As the craft beer boom is taking the country by storm, some of the larger craft breweries are finding it difficult to make enough beer to satisfy thirsty consumers. Some of these breweries have decided to pull out of certain markets while others have chosen to sell a portion to larger macrobreweries. But a recent trend is for these larger craft breweries to simply set up a second location in a different section of the country in order to meet demand. The cost/benefit analysis of such an idea makes perfect sense; it would cost more to ship a beer from, say, Colorado to New York than it would be to just build a second brewery to serve that section of the country. Just in the last year alone, Oskar Blues, Sierra Nevada, and New Belgium all announced plans to open second breweries in Asheville, North Carolina. And one of the most exciting beer stories of the year was the announcement (via Twitter, of course) that Tony Magee was going to open up a second Lagunitas brewery in Sweet Home Chicago.
After this announcement, though, and some fuzzy pictures of the space located at 15th and Rockwell on Chicago’s southwest side, not much has been said about the illustrious Lagunitas Brewing – Chicago. Well, that ended last night when Tony Magee opened the door to the brewery to allow 900 of his closest friends to get a sneak peek of what the brewery will look like. The actual brewery is far from complete (it is a large, dark open space with nary a fermentor in sight) so the party was held in the Cine Space (Lagunitas is actually renting their building from the owner of this sound stage) building located across the street.
And Lagunitas sure knows how to throw a party. As I entered the space, I was greeted by Blues Brothers impersonators and the crew from Red Moon Theater Company. The Red Moon crew was amazing, utilizing contraptions to serve various Lagunitas beers. There were beer stations throughout the expansive building serving IPA, Pale Ale, a Little Sumpin’ Sumpin’ and other perennial favorites from this classic brewery. Food trucks dotted the inside offering nibbles (and quite a bit of smoke). And a live band entertained while the guests perused the many options available for silent auction.
For those that wanted to see the brewery, a trolley picked up interested patrons from the Cine Space site and carried us to the actual brewery where former Goose Island Special Events Coordinator and Certified Cicerone Nick Iversen provided a detailed account of where all the equipment will be, and even showed us where the elevated tap room will go. This tap room will be unique in that it will open prior to the brewery construction being finished so guests can watch as the brewery is built around them, while enjoying pints of iconic brews. Cine Space can’t use the building that will be Lagunitas Brewing because the Metra line runs right by it and creates floor vibrations, thus eliminating the ability to film there. So they were more than happy to offer a 20-year lease to Lagunitas.
After seeing the brewery with my own eyes, I am even more convinced that Lagunitas will help solidify Chicago as a craft beer destination. A huge thank you to Tony, his sister, Karen (who was on trash duty the majority of the night even though she is co-owner of one of the most successful craft breweries in the country!), and the whole Lagunitas crew for inviting me to this party and stepping up the game for all Chicago brewers. Cheers!