Half Acre Brewery
While the Midwest has two major beer-making states bookending Illinois like the stakes of a hammock, many Chicagoans have been foregoing the Budweiser versus Miller debate in favor of higher quality craft beers that ring truer to the word local. Hell, these days even Goose Island feels a little macro for the microbrewery lovers, though there’s no question the Goose is the God Father of Chicago beers. But even they have been cranking out more exclusive distribution casks of Matilda, Bourbon County Stout and the highly anticipated Sofie, tapping into the growing market that demands something a bit rarer from bar taps. You don’t have to be a beer snob these days to expect a specific hoppy concoction for the right meal, season or occasion. More and more bars are keeping PBR in the can and offering up their taps to more creative, shifting tastes. Suddenly a bar can stock smaller quantities and offer up a rotating beer list that leaves the consumer excited to discover a new line from their favorite small batch brewery.
Restaurants have played a big part in this movement, the recession hitting fine dining restaurants right in the balls and forcing them to reinvent their high quality cuisine into “gastropubs,” serving up fancy burgers, pretentious hot dogs and gourmet tacos. With such dressed down gourmet, a craft beer is the way to go instead of an overpriced bottle of wine.
If you’ve taken note of this revolution then you can’t have missed the new breed of Chicago breweries like Half Acre, Three Floyds, Metropolitan and others. Like feisty high school wrestlers, these small breweries are little but strong, their trickling distribution of small batch beer is just enough to dominate the Chicago palate and leave us craving for more. It is with these establishments that I begin a series of brew pub articles, helping our UPchicago friends tap into the tasty pulse of a beer revolution. If you want to drink like a true local in this town then you’ll start dipping toes and familiarize yourself with these fine purveyors of Chicago hops.
Though the Half Acre Beer Company started out in Bucktown, it’s probably best known by those of Lincoln Square, where it’s currently based. You musn’t trek to Lincoln Square for these tasty brews, though; Half Acre Lager and Over Ale are both found all over the city as more and more beer snobbery driven establishments serve up their seasonal brews. The Lager is tasty and hoppy for a Lager, though admittedly not my favorite. The Over Ale is extremely popular for both its malty finish and its drinkable nature. I find the problem with many craft beers is that they sit heavy on the tongue and belly and sometimes wear out their welcome by the third round. Those of us who like to flirt with occasional inebriation appreciate how the Over Ale goes down so smoothly but still demands respect with a bitter finish. A keg of this stuff can do no harm.
Half Acre has also been releasing a series of stouts as of late, not found everywhere but easily trackable if you’re looking for it. I did a tasting of the Big Hugs, Magnus and Baume as research for this article, and their high alcohol content left me properly warmed. The Big Hugs didn’t do it for me, but I’m not a Coffee Stout lover — I prefer a more neutral oatmeal finish to my dark companions. I was blown away by how the Magnus managed to taste like a quintessential stout but went down with the ease of a Lager. “Very intriguing” is scribbled across my note page. The Baume is powerful and heavy, very flavor complicated for a stout.
All told, I feel they do their Ales better than their stouts, which brings me to Half Acre’s Daisy Cutter, my new favorite Pale Ale. I don’t think I’ve ever had a beer that uses the sting of citrus so well. I can’t get enough of this stuff. I even found myself casually steering my crew of the evening towards Five Star just because I knew they had the Cutter on tap. I just pray its popularity drives our Lincoln Ave. buddies into producing it year round.
If you too find yourself fiending one of their drafts, they sell beer, merchandise and small tastings at their new slick store and brewery at 4257 N. Lincoln. On Saturdays at 1pm they offer tours of their facility, a beer drinker’s mecca growing in popularity — book your spot a couple weeks in advance. You can get a full rundown of their history and philosophy at their website: HalfAcreBeer.com. Whether it’s a stop at their brewery or a simple twist of one of their taps, I say embrace Half Acre and support the growing brewery portfolio of Chicago.
Check out our full local brewery series here.
Location: 4257 N. Lincoln Ave.