butcher's block for so long breaking down meat that he stands at almost a right angle. My friend remarked that soon he’ll have to mount mirrors to the tops of his shoes so that you can look him in the eye when speaking to him. After you’ve made all your choices, you’ve chatted a bit and collectively added up the total sale(they might have been math wizards in their day, but these days it’s a group process), you pay for your goods and are on your way. It’s expensive, out of the way, time consuming and perfect.

The point is, the hand carved experience speaks to the craft beer world and why it feels the way it does. Sure, large macro brewers make beer that’s technically sound and as stable and predictable as any beer you’ll purchase, but a brewer that’s walking his beer from grain to glass takes part in a terrifically rough process filled with a personality that we all can appreciate. The beer might come out differently than it had last time, and maybe there was a hop substitution because all the Columbus were gone for the year, but I’ll take the chance every time. My family and I could go to one of the large grocers and buy meat for less, but we’d be cheating ourselves out of a rich experience. So, have a great Holiday and make sure to treat yourself to some hand-carved goods in any form you can find them.

I’m going to start by drinking quality hand-made beer and eating outstanding meat.

Right here in Chicago you can find hand-made beer sold
here and an outstanding butcher right down the street here.


Gabriel
Half Acre Beer Co
Chicago, IL

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Matt Gives His Ode to Chicago (we continue to give thanks)


It’s cold. We shouldn’t be complaining about the cold in December, the solstice is still a week away. But it’s cold. Half Acre recently got its gas bill for the brewery, it was frightening. We now wear hats and long johns so we can give our money to our boiler guy instead of People’s Gas. At the end of the day when I’m so cold my teeth hurt, I think about the journalists stuck in Blagojevich’s alley keeping watch, and I don’t feel all that cold any more.

Most people bunker down at home when it’s cold, but the collective Chicago certainly doesn’t shun the great outdoors come winter. The other weekend the Illinois State Cyclocross Championships were held at Montrose Harbor. We stopped by to figure out what cyclocross is all about, and cheer on the Half Acre Cycling family. It was cold, yet riders of all ages were hauling up and down the snow covered terrain, carrying bikes over obstacles, skidding out under the pedestrian bridges, all while the icy white crust of the lake Michigan shoreline thickened with each crashing wave.  As I stood there in the snow, my sneakers a mixture of water and snow and sand, I realized how Chicago continually amazes me. No matter what tickles your fancy, others with the same fancy-tickling interest are close at hand. Every night something interesting is happening. If you’re into serious bicycle racing on rough terrain in inclement weather, you’d have been at Montrose Harbor two weekends ago. If like us you’re into beer, there is so much going now every week I don’t know where to begin. And that is nice to know.

We’re making progress on our brewery, sometimes so focused on getting a tank into place, or painting a rafter, that we don’t see what’s past the nuts and bolts of construction. The other day my neighbor saw a Half Acre bottle on the street while he was walking his dog. While we in no way condone littering, it's always a nice milestone. Someone chose our beer to enjoy while walking to the bus, or to the grocery store, or to a friend’s house.

So thanks Chicago, stay warm and don't litter.

Matt 
Half Acre Beer Co
Chicago, IL

Monday, December 8, 2008

Federal Brewers Notice


We received our Federal Brewers Notice today.  That means that the federal government decided to grant us the privilege of brewing beer for public consumption in the United States of America.  Without that tasty little morsel we'd be doomed to extinction.  Thank you Big Brother.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Half Acre Cycling





The cycling team continues...... They are into the Cyclecross season which is a favorite of the team and promotes a rowdy crowd. Beer, bikes and rowdiness.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Kate The Intern On: Beer


Today is a guest post from our intern Kate:

As I entered my last semester of college, I had the option of doing an internship for a company in Chicago. I considered all the things I wanted to learn more about and who I wanted to learn from. After a lot of research on beer in Chicago, I set my sights on Half Acre - local, hands-on, small and growing.
I didn’t learn until they interviewed me that plans were in the works for the new brewery, and in a short time I was helping them move from West Town to North Center. I have learned an overwhelming amount every day I’ve been here. I’m officially a Marketing Intern, but that hasn’t stopped them from teaching me everything about their business, across the board.
Not that I have one anecdote for you, just a lot of goofy good times. I’m writing this post while hanging out with Gabriel’s dog Holden and listening to the brewery grow in the background.

Being part of Half Acre has taught me a lot about the beer community in Chicago too – not just the business end. I’ve been encouraged to attend a lot of beer events and meet a lot of beer people. Being in the company of so many craft beer lovers and brewers has certainly skewed my view of what most Americans drink.

Chicago’s beer community is much smaller than I had originally imagined. The amount and variety of local beer feels disproportionate to the amount and diversity of beer drinkers in Chicago. People’s eyes light up when they realize the beer you are offering is local and ask questions faster than you can answer them. Geography seems to be of particular importance – everyone wants to know exactly where our beer will be brewed and how close they can get to the beer making itself. Our extraordinary city pride seems to grow even larger when beer is involved.  


Happy Thanksgiving 

Half Acre Beer Co
Chicago, IL

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Intonation Music Workshop


The Intonation Music Workshop is a band based after-school music program whose mission is to provide access to musical instruments, instruction, and performance opportunities for kids in neighborhoods where programming is needed most . Tomorrow they're having a party at Butterfly Social Club and we're sponsoring. You couldn't find a better cause and surely a good time will be had by all. Hope to see you there.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Some Buzz


We've had a couple different things in the news lately that you guys might want to check out.  Thanks to Lizz Kannenberg and Peter Sachs for taking the time to come out and talk to us about what's going on with Half Acre Beer Co.  


