Sunday, March 30, 2008
We’re working on putting out our next beer, specifically, an Ale. Saying that isn’t being that specific at all, and when beginning the process of conceptualizing the ale, we felt like there were many directions we could take this beer. Brewers have a good selection of tools to make beer unique and varied; hop variety, barley variety, yeast, quantities used, and length of process during certain stages of the brewing process, etc.
Our first year of business happened to coincide with a great hop shortage (as in you can’t find them) and an increase in all of our raw material costs. I’m not talking about a little spike that nips at margin, but 300-500% increase in hop costs and a heavy increase in the cost of malted barley. All this means that we have access to a much smaller array of hops that we can find and afford. No complaints, this is business and flexibility is necessary no matter what you do.
You might ask, “Where are all the hops?” The answer is complex and involves hop farmers cashing out to real estate developers, a large fire in a hop storage facility, and weather damage around the world. All these things will correct themselves; more farmers will plant hops because of the agronomic value, hopefully another fire won’t ravage so much of future yields, but this weather damage is unsettling.
Being a new business owner I find myself speaking with other business owners about what they do. I find that pretty much everyone is experiencing some sort of raw material or fundamental increase that’s chapping his or her ass. The fact that global climate is wacky isn’t a new idea. Al Gore’s been on the topic for a long time and his current foray into motion pictures helped to gain the issue some broad exposure.
I’m not Al Gore, not a meteorologist, scientist of any kind and have no education that would make me an authority on weather / global phenomenon, but I think things are a getting increasingly strange. I hear startling facts all the time. I come from a very small town along the Delaware River, and there is a 100-year flood plain. So people can assume that their home might get filled with water every 100 years. They’ve been flooded three times in the last 4 years. You hear all the time about places that used to have lakes and now they don’t. Places that used to snow don’t snow anymore. Snow comes where it didn’t. Hurricanes, Tsunami’s……
I feel like we’re on the verge of experiencing weather phenomenon that hasn’t happened yet. Earthquakes that shoot inner earth muck through the cracks they create. Raining sand. Waves of molten lava rushing our shores. I don’t know, but natures imagination is much more fantastic and destructive than mine.
I don’t know what the upcoming years have in store for hop farming or weather, but I hope to find some Centennial Hops that are affordable. I also hope that fire doesn’t blow through the air, etc. Either way, we brewed for the Ale today and hope that this batch comes out delicious. Hopefully, you’ll get the chance to try it out in the world sometime soon.
Half Acre Beer Co
As a company we’ve been fortunate enough to make a first beer that people enjoy, land in some good bars and have some loyal fans. As a result, we’re planning to build a brewery here in Chicago that will enable us to bring everything under one roof and take a huge step in the right direction.
In concept, it sounds like just a handful of steps; gathering up some cash, getting a space, buying some brewing equipment, getting a few licenses and you’re off brewing. The reality is also something like that, too, but underneath those main steps wait countless little struggles eating away at your sanity. Anyone who finds themselves brewing on a shiny, commercial brewhouse underwent these struggles, or works for someone who did. It’s certainly a right of passage – as I assume all businesses come bearing.
There’s another brewer in town who’s been taking these steps. Josh Deth is opening Revolution Brewing Co in Logan Square, a brewpub, which I’m sure, comes with twice the headache. Josh has been at it for some time and I know has made some quality headway. He even bought a 15BBL brewhouse that will wait to be installed until some of the paperwork goes through for the space he’s purchasing. I’m excited to have the presence of another brewpub in town, and more specifically, a brewpub in Logan Square that will likely be a nice place to spend time and drink quality beer.
We also have a packaging brewery start-up by the name of Metropolitan Brewing. This is a husband and wife duo that are taking the plunge and making a go of it. I know they’ve been generating interest from investors for a while and are now looking for a space to call home.
I guess this means there is somewhat of brewing resurgence in town, or at least more planned activity than the city has seen in a long time. Chicago could use more local brewers to offer its inhabitants diversity within their local selection. The Midwest is an underdeveloped craft beer market with too many people sucking down imports and Miller Light. People should drink what they enjoy, but a large brewing presence might catch the attention of folks stuck in a robotic shopping mode continually reaching for the 6-pack of Heineken.
As for the Half Acre Brewery, we’re looking for spaces right now and will build as quickly and best as possible. Hopefully you’ll come to see it, play some ping pong and drink some beer.
