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Half Acre brewers given space, time to tinker

The Half Acre brewery/tap room facility on Lincoln Avenue will become a laboratory for beer exploration, the company says. | Mitch Dudek/Sun-Times

The stage is set for the brewers at Half Acre Beer Co. to enter their most creative period.

“People might have seen hints from us on social media, but we haven’t sent an email to everyone saying: look for a lot of weird stuff soon,” said head brewer Matt Young, 29.

With the North Side company’s new brewing facility at 2050 W. Balmoral St. in Bowmanville finally humming — churning out mainstay beers such as Daisy Cutter Pale Ale and Pony Pilsner — kettles at the Half Acre taproom a few blocks south, 4257 N. Lincoln Ave., will become a laboratory of sorts, devoted to beer exploration.

Brewers have wanted to dedicate the space to experimentation for some time but were shackled by legislation that required the taproom to serve only beer it made on the premises. The rule obliged them to dedicate most of their time to brewing their best-known products.

However, a recent legislative tweak will allow the company to truck its best-selling beer from the new Bowmanville facility to the Lincoln Avenue taproom, freeing up kettles for trial-and-error beer making. State licensing allowing the passage of beer between the two places will hopefully come through in the next few weeks, Half Acre founder Gabriel Magliaro said.

“The brewery on Lincoln will be a total creative lab,” said Magliaro, 37, who added that brewers have already begun tinkering. “In the fermentation process at the taproom right now, we probably have eight or nine different beers and maybe five of them we’ve never made before. That’s an ideal scenario for us.”

Public consumption of the never-seen-before batches is at least six months out, Magliaro said.

“We’re looking forward to getting into hefeweizens and wit beer and imperial stouts that are really rich in flavor and mouthfeel,” Young said.

Another addition to the beer lab: a temperature-controlled cellar with 16 full-size 53-gallon oak barrels.

Half Acre, founded in 2007, is in a period of rapid growth.

The company plans to add a kitchen to the Lincoln Avenue taproom. Construction, pending approval of permits, is scheduled to begin next month and last six weeks, Magliaro said.

A full-scale restaurant looking out over the brewing operation at the company’s new 60,000-square-foot Bowmanville plant is also in the works. Magliaro hopes to obtain permits to begin building the eatery, which will include an outdoor space by October, with construction expected to last six months. He estimates it will open in late spring or early summer.

The new Bowmanville facility is producing 35,000 barrels of beer a year, more than double the amount the company was able to make on Lincoln Avenue.

Half Acre bought the Bowmanville property that houses the bulk of its brew operation in December 2013.

“It’s been exciting, a ton of work and stressful at times,” Magliaro said Tuesday. “But we’ll be able to increase our presence in Chicago and make a set of beers we couldn’t even consider before.”

Gabriel Magliaro, owner of Half Acre Beer company. | Sun-Times file photo