LOGAN SQUARE — Soon Logan Square will be home to what could be the city’s first brewery incubator — if everything goes according to plan.
Longtime friends and self-professed beer nerds Dan Abel and Jordan Radke are looking to open a brewery at 2140 N. Milwaukee Ave. — but not just any brewery.
The brewery’s sole purpose is to elevate the careers of amateur home brewers and food industry creatives by giving them space to experiment with recipes, bottle up their beers and then sell them by the pint in a taproom as if they were established brands. The brewery will also support other breweries that need space to produce and sell their beer.
The concept exists in other cities across the country, but Chicago has yet to catch on — until now.
“People who are trying to create [these] businesses, they’re immediately met with an exceptionally high barrier of entry. The impetus for Pilot Project was to help bring that barrier down,” Abel told neighbors at a community meeting, held Tuesday evening at Haas Park, 2402 N. Fullerton Ave.
“The same way an artist or musician would go into a bedroom producer’s space or recording studio’s space — we want to do that exact same thing for brewing.”
Abel and Radke need approval from Ald. Joe Moreno (1st) and neighbors in order to lift the liquor moratorium on the block. The zoning change is necessary because the pair wants to sell growlers and crowlers, which requires a packaged goods license the storefront’s zoning doesn’t currently support.
“The ability to take beer home for us is an immediate check mark. It says, ‘Hey, you’ve got what it takes,'” said Abel, who does marketing for Reverb, an online marketplace for musical instruments.
The request drew criticism from Sally Hamann, who pointed to the brewery’s close proximity to the soon-to-be-rehabbed Congress Theater as a potential issue.
“[The Congress] isn’t open now, but we have had serious problems in the past with businesses that have had takeout liquor because the bottles and cans and whatever end up in neighbors’ front yards whenever there’s a concert,” said Hamann, a member of the impacted neighborhood group, Greater Goethe Neighborhood Association.
“To choose a spot that you know has a liquor moratorium. … there’s a reason why that’s there and some people like me want it to stay.”
Hamann was the only neighbor to criticize the Pilot Project team’s request during the sparsely-attended community meeting.
Abel and Radke’s attorney, William O’Donaghue of Daley & Georges, Ltd., said most of Pilot Project’s revenue — roughly 90 percent — would come from taproom sales, which would leave to-go beer at just 10 percent.
“The price point is such that they’re not going to get the under 21 kids coming in. It’s going to attract beer geeks, people who are really into beer,” O’Donaghue said.
The attorney countered Hamann’s argument, saying the new Congress won’t have the same problems the old Congress did.
“I agree with you that [The Congress] was a dump. It was not well run, it was not well policed, it was not secure. The guys who are renovating it are spending a lot of money. They’re going to change the atmosphere, it’s not going to be the same type of venue,” O’Donaghue said.
The Pilot Project team envisions crowlers costing anywhere between $12-16. A la carte beers would range from $3-12, depending on the size of the glass.
Food would be served on-site. Abel said they’re leaning toward sweet and savory waffles, as well as cheese and dessert plates — grub that complements beer.
In response to Hamann’s concerns, Abel said, “We don’t want litter. We don’t want to create a nuisance. The entire impetus of this business is to support community, support brewers. Our brand is too precious to waste on that. The idea is not to be a sore on the community, it’s to be a light in the community.”
Should Abel and Radke secure the necessary zoning approval, they aim to open Pilot Project in early 2019.
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