Medill News Service Article (with a video the author put together)


Half Acre Beer Co
Chicago, IL

Friday, November 14, 2008

Today's Update


I’ve been getting requests for a brewery update, so I’m going to lay it out.
We wrestle this unruly beast every day and slowly we’re winning.
Much of the process is now in the hands of others like architects and engineers. Everything we do has to be put in plan form, approved by the city and then physically put into play. All the while we do things that don’t need this type of approval. It’s been a wild orchestration that can easily get blundered should one thing derail.

To be specific:

The Architect and his team are close to done, so the structural layout, floor plan and second floor design are almost complete. Much of this time has been spent creatively addressing how the first and second floor function together in order to work well for our needs, meet code and to not have to sprinkler all 12,000 sq. ft of the building. We’ve also had to redesign for two handicap bathrooms, put together a whole new lighting plan, make changes to our kitchen (no we will not be a restaurant), change the location of the front door and both windows, add a door from the retail area to the brewery, address a lot of airflow concerns and a mess of other things that I won’t get into. As soon as those drawings are done the Mechanical, Electrical and Plumbing Engineer will address all of his issues on those same plans. At the same time, the Structural Engineer will look over the entire structure to make sure code is met, then reconfigure the second floor where we’ll mill our grain. We’ll reinforce that area to handle the load of our mill, grain storage etc. Then those drawings head off to the city for approval. Once aspects are approved, which shouldn’t take too long, (they will go through and address things one by one) we can put each approved piece into action immediately. We estimate executing that work in one month.
In the meantime, we’ve been dry-locking all the concrete block in the building so we can hose down everything. It’s taken a long time because there’s a ton of it. We’ve done some floor work in the brewhouse and fermentation area to make things flow better. We’re now laying down epoxy in both areas. We went with “Dark Gray,” it should look fly. Once the epoxy has set we can put our tanks in place and start piping things together. We’re building a pad on the roof where our chillers will sit. We’ll use a crane to get the big unit onto the roof – we’re looking forward to having a crane. These chillers will run our Glycol system that will keep our vessels nice and chilly.
We have the basic design of the “Retail Area” complete. The whole concept of this area is a little unique. It’s still semi-top secret, as we’re still hashing it out, but it will offer our customers something fun. Aesthetically speaking we’re looking at a lot of wood, some iron and that’s all I can say.
The sidewalk permit we need to rip off the exterior façade will come this week so we can rip down the old wood to make room for our signage that is close to ready. We’ll have large, solid aluminum letters mounted to the building that are exactly the same as our logo. There will also be our star at the highest point on the building.

So, that’s the scoop. I’m wearing a particle mask while typing this and all is swell in the land of fun and beer.

Half Acre Beer Co
Chicago, IL


Wednesday, November 12, 2008

The Goose will continue to pour on Clybourn

Even after their brewhouse was listed for sale and Goose brewer Will Turner had accepted the fact that he'd be brewing at Fulton st, Goose Island reached a last minute agreement with their landlord and will continue their brewpub operations.  I'd say that's great news for Goose and their loyal customers.
Read more about it here.

Gabriel
Half Acre Beer Co
Chicago, IL

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Barrels


This weekend is the annual Festival of Barrel Aged Beers. This event put on by the Illinois Craft Brewers Guild, a non-profit organization founded in 1997 dedicated to promote the development and expansion of the craft beer industry in Illinois. It’s a good group of folks and the event is a great showcase for barrel aged beer.

Our friends over at Goose Island, a brewing company that helped pioneer this practice, make a beer every year called Bourbon County Stout. This is a hefty stout aged in barrels that were previously used to make Bourbon. Since they only use these barrels once they offered other Illinois brewers the opportunity to grab their used barrels free of charge. We took them up on their generous offer and now have some of these barrels over here at our compound.

Our space was quickly filled with the smell of Goose Island’s Bourbon County Stout, so even though we’re not able to make beer at this location yet, there is the sweet smell of a great beer permeating the air. Thanks to Goose, and should you want to try some beer aged this way, then come on out to the event and get your hands on some of the best you’ll find.

Gabriel
Half Acre Beer Co
Chicago, IL

Friday, October 31, 2008

Halloween


Happy Halloween from the Half Acre. We’ve reached frenzy over here at the new brewery. Hurdles have been crossed, but the race is still in its infancy.

Lizz Kannenberg wrote a story on Half Acre for the Medill news service that ran earlier in the week. She created a video to go along with it. It’s an interesting piece that I think you’d enjoy. Check it out here.

Well, today is Halloween, potentially the scariest day of the year. In reality it’s more fun than scary, but the day is certainly rooted in the dark. I can remember all of the lore in my small town growing up. The rumors of people bleeding chickens in graveyards, local cults, murders or whatever -- all of us getting each other worked up.

What I remember more vividly about this time of year as a kid was Mischief Night, the night before Halloween when youngsters declared war on adults. Explosives, eggs, toilet paper and other odds and ends were weapons used to create a ruckus. What fun we had, and rarely anyone got hurt.

These days Halloween makes for a great time to dress up, act inappropriately and have as much fun as possible – what a great holiday. So, make sure and have treats for kids if you live in a place with potential for little knuckles to wrap on your door. Otherwise, get in the spirit in any way you can.

Enjoy

Half Acre beer Co
Chicago, IL

Monday, October 27, 2008

Water Towers

Our first space in the Industrial Corridor of Near West Chicago sat below an abandoned water tower. Sitting in our space it loomed over us at all times. So, when designing our first label it was only right to incorporate it as our mascot of sorts. Chicago is home to many great water towers -- our Buddy Ian Issitt made this for us. He did a great job and we appreciate it.

