UPDATE: ChitownOnTap has an interview with Lagunitas Owner Tony Magee about the Chicago brewery plans!
Chicago's craft beer fans have been no doubt delighted by the growth of the area's beer scene: half a dozen new brewers opening in 2011, and at least as many on tap for 2012. But tonight, the scene has been upended with the announcement at Lagunitas Brewing Company will building an expansion facility in Chicago.
Full credit for this breaking story goes to beerpulse.com, and being as it's very late as I write this, I will admit to quoting their article verbatim:
(Chicago, IL) – Lagunitas Brewing Owner, Tony Magee, just announced one of the biggest news stories of the year in the beer world…140 characters at a time on Twitter. No press conference. No press release. No press kit. Just a handful of text messages likely sent over a mobile phone.
The news: Lagunitas Brewing is opening a full-scale production brewery in Chicago. UPDATE: Here is a map of the facility and a story about the movie studio complex on which the new brewery will sit, formerly a Ryerson steel plant.
The brewhouse is a 250-barrel system to be built by Rolec, the same manufacturer that recently completed a 250-barrel system for Lagunitas’ home base in Petaluma. The first mash at the Chicago brewery is expected to take place in Q4 of 2013.
The announcement comes just days after New Belgium said it would open a new brewery, its second, in Asheville, North Carolina. Sierra Nevada made a similar decision earlier in the year to build a new brewery near Asheville.
Unlike the New Belgium and Sierra Nevada stories which floated through the media for several months, this news came out of nowhere outside of a couple teaser tweets that Magee sent recently. Magee had said early Monday that he had a big announcement to share in the next couple days.
Magee, who was born and raised in Chicago, staunchly defended the city’s beer culture after a late 2010 Crain’s Business report alleging rampant “pay-to-play” tactics.
Magee (@lagunitasT) posted his announcement in a series of five tweets at around 10:00 p.m. Central, which I have edited together for clarity:
@lagunitasT Back in Feb, I thought about all the truck loads of brew leaving eastward. Thought about all the freight. Added it up. It was enough to cover the financing for a whole new brewery. A whole new brewery. A WHOLE ‘nother brewery. So I jumped a plane n flew back to Chicago found a perfect space on a movie soundstage complex so I rented it. Called ROLEC and they’ll have a 250bbl brewhouse ready next July. 1st mash-in will b(e) Q4 2013. Freakin cool, this. Lots and lotsa work ahead. Google it- 18th & Rockwell, Chicago. Fresher beer w/ less diesel in it. We’re gonna make a little bit o’ NorCal right there in the City of Chicago. You 6,380 follower folk are the first to hear it! Cheers all! It’s also true that since I was born&raised in Chicago, Lag itself is a little bit ‘o Chicago right here in NorCal. Life is strange, huh…?
The map provided shows the former Ryerson Steel facility, which was recently converted to the Cinespace Chicago film studio, home to the short-lived NBC series The Playboy Club and here Kelsey Grammar's Starz series BOSS is currently filmed. Whether Lagunitas' location is part of Cinescape's studio complex, or part of the former steel plant that they had not yet developed is not certain.
Beerpulse estimates that the addition of the Chicago facility, plus the expansion at Lagunitas' home base of Petaluma, California, would give them a brewing capacity of one million barrels per year.