Our time in Chicago was packed full of activities. Aside from meeting up with friends, the Wife’s big goals were to introduce me to the Taste of Chicago and Giordano’s pizza. While were there, though, we thought we’d try to experience a local brewery.
We ended up at Half Acre Beer Company.
Our friend signed us up for a tour at the brewery at 1 pm. It was kind of an odd location for a production brewery, really. Tucked in the heart of a small neighborhood, it looked like more of a place for a brewpub than a production brewery.
We arrived just in time for the tour to begin. We didn’t need tickets, per se, to join the tour, but we were requested/required to sign up for the tour. The brewery was under construction. Evidently the first year of production had been more than a little successful, and so the company was having to expand operations.
The tour began by helping ourselves to a dixie cup of beer from one of the pitchers. More on the beers in a minute. The brewery tour was pretty standard, really. They have a 15 bbl brewhouse, which was acquired used from a brewery in Colorado. You can also see the grist hopper on top of the mash tun.
Then we checked out the mezzanine where the ingredients were kept. One interesting thing about the brewery is that they cask-age a small percentage of their beer for competitions and festivals. Two of these barrels are wine barrels and the other two are whiskey barrels.
After checking out the mezzanine, we went back downstairs to see the fermentation tanks and canning line.
At this point, we had some time to ask some questions. A couple tidbits that came out during the tour:
- Half Acre uses water from Lake Michigan to brew, appropriately treated and filtered.
- Spent grains are sent to local farms as high-protein feed for animals. This really isn’t that novel of a use for spent grains, as lots of breweries do this that I’ve been to. However, it’s a solid green practice for the 1,000+ lbs of spent grains (plus absorbed water weight during brewing) per batch.
- Half Acre conditions (carbonates) their beer after primary fermentation, i.e. they post carbonate. This is pretty common for most breweries, but is distinctly different from Olde Mecklenburg Brewery (among others), which uses natural carbonation from the yeast during alcohol production. There are tradeoffs between the two methods; cost, control, purity, etc.
- Half Acre has a canning line for the beer. The pictures I took of the canning line really didn’t turn out, unfortunately. There are any number of reasons that most breweries, particularly small breweries, bottle their beer. One big reason, though, is that canning lines are frequently very expensive, and cost-prohibitive for smaller breweries. Half Acre, though, had a canning line for their beer.
After the tour, our industrious tourguide, Gabe, was clearly interested in getting back to work, as soon as his music was turned back on. We headed back to try the other beers.
The Daisy Cutter Pale Ale was perhaps the most flavorful pale ale I had in a long time. It really bordered, in terms of hop aroma on an IPA, but the Wife, who is distinctly NOT in the Pale Ale/IPA camp, found it refreshing and tasty. Pale Ales and IPAs, having perhaps surpassed deep golden lagers as my beers of choice, was an exquisite beer, appropriate for any afternoon on the back porch.
The Over Ale, while not appealing directly to my tastes, was a brew worthy of your time. It was not particularly heavy nor rich, as I find a lot of dark beers to be, it was more like a black lager or amber ale (in terms of mouthfeel), than the rich, thick feeling of a stout or porter. The Wife seemed to particularly enjoy it.
After enjoying our time in the brewery, we headed into the adjacent Half Acre Brewshop. Half Acre memorabilia (or paraphernalia, or whatever it’s called in this instance) was for sale, including shirts, hats, and pint glasses.
Growlers with the Half Acre logo were also on sale, but only when filled. I was hoping to add a Half Acre growler to my growler collection for homebrewing, but I didn’t really want to risk hauling the beer in my checked luggage, and I somehow didn’t think I had sufficient time to get through it before we left Chicago.
I picked up a pint glass and had a nice chat with gentleman minding the store, Mike, about the brewery, the shop, and the general business of brewing. He was friendly and personable, and he let me get a picture with him for the blog.
Half Acre is still building up their distribution area. With the brewery expansion, though, stay tuned for a Half Acre beer available in your favorite Chicago-area bar.