(Our old water tower is featured mid-way through the film)





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Thursday, October 23, 2008

FOBAB


The annual Festival of Barrel Aged Beers is rapidly approaching (Saturday November 8th).  I'd encourage you guys to grab a ticket and come on out.  Barrel aging beers is a unique way to handle beer.  Both the wood and prior use of the barrel can create flavors unattainable through other methods.  

Chicago is an important town in the history of barrel aging beer, and this years FOBAB will host more than 100 beers from some of the country's best brewers.  The Illinois Craft Brewers Guild, which Half Acre Beer Co is part, host the event and put on a good time.  

You can read about it and buy tickets here.

See you there for some deep dark beers.

Gabriel
Half Acre Beer Co
Chicago, IL

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Beer Taxi


We donated a keg to an event called “Brews Not Bombs.” It took place while we were in Colorado so we missed it, but apparently it was a huge success.

Anyway, Josh, the guy I worked with for the event brought the keg back to me using his spectacular bike taxi. He makes his living this way, and designed his ride himself. I’ve never seen him around town, but I think it’s a great way to get around and something more folks should think about.

It's Happening




We managed to get it all apart thanks to a bunch of good people who broke their ass over the course of a week. We had a lot of fun, worked hard and got it all done on schedule. Many thanks to Dave and George, Matt and the rest of the guys from Ska, the truckers and anyone else who had a hand in getting it all here. We also appreciate the folks from Jewel who let us stage our flat-beds in their parking lot.

(Take a look at that purple Peterbilt that cruised across the country with our tanks.  I wished I could have seen it mid-route gettin' it done)

So, it’s here. We have a disassembled brewery in our brewery to be. It’s kind of a mess and makes any fiber of OCD that I may have go absolutely haywire, but all this has a process and it can’t be forced – even though we’d like to work 20 hours a day until it shined and could churn out delicious beer.

Working in a construction site is a little weird, but being part of that change is exciting. The biggest thing is juggling running our business while launching this new phase to our business. A lot of the time we’re filthy from head to toe, so it’s good we’re in the beer industry and can generally conduct all aspects of business while covered in dirt. That’s part of the reason it’s great to do what we do.

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Moving Mountains









Half Acre Beer Co is on the move. We officially moved our belongings to our new home 4257 N. Lincoln Ave. We only had time to cram everything in a corner because we flew out to Denver to decommission all the brewing equipment that we’ll be trucking back to Chicago.

(I’ll include a couple photos of the new space in its disheveled mess)

Both Matt and I used to live in Colorado. It’s a great state that has a lot going for it. We flew into Denver on Monday morning and immediately rented a car and drove to Durango in the Southwestern part of the state. Fortunately it was timed perfectly with the changing of the Aspens. Each stand was more attractive than the next. I was continually reminded of all those Michigan radio spots that Tim Allen narrates about nature’s playground, etc. Those commercials kind of drive me crazy, but also make me want to go anywhere and drive down country roads with covered bridges, see the trees explode with color and get lost. This scratched that itch completely.

I could go on and on about the nature found in Colorado, but time is tight for the amount of work that needs to be done before all four of the tractor-trailers are loaded and ready to drive for Chicago.

I’m going to let the pictures do most of the talking here, but lets just say that the days have been long and the task is daunting. There is a huge amount of equipment that needs to be broken down and packed accordingly. This has been a great way to familiarize ourselves with the details of everything we bought. I’ll feel very connected to all this stuff after this trip, and the fact that it’s coming from a great bunch of guys (Ska Brewing Co) that have been incredibly helpful, we also feel very good that it all comes from our once home state of Colorado.

Time to work.

Friday, August 29, 2008

Steps



I have to say that things are moving forward at a fairly quick pace, I think.
Everyone asks us when we’ll be up and running, and my general response is “as quickly as possible.” It’s vague, but as honest as I can be. There’s a long list of things that have to happen in order for us to be brewing, and many items on that list are directly tied to the hard work of our city, state and federal friends that are aiding, approving, granting, accepting and lifting various things so that we can legally conduct all the forms of business we hope to conduct in this space.

Matt and Tommy were in Colorado all last week brewing on our new brewhouse. They had a great time and were able to acclimate themselves to the nuances of that particular system, and brew with the guys that have been using it for the last handful of years.

We’ll all go out in about a month to load it on numerous tractor-trailers, and then haul it back to its new home on Lincoln Ave. It should be quite a spectacle when the big trucks roll down the street to drop these huge vessels.

We’ve had Kevin, our friend, construction contractor and designer in the space a bunch over the last couple of weeks. He won’t do much in the brewery area other than pour new floors, put in some new drainage and some drywall, but he will be the one to make our retail area look how it needs to. That part of the project is a serious endeavor in and of itself. The above CAD floor plan is how that area is laid out now. We’ll change it completely to suit our needs.

Anyway, check out our events section and be sure to come out for some stuff – we have a bunch planned over the next couple months.

Have a great Labor Day Weekend


Gabriel
Half Acre Beer Co
Chicago, IL

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Beer Column

I started writing a beer column for UR Chicago Magazine called:
"Beer Classics, Complexities Of A Simple Pleasure"
Check it out HERE.

Friday, August 8, 2008

4257 N. Lincoln Ave


4257 N. Lincoln will semi-officially be the new home of Half Acre Beer Co. We made it over the community meeting hurdle, so that’s big. This meeting was the opportunity for the community to come out and express concerns, ask questions and learn a bit more about what it is we would like to do with the space. The concerns all fell into basic categories: Are you opening a bar? Will you be blocking streets and alleys with large trucks? Will there be odor that will make my life hell? Will you bring the riff-raff? We had acceptable responses and won the vote. In the end we had only one vote against the project – that was from the one self-pronounced beer advocate. We offered attendants some beer on their way out, and I’m not positive, but I think he grabbed one.