Half Acre Beer Co
Friday, March 28, 2008
The Heartland Cafe in Rogers Park recently agreed to carry our beer. Their establishment is located at 7000 N. Glenwood, and it will be the northern most place to sell our beer. So, in an effort to raise some funds for a good charity and do something interesting, I'll be hand delivering their first case from 0 and the lake. That means that I'll be walking 70 blocks or over 9 miles with a case of beer weighing over 30lbs. The biggest question is: Can I do this? The answer: I really don't know. The good thing: It's for charity, for fun, and there will be a bunch of folks walking with me to take that damn case of beer should I go down due to a vital failure of some kind. I might blow a vertebrae.
In order to prepare myself, I've been walking my dog with a case of beer. I imagine people in the neighborhood think I'm some sort of crazy person who's always moving boxes. Our cases are just plain, cardboard boxes without any fancy coloring or design that would highlight the fact that it's beer -- not that that would make it more sensible from an onlookers perspective, but at least people might think I was a dedicated beer drinker who goes out at 8am to grab the day's case of beer. Either way, I'm out with the beer shifting positions every block or so in order to not max out each muscle group.
The other day I was out there waiting on a corner for the light to change with my leash-less dog sitting obediently beside me. I hear some youngsters in a car saying "hey, that dog doesn't have a leash on him," and debating back and forth whether he did or not(I couldn't see them because the case of beer on my shoulder was blocking my view). Once the light turned green I felt something hit my back, and then I heard the unmistakable sound of change hitting the ground. The next instant the car was ahead of me and in view with a kid about 16 years old sitting in the back giving me the finger.
My first reaction was, "you little sonofabitch," but then I kind of got a kick out of it. It was the most senseless act of mischief, but maybe something I would have done at 16, who knows? I was on the circle in Logan Square, so I was hoping that they would loop back around so I could do something of equal immaturity in return, but they opted to exit the circle and terrorize other parts of town.
It might be that area because a couple of days later (case of beer in hand) someone tried to sell me a puppy. I think the case prompts people to take notice, then they include me in whatever they have going on. This could lead to trouble -- or maybe great things.
Either way, I'll be out there with my case of beer. And on April 26th I'll be walking it 70+ blocks to see if I can do it, and raise some cash for hungry kids living in Chicago. Please come and walk with me, and thanks to all the generous people who have supported my walk, First Slice and the kids they help.
If you'd like to sponsor the walk, walk with us or come to the subsequent party at the Heartland Cafe(starts about 8pm), then you can check out the events section of www.halfacrebeer.com or call us at 312 492 8494 and we'll chat about it.
Half Acre Beer Co
Thursday, March 27, 2008
We had a Half Acre Release party at Matilda in Lakeview last night. It was genuinely a good time. We pull some good folks -- so many that we blew through all the Half Acre Lager they had and had to go to a neighboring bar, Sheffields, to grab another barrel. That's community at its finest.
My main role at these functions is to go around and say hi to folks. I can approach a table of three or four people and say "hi," and usually they look at me like I have a penis growing out of my forehead, but as soon as I say that I'm the owner of a beer company and just wanted to thank them for drinking our beer(it also really helps when I offer them free beer) -- their faces slightly melt and we're able to strike up friendly conversation. People love beer. People love the people who make beer. I think every guy, craft beer head or not, would agree that having a beer company is better than most jobs that cram you into cubicles and roast you under florescent light all day. But even women seem to be really interested by the process, and the fact that some people got together and started to make something that gets pushed all over the city for people to consume during their leisure time. Maybe everyone at one point or another has said to themselves that they might try making something and offering it to the masses for purchase.
It's a very powerless feeling. I know how much beer we make and the places that sell it, but I don't really know who is buying it or why. I do a lot of tastings and have a pretty good sense for who would be interested when I see them, but purchasing behavior in general is very complicated. I won't pretend to know much about it, but I'm fascinated by it.
We all feel as though we're not influenced by marketing, the opinions of others or much of anything but our pure like / dislike of something. I like the way granola bars taste, so I buy granola bars. However, I think that people have so many conscious and subconscious processes that the ultimate decision is a reflection of so many things that we can't even understand the depths of our own conclusions. Look into marketing research done by advertising agencies. Unfortunately this stuff is true. We're little sponges sucking up all that information being broadcasted at us all day long. You can consciously tune it out, but your subconscious is accepting all that information and gradually altering its understanding of which is the better fabric softener.
Regardless, we toasted many new faces last night and gave people the opportunity to try some of our beer and had a great time in the process. Kevin, the owner of Matilda is a great guy, and we're happy about the collaboration.
Half Acre Beer Co thanks Paul Eggers for romancing a lady friend in that establishment and talking up the beer. Grassroots are the best roots of all.
Half Acre Beer Co