For some reason, I felt compelled to write something about IPA Day this year. I came up with a couple of ideas, but none of them felt like it was worth putting to text, because what hasn’t been written about IPAs that I could possibly say? I couldn’t let the idea of writing something themed for IPA Day go and when I was about to finally let the thought float from my mind, it clicked. I had to write something about Half Acre. Here’s why.
Half Acre opened in 2007 — the same year I moved to Chicago late in the summer. I lived just two blocks from where they opened their original brewery on Lincoln Avenue in North Center. I didn’t know a single person when I came to the city, therefore many nights upon my arrival to Chicago were spent walking up and down Lincoln, grabbing dinner and a beer by myself while I tried to start conversations with whoever graced the bar stool next to me. I remember seeing the brick building with “HALF ACRE BEER COMPANY” emblazoned on the front while I took turns visiting all of the restaurants up and down the street.
It wasn’t long before I finally found Half Acre’s beer on a menu. I was at Gannon’s, right across the street from the brewery, to watch Monday Night Football at my lonesome. Soon after I tucked myself in the corner of the bar under a TV, a man sat down next to me and ordered a beer. We eventually got to talking I discovered that he used to teach at St. Norbert’s University right outside of Green Bay. Further in to our conversation, he revealed that for several years his family would make a trip the day after Thanksgiving to purchase a Christmas tree at the tree farm that my brother-in-law’s family owns and operates in my home town. It felt good to connect to someone with such familiar roots, which offered a bit of much needed comfort while I tried to find my way in Chicago. While this proved to be a big source of relief during a fairly vulnerable time, the one thing I truly remember about that night was my first time having Daisy Cutter pale ale.
Daisy Cutter is a staple for any Chicagoan. A hoppy, bitter pale that you’ll find on any beer list in the city and one that quickly became a mainstay in my refrigerator. Over the years, Half Acre would go on to open a small store front available for growler fills and began to slowly expand their line. Eventually, they opened a tap room, scaled back their original offerings and began to really explore the different styles. Most notably, the IPA. The IPA has saturated the beer market so much that many beer enthusiasts have grown tired of them. Even I agree that they could stand to take up less shelf space…kind of. Half Acre is the exception.
A lot of breweries make IPAs and some of them do it very well. Half Acre has brewed several IPAs and I’ve done my best to sample them all over the years, and judging by their website, I’ve come fairly close in my efforts. And I can easily say they make some of the best IPAs I’ve had from Chicago or otherwise. This summer’s releases were no different. Vallejo, Canyon of Heroes, Beer Hates Astronauts. Each better than the other. Complex. Smooth. Easy Drinking. Hoppy enough to know they’re IPAs but not enough to wreck your palate and prompt a Twitter dissertation on why the IPA is dead.
It sounds corny, and it probably is, but I’ll always feel a connection to Half Acre because it reminds me of when I first came to Chicago. Finding something you can be excited about, especially something as simple as beer, is comforting when you’re new and unknown, just like Half Acre was back then. People can roll their eyes all they want at IPA Day and drink their barrel-aged gose in rebellion, but I’ll be celebrating both IPA Day and eight years in the city with Half Acre in my glass.