So, off we go to the zoning commission for, we hope, the final zoning approval. All this is very exciting for us. Our new brewhouse arrives at the end of September, so our biggest goal is to have the space prepared enough so that it can receive it and not have to move it later. This stuff is big and heavy.

We’ve been hearing from a lot of people who have offered to lend a hand. Thanks to all of you. It would be great to have all of you helping us achieve our goals, scurrying about the city with blueprints, jack-hammering floors, leveling fermentation vessels, etc. We’ve been thinking of how to accept help, so if we’ve received a note from you, be on notice, the call could come – maybe in the middle of the night.

In the meantime, the summer pushes on. It’s been ungodly hot in our current 4th floor hideout. Our intern looks like Christian Bale in The Machinist, but he continues to get it done four days a week.

And speaking of….. Our intern, Chris, is a tech-savvy student at Columbia. He put a “Widget” on our Myspace page. This widget will make it easier for you to stay in touch with what’s going on with Half Acre Beer Co. You can go grab this widget and easily install it on your IGoole home page, your own Myspace or other places that people do these sorts of things. Frankly it’s over my head, but those of you who are more tech-savvy, are, I’m sure, more familiar with the world of “Widget,” and how they get information closer to your fingertips.

So, there it is, 13,000 sq ft of brewery space and a widget. Isn’t that something?

Gabriel
Half Acre Beer Co
Chicago, IL

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Half Acre Cycling









Half Acre Cycling has a lot of passion for what they do, and it's obvious in how they conduct themselves both on and off the track, as well as how much fun they have in the process.  They maintain a great website that you can check out here, and I'm posting some photos so that you guys can see what they're up to.  Enjoy.

Gabriel
Half Acre Beer Co
Chicago, IL


Beer Monster


Wow. Companies are melding together rapidly. What a strange time in the corporate culture of large scale brewing. They’re creating bigger gangs from already big gangs in order to compete with the other gang. Competing for market-share on a scale as large as theirs, I guess, really does take efficiency and power.

You can read about it here and here

In less publicized happenings, the distributors that get these brands into the hands of consumers are also merging with one another in order to increase their chances for success over the long haul.

Even New Belgium Brewing Co, a very large brewing company by craft standards, has made an agreement with Elysian Brewing Co to brew each other’s beers. Not the same as a merger, but an alliance that will help each to compete with bigger, more dominant brands.

Check it out here

No matter what your vantage point, there’s a lot of change occurring in the industry and these changes are sure to make ripples with unknown consequence. I wonder how small brewing companies that have sold equity to macro brands feel about these changes, and if they’re getting squeezed in any way.

My hope is that one day all the macro brands are forced to form one huge company: BEER CO. This behemoth will eventually rid themselves of the stress of varied branding and recipe diversity and move to a double recipe and aesthetic platform.

1. Beer
2. Beer Light

They’ll position themselves in a way that beats down the notion that creativity and selection are positive things. They’ll pump the masses full of formulaic marketing in the hopes of raising the appeal of dull, monotonous beer and droned lifestyle.

All the while craft brewers are pushing the boundaries of what beer can be and running around doing fun things in support of their trade and for entertainment itself. It would be a huge battle dividing consumers and families across the country. All very dramatic stuff. Sons eventually leaving the house because he was caught drinking craft beer and his BEER drinking father and him could no longer see fit to live under the same roof. That kind of thing.

Who can tell?

Gabriel
Half Acre Beer Co
Chicago, IL

Monday, July 14, 2008

Fields


This past weekend was packed with Half Acre events. On Saturday a group of us trucked out to Toyota Park to be counted as Chicago Fire fans. Some friends of ours are members of Section 8, the official Chicago Fire Supporters Club. These guys are serious about the Fire and throwing down in the parking lot before the match.

We decided the best thing to do would be to bring a keg of the Lager with us in order to be welcomed with open arms. A keg of beer usually does the trick when looking for open arms. After a brief period of hanging around and only draining a few cups of beer the buses started showing up. Both Small Bar on Division and Fado Irish Pub run buses out to the games with aid of Windy City Wanderers. (For some reason unknown to me they decided to put Toyota Park in the middle of nowhere just far enough that no one in their right mind would think about casually heading out to a soccer match.) With the buses came the lines and the opportunity to talk to a lot of people about our company and the beer they were drinking.

Between our beer and the Smoked Bourbon Pork Sandwiches the Section 8 guys were whipping out, I think people were really glad to be taking part. Following all that we got to watch the Fire take Toronto 2-1. It was a fine way to spend a Saturday night, so thank you to the Section 8 crew.

The rub came when the alarm began to chirp at 6am Sunday morning. Matt and I had to be up in order to help out at a Half Acre Cycling race. This race was a time trial in Hillshire, IL. Ever been to Hillshire? Me neither. But it was a nice place to spend a morning monitoring traffic and riders around turn 4. We managed to get through the race without one rider getting maimed on our turn. Another friend, Ben, who is an accomplished rider himself, almost got run over by a motorcycle while trying to halt him so a rider could make his turn, though. It was pretty funny really, but the guy on the motorcycle was less then amused. I was glad he didn’t hop off the bike and throttle Ben.

