Chicago, a city that’s known for its pizza, and apparently its cupcakes, too. But like a lot of major cities across the Midwest, the largest city in Illinois is garnering quite the reputation as a craft beer hub—thanks in part to the fast-growing and fun group at Half Acre Beer Co.
Originally opened in 2008, Half Acre is the culmination of the dreams and hobbies of a couple of friend’s whose bond over beer, self-employment and the band Ween, led to a 13,000 square-foot brewpub in the north side of the city, with a 60,000 square-foot production facility joining the family in 2015.
But for owners, Gabriel Magliaro and Matt Gallagher, the journey to becoming one of the midwest’s most beloved breweries hasn’t always been easy. For two guys with zero experience in the craft beer industry, the beginning of Half Acre was filled with a lot of trail and error. An artist and an engineer, diving head first into the world of beer, was every bit as challenging as the duo imagined.
From the start, Magliaro and Gallagher relied heavily on the tight-knit community in the beer industry—seeking advice from breweries like fellow mid-westerners, 3 Floyds Brewing Co., and industry veterans, Avery Brewing Co. In their initial year, the brewery owners also relied on Sand Creek Brewing Co. in Black River Falls, Wis. as a contract brewing facility.
In 2012, a taproom was added to the Lincoln facility, and with it came the addition of Chef Nick Lacasse—who’s take on “taproom food” is anything but ordinary. Lacasse’s menu is a vibrant combination of hearty foods perfect for pairing with beer, plus thoughtful and elevated dishes like salmon rillette, duck meatballs, yuzu-glazed pork belly and grilled baby octopus. It’s definitely not the type of food that you would expect to find at a neighborhood taproom, but damn is it good.
On any given day, you’ll find an energetic group of craft beer aficionados—a good mix of customers and off-duty employees—enjoying a cold, flavor-packed beer—straight from the source. The 15-barrel “Balmoral” brewhouse is cranking out aggressive beers to serve on one of the many taps in the taproom.
Half Acre Beers
Today, Half Acre’s line-up includes two year-round brews that are packaged in 16 oz. cans and kegs and distributed throughout the city of Chicago and surrounding suburbs. The Daisy Cutter Pale Ale—a hop-forward west coast pale ale that only weighs in at 5.2 percent ABV remains one of the breweries most popular beers, along with the light but flavorful Pony Pilsner—a German-style Pilsner.
Half Acre’s two main staples are joined by a rotating list of seasonal brews—which currently include a Vallejo IPA and the Akari Shogun American Wheat Ale. And even though the brewers at Half Acre’s Lincoln location stay busy keeping the taps in the taproom flowing with delicious beer, the brewery’s culture also affords them the opportunity to experiment with beers of their own.
Along with one-off and speciality beers served in the taproom, the brewery’s growing on-site barrel-aging program is also creating some pretty exceptional beers, most recently a gin-barrel aged Pilsner.
Half Acre Lincoln Production Facility
While the brewery has grown at a nice pace in the past eight years, the team at Half Acre just got a lot busier. Located about a mile from the original brewery, 2015 brought the introduction of Half Acre’s first production facility. In its first year, the 30-barrel, four vessel brewery helped Half Acre produce just over 24,000 barrels total. Using only 16 oz. cans as vessels, Half Acre is on pace to produce 35,000 barrels in 2016 and plans to add roughly 10,000 barrels per year for the next few years.
Half Acre currently offers guided tours of the Lincoln facility every Saturday at 11 a.m. The cost is $10 per person and includes three samples plus a branded pint glass to take home. Tours are not yet available at the Balmoral brewery but are expected to begin within the year along with construction on a new restaurant within the brewery.