The weather in Hillshire was beautiful and it was impressive to see riders on Half Acre Cycling come whipping around the turn pedaling full-out when I knew we were only witnessing a few seconds of a race that was upwards of an hour long. It takes a great deal of endurance to move your body that hard for that long, and I’m glad to be affiliated with folks that wake up at four in the morning on a Sunday to push themselves like that. I was happy to be wearing a bright orange vest, waving a bright orange flag alongside a wheat field on turn 4 in Hillshire, IL.

Gabriel
Half Acre Beer Co.

Monday, July 7, 2008

Secured Hops




You may or may not have heard that hops are pretty hard to come by these days. When you do find them, they’re very expensive.

I’ve covered all this before so I won’t bore you with more sad stories of the little brewing company trying to scrape together hop cones to eek out one more brew.

This post is quite the opposite. I come with tales of hearty hop coiffeurs and robust times. We plunked down some cash and purchased enough hops to keep our little brewery pumping out hearty beers for a good while (once we’re brewing under our roof, that is). We already own all the hops we need to brew our Lager for some time; our larger concern was the new Over Ale and subsequent brews once we’re churning out beers in the city. We’ve been badgering all the appropriate channels to cough up some hops. They coughed. Thanks to all who coughed.

This firms up a lot of stuff for us. It insures that we can go to the drawing board with ample supplies of great hops to make the beers we want to, and not what we have to. Like Scrooge Mcduck and his coins, I would like to jump into a pool of our hops and bathe in the wealth. Also like Scrooge McDuck, we’re protecting them at all costs.

Right now our hops are in an underground storage center that was built for this very reason. It’s a modest bunker outfitted with the latest in surveillance and security measures. Its entrance is a non-descript building, a seemingly average space that could house any number of basic businesses. There’s a reception desk where you’ll find a woman who we’ll call “Lynda.” She handles any misguided traffic that happens to wander in by error or curiosity. Should for any reason Lynda feel threatened, or more so, feel that the hops are threatened, she trips a multi-level defense system that’s designed to torture, humiliate, terrify and deter any intruder that may or may not be interested in stealing our hops. At a moments notice a highly orchestrated series of events that involve rabid children, trained Otters with poisonous sea urchins glued to their bodies, unbearably loud music, both complete darkness and extreme light, tattooing, foreign languages and shaving, go into effect. So, be on notice.

We can’t wait to begin work with these hops, and we’ve taken every precaution to insure that you’re able to drink the fruits of our labor.

Gabriel
Half Acre Beer Co
Chicago, IL

Friday, June 20, 2008

Our Friends Downtown


This will be a short post. It’s about zoning, city, state and federal licensing, label approvals, excise taxes, state and federal income taxes and banks.

Having a beer company is truly a great thing, but all of the above things sometimes make me want to hop off the roof.

We look at it as some sort of bizarre, tortuous filtering system the government puts in place so that you have to be really dedicated in order to get through the web of continual heartache.

Good thing we’re dedicated and we have plenty of beer to take the edge off.
Here’s to all the countless people that help us dance around these hurdles.

Gabriel
Half Acre Beer Co.
Chicago, IL

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Over Ale



We here at Half Acre Beer Company currently reside on the fourth / fifth floor of a converted factory on the near-west side of Chicago. Our headquarters is a modest loft-style space in the ICNC building; a building that hosts many companies doing their best to get up and going. We’re very fond of the space. It has tons of light, high ceilings and plenty of metal from the factory of old.

One thing it doesn’t have is air conditioning. We pay an extremely affordable monthly rent that far makes up for a little extra sweat through the course of our day. Either way, it’s hot. Really hot. We could install an AC unit, but maybe a little piece of us likes it or enjoys the challenge. Today our intern Chris looked like he was going to have a stroke before he left for the day.

When first getting into the business of selling beer, maybe a week or two in, I had a phone conversation with one of the head guys who helps to run the distributor we use. I call him The Oracle because he’s always dropping time-tested beer knowledge and letting out these humorous, sage one liners gained from working in the world of beer for the last 150 years. He asked “How you doin’ over there?” and I replied “Good, but a little hot.” It was August and I was virtually naked for fear of melting to my clothing. He paused and said “A man in the beer business never complains when it’s hot outside.” I, of course, realized his point and have made note ever since.

So, I’m literally dripping sweat as I post this to the blog, but I’m not complaining because, much like our customers, it will make it that much nicer to award myself with a cold and refreshing beer when the work day is “Over.” That’s a nice cycle to be part of. That’s also why our next beer to be released in just a few weeks is called Half Acre “Over Ale.” Look for it soon. I’ll let you know.

Enjoy the summer.

Gabriel
Half Acre Beer Co
Chicago, IL

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

To Brew In Our House


We recently made the purchase of a new (to us), old 15 BBL brewhouse. I can’t tell you how good it feels to have made this purchase. It sinks up so many things and brings us one huge step closer to our goals.

Now that we own this collaboration of stainless steel we need a place to house it. Finding this space is a very delicate thing. We want the space to be suitable for some time. Moving breweries is no fun, and costly as can be. With that in mind, we need a place that's good for the first brew and also for years to come.

You would think a city like Chicago would be chock full of places that would make sense, but it’s really not. The government really puts the screws to people who make alcohol, so there is a laundry list of concerns even before we try to sort out our own needs. Frankly it’s enough to give you an ulcer, but as long as we keep it in perspective and utilize the beer we make to keep from personally blowing a gasket, then it should work out.

Right now we have some really exciting prospective locations that could make a nice home to our brewery. These next weeks will be crucial. I’m sure we’ll land on something that makes sense for us, and can also serve as a fun space for people to visit and soak up the vibe of our company.

Regardless of the space we choose, we’re making decisions that will impact our company for years to come. That idea is both exciting and nerve racking. We have the chance to set our company on a trajectory that will impact much of what we do.

Please come visit us as soon as the space is up and functional. What fun it will be.


Gabriel
Half Acre Beer Co
Chicago, IL

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Chioulder


I used to live in Boulder, CO. I spent some great years there at a time when being young and carefree really hit the spot. Colorado, as a state, is a place filled with many natural wonders and excuses to get outside and explore, and also many reasons to drink good beer. As a whole, Colorado is a culturally conservative place, but sprinkled throughout the state you’ll find extremely liberal places offering locals and travelers a haven for all kinds of life. Boulder is one such place.

Boulder sits north of Denver beneath the Front-Range: the beginnings of the Rocky Mountains. Within 100 miles of Denver you can find over 100 breweries. That’s pretty impressive if you think about it. Here in Chicago, we can find maybe fifteen, most of which are brewpubs. Colorado has been home to much of the craft beer movement and a big reason that we’re able to make a go of it today.

While out there I was able to tour Avery Brewing Co, hang out with the nice folks at Mountain Sun Brewery and stop in and visit the staff that runs the Brewers Association. The Brewers Association plays a large role in craft beer advocacy, arranging large events for the brewing community and publishing numerous publications. All in all, the brewing presence in Colorado is impressive, and very much a part of the overall community. Even the Mayor of Denver is a successful brewer turned politician.

What I found to be strange, and something I didn’t realize when living there or even visiting in past years, was that their dense brewing community has an effect on the style of support establishments offer. Here in Chicago I can go out to many places and experience a draft list of over 3o beers and a bottle list twice as long. This isn’t uncommon. It’s actually becoming sort of average. In Denver and Boulder you can drink some of the best beer brewed in this country, but you don’t find the variety per establishment, and certainly not from breweries in all corners of the country. Establishments have the breweries they support and don’t seem to stretch to out-list the place down the street.

Chicago is a brewery starved city. Places set out to compile these gargantuan lists of great beers from every state in this country, samplings from other continents and one-offs from brewing co’s that barely have distribution outside their own town because Chicagoans have become passionate about attaining the new, varied and different. In Colorado establishments have relationships with their brewers. They know each other, respect each other personally and professionally, and as a result, they support one another. The places with long and extensive lists are the brew-pubs, who choose to create a lengthy selection for their guests. In Chicago, outside of the small brewing community, beer people are the ones that pride themselves as consumers, their ability to build a list of great beers and make opinions about quality.

As a customer, I have to say it’s nice to walk into a bar and get hard-to-come-by beers from far away places, but I think it says less and less about the place itself. Anyone can set up an account with a new distributor. I find it special to go to a place that might have a small batch beer from a local brewer that you wouldn’t find in other establishments because they have a good relationship with the brewing co. It speaks to the place and how invested they are in the products they sell and the people who make them.

I’m also torn on variety. Again, it’s nice to have option, but a zillion beers that are collecting dust doesn’t seem like the best option for me. I find that a well selected, frequently rotating list of beers that mean something to the establishment and their ideas on beer and community makes for a better experience. In my opinion, a discerning list speaks more than a grocery list of every craft beer on the map.

As the owner of a brewing company, it’s nice to do business with places that make larger commitments to fewer beers. If we have fewer places selling more beer, then it’s easier for us to make a larger commitment to each of those places. We can be more present and supportive in their efforts.

Anyway, my trip to Colorado was great, as it always is, but it was good to come home, too. There are more brewing operations coming up in this area. We’ll see what happens.

Gabriel Magliaro
Half Acre Beer Co
Chicago, IL

Thursday, May 1, 2008

The Computers


I’ve been a regular computer user for about 8 years. Prior to that I was easily able to go about my professional and personal life without the need for one. I think I both envied and pitied computer users. Part of me wished that I had some sort of high-tech lifestyle that used computers to process huge amounts of information, like an 80’s movie where some unusually intelligent kid rigged his Texas Instruments computer to hack into another country’s mainframe – spitting out national secrets in small, green letters seemingly typed out individually. The other part looked down on people stuck in cubicles endlessly plugging data into some large database that spit out endless information for other people to plug into their database. And even though those thoughts are polarizing, there was a time when I could go either way.

These days, I don’t care if you’re the most dysfunctional person on your block; it’s almost guaranteed that you’re tuned into the computer for one use or another. Old men are browsing their way through the Internet reading up on upcoming surgical procedures that they will undergo. Kids are surfing sites their parents asked them no to. Whatever you do, whoever you are, there is something a computer can do to make your life more efficient or help you to consume tons of time that would be otherwise unconsumed. If you’re reading these words than you know the power of the glowing box.

My father is the only person I know that doesn’t use a computer on at least a semi-regular basis. He uses it indirectly, but isn’t the first-hand user doing the navigating or typing. I introduced Skype to my parents so they could visit with Branden, my nephew, while living states apart. So, my Dad will go to the screen and have fun with is Grandson, but hasn’t had the urge to take charge of all those gizmos himself. I was on the phone with him the other day and he was getting emotional talking about his last Skype experience with Branden, so even the guy who doesn’t use computers gets teary-eyed about his computer use.

I use a computer as much or more than anyone. I practically run Half Acre Beer Co from my computer. Of course I’m out and about meeting with establishment owners and enjoying the world and beer drinking public, but much of my business communication and marketing happens with the use of this here computer. I’d be up the creek without it.

In a relatively short time computers have become so important and incredibly powerful. I had, and still have, the first IPod. This thing is like a white lunch box that could store a few word documents compared to the little squares of storage wonder that are selling for half the price I paid for my first. I don’t know the facts, but it seems like the more advanced technology gets the easier it is to improve. Technology breeds better technology. It’s as though the designers of these things would make chips that are 1000X more powerful, but they need the chips that are 10X more powerful to understand how.
Regardless it doesn’t seem like there is an end to the improvement and understanding when everyday they’re creating more powerful tools to help them understand.

“I think this computer thing is catching on,” my father will joke, and I think he’s right.

Gabriel
Half Acre Beer Co

Monday, April 28, 2008

Half Acre Hike.... Over and Out.


I decided a couple of months ago that I would walk a case of beer up the coast of Lake Michigan about 10 miles, without putting it down once. This was an effort to raise money for the local charity, First Slice, and to deliver the ceremonial first case of beer to the Heartland Café, the northern most location selling Half Acre Beer.

I’d been training by walking around town with a case of beer (makes sense). I’d gotten to the point where I could walk over an hour and feel pretty good. A case of our beer weighs a little over 30lbs and is pretty cumbersome, so eventually it just gets heavy and awkward, no matter what.

I’d walked the route I was going to walk without the case and it took 3.5 hours and was pretty tiring all by itself. Ten miles on pavement seems to be harder on your body than a natural trail of the same length. I knew that if I was going to make it without putting the case down I was going to have to walk fast and not stop at all.

I had some great people come out for the walk and hang out. Thanks to all those guys who made the effort and spent time. I can’t say how much I appreciate the support. It was a sunny, cool day with a bit too much wind, but all in all it was perfect case carrying weather.

Many kind people sponsored the walk to help and raise money and that in and of itself was motivation enough, but I had a couple close friends that doubted the fact that I might be able to go the whole way without putting it down. Frankly, I doubted it too, but their doubts served as a motivation of a different kind.

When all was said and done, I did it. I walked all ten miles in three hours without putting the case down once, raised some money for a really good cause, did something good for a place that sells our beer, got some positive press for Half Acre Beer Co and got to shatter my buddies (and my own) doubts in the possibility that it could be done.

As I type these words, my body is sore in ways I can’t remember experiencing. All the things that you would think hurt the most, feel fine. The pains come from nooks and crannies of my body that probably go unchallenged for the most part. I got my body to the point where my shoulders, biceps and standard muscle groups were fit and ready, but come two hours into carrying that case – joints started to hurt, the weight became too much for things that aren’t generally burdened, and I just had to grind it out.

This was a great experience. I’m very glad that I did it. I’m pretty certain that I won’t ever do it again. Maybe something else, but not this.

My buddy Paul – who had wagered against my success, and also joined me on a bike for a good portion of the walk – said to me numerous times, “I think this is the stupidest thing you’ve ever done.” Part of me can’t help but agree, but a bigger part of me is really glad to help out the folks that First Slice will aid with the funds raised (over $2,000), and another part is really glad to take Paul’s money and buy Half Acre Beer for the patrons of The Heartland Café.

Off to soak.

Monday, April 21, 2008

Big Cat


I was bellied up to the bar at Black Rock in Roscoe Village when my good friend Paul asked, “Did you hear about the Cougar?” My mind immediately pictured a woman in her early forties ready to pounce the nearest young buck, but I quickly realized he was referring to a Mountain Lion. I responded that I hadn’t (I might be the only one in Chicago who hadn’t). Paul then relayed a story about an actual Cougar that had been gunned down by the authorities in Roscoe Village.  

Read about it here

This falls in line with a number of strange Chicago occurrences that just shouldn’t be. I yap about them in earlier posts, so I won’t rehash, but lets just say I find all this to be curious. In general I welcome the bizarre, and as long as people aren’t banged up I’d prefer weird things to happen all the time, but this animal death is a real tragedy.

I imagine the cat took a wrong turn one day while romping atop land that was familiar. Maybe there just wasn’t any more food to be found in his stomping grounds. Maybe there was something wrong with him. I don’t know, but I bet he was taken to a lab where people with knives were eager to learn more about him and why he wound up on city streets. He must have been very scared running from one alien place to the next in the hope of finding a place that felt more comfortable. It’s likely he hadn’t eaten in a while and that surely didn’t help his ability to get his bearings. For a big cat like that to find its way into the city is unbelievable. His natural surroundings have to be many, many miles away. It’s possible that he’d never seen a car or a human before his trip to the big city. Maybe he did most of the travel at night and kept hidden during the day while unaware people went about their days. It’s also possible that he escaped from an owner who kept him as a pet – which, to me, is ridiculous.

It seems to me, though, that the authorities could have tranquilized him in the hopes of saving his life. Maybe there wasn’t the time and the folks on the scene had to consider the possibility that put in the wrong position, he would have swiped off the face of an unsuspecting citizen. I know I don’t think to peer around corners to make sure a 150lb cat isn’t poised, back arched ready to rip me into pieces. I’m sure our cities finest weren’t, understandably, prepared to deal with this situation in the best way possible.

Anyway, lets hope this Cougar isn’t the first of many large cats that decide the big city has some appealing qualities. The city has many looming issues – we don’t need the threat of being Cougar prey. And Cougars could certainly do without the warped reality we people have whipped up for ourselves.

Friday, April 18, 2008

Earthquakes & Toilet Seats


I have to say that things seem to get more and more strange all the time. Last night I woke up because things on the bookshelf were rattling. I assumed that it was my dog creating a ruckus of some kind, so I yelled at him to chill out and did my best to get back to sleep. However, my father called this morning to tell me that it was an earthquake. Just for the record, I live in Chicago. Chicago is not a place that has earthquakes or most weather phenomenon for that matter. The winter sucks here, that’s for sure, but as far the whole natural destruction of life thing goes, Chicago is pretty user friendly. Granted, this earthquake didn’t take lives or do much other than wake people from slumber, but still. If Chicago flips some sort of core switch that allows for new types of natural disaster to be placed on top of the already shitty winters – I’m out of here.

Read about it
here

In other not so new news, but equally strange, a woman in Kansas was recently taken to the hospital after her boyfriend informed authorities that she’d been on his toilet for the last two years, and that her body had grown around the toilet seat. This one is bizarre on so many levels I’m not sure where to start. 1. What was his cause for alarm? Was he concerned because the seat had finally become rooter in her body or did his personal time evaluator finally go off telling him that more than two years on the toilet was just too much? 2. What the hell was this poor woman doing for two years on the toilet? I think we all have a special place in out hearts reserved for quiet time on the toilet, but two years! Maybe she had some sort of Sudoku fetish or something that kept her so engrossed that she toiled away until falling asleep, then woke and kept on rolling, for two years. 3. Food. I assume that her caring boyfriend brought her meals cooked with love, but he had to leave the house at times. She must have created a bathroom pantry accessible from her perch so that she could gobble up snacks when the mood hit, which I’m guessing was often. They didn’t include her body weight in the
article I read, but I think we can assume she’s in the higher percentile. 4. What about the rest of the world. Did she not have a single friend or family member that would have asked “Hey, why haven’t I seen you in two years?” Didn’t this boyfriend have some buddies that might have asked why he never brought his girlfriend around to hang out?

It’s hard to imagine that these things are happening relatively close to you to people that are relatively like you. When you go home and take some time to sit on the toilet take a second to think what that would be like for the next two years, with earthquakes rattling earth around you.

Half Acre Beer Co
Chicago, IL

Thursday, April 17, 2008

"Craft" Beer


My last post, the article published by The Chicago Tribune about Goose Island closing their brewpub and the general happenings surrounding Half Acre Beer Co , got me thinking. The Brewers Association, and subsequently the Chicago Tribune, knocked Goose Island for not being a “Craft,” beer company because more than 25% of their company is owned by a “Non-Craft,” beer company, referring to Widmer Brothers / Anhueser-Busch. To me, this is crazy.

Dictionary.com defines the word craft as an art, trade, or occupation requiring special skill, esp. manual skill. I think I personally think about craft along the same lines. What I don’t get is why anyone would base a classification of craft based on who owns how much of something. I would think the classification would directly relate to how they go about making what it is they make. Thinking about it based on ownership would allow a company that was 100% independently owned and operated to defrost some sort of beer popsicle into a bottle, put a cap on it and they’d be a “craft,” beer company just the same as if they were going to great lengths to foster thoughtful practices mindful of actual craftsmenship.

We chose to begin our company with the help of another brewing company in Black River Falls, WI. We develop our own recipes then brew them with the help of their staff. This was much less expensive and a way for us to build some awareness, productions numbers and know-how before plunging face first into building a brewery. To most people, they couldn’t care less. They’re excited that we offer more beer to Chicago and that we’re out there giving it a shot and making things work in the way that makes sense to us. However, there is a small group of folks that this bothers. To them, we’re not as true to the ‘craft’ and our process is somehow tainted. We’re up-front about our process and why we chose this route. Our beer is brewed in small batches, by hand with the best ingredients mother nature has to offer, but because our staff is also employed by another brewing co, we’re offending an unwritten rule.

All in all, regardless of who is defining whom as what, people have to make decisions that respect the best interests of the people and products involved. I’m sure John Hall isn’t losing any sleep over other people’s definition of Goose Island’s process, but how can it not be a thorn in his side when his company has been making beer by hand for 20 years.

Me on the other hand, obviously I’m a little prickly, and more than once I’ve refrained from laying into someone with an explanation on how hard it is to get something like this off the ground. But then I remember that we have a fun company that has positive intentions for the brewing community, respect the integrity of the brewing process and appreciate the people nice enough to buy our beer.

Brewery tours available soon....

Half Acre Beer Co
Chicago, IL

Landlord Strangles Goose


After 20 years of expanding the minds of Chicago beer drinkers, The
Goose Island Brewpub will close its doors at the end of this year. It’s a shame because that brewpub helped to make a name for craft beer in Chicago. The beer brewed at that location opened the eyes of many folks to the fact that better beer was worth their time and money. It helped to show people that beer comes in many shades and can offer a wide array of experiences. Somebody had to pave the way and Goose Island had a large hand in all that. Not to mention that they house the classroom for The Siebel Institute, one of America’s leading educational institutions for the brewing industry. But, Siebel will find another home – it might even spur a new direction in how they go about their process, and The Hall Family can build or lease a new space – it might be the location of their dreams that alleviates any issues they’ve dealt with at that location for the last twenty years.

This must be a real bummer for Will, the brewer that makes all the beer at that location. I imagine he really likes his job and the wide array of beers he’s able to make as a result. It’s also tough for groups like the Chicago Beer Society that have met there for some time. You won’t find too many establishment owners that welcome groups of people who bring their own beer and take up space where paying customers might sit. That’s pretty great. It’s also tough for the many people who frequent that pub looking for a good beer that might not make the trip to Wrigleyville or the next location. The next entity that leases that space will likely be much less interesting and add little to the cultural fabric of Chicago.

The
Chicago Tribune article that published the story talks about all this and also dives into their relationship with Widmer Brothers Brewing Co / Anhueser-Busch. With the help of the Brewers Association that debate their “craft beer-maker,” status. It’s kind of amusing, but that topic will be addressed in the next post.

Good Luck to the Goose, but at this point they don’t need it.