ROGERS PARK — Rogers Park’s only brewery has debuted on Howard Street after four years of working to bring a craft beer spot to the neighborhood.
Howard Street Brewing Company opened May 26 at 1617 W. Howard St. It was founded by Chuck Patella, a home brewer for 10 years and husband of Shannon O’Neill, the co-artistic director of neighboring Factory Theater.
The brewery’s storefront was previously vacant and acting as a rehearsal space of sorts for Factory Theater. Patella’s band played a show in the space and he realized it would make a great — if small — brewery.
“I started bringing beers to [Factory Theater’s] opening parties,” Patella said. “It got to the point where the kegs were empty when we’d go home. It made sense to open here. I get to serve beer and fill a need.”
The brewery, which bills itself as Chicago’s northernmost beer producer, might also be one of the city’s smallest.
Howard Street Brewing has a one-barrel system, which isn’t much bigger than a lot of at-home setups, Patella said. The small system has its perks: It can allow for greater experimentation without having to produce mass quantities of beer.
“The benefit is we can do what we want,” he said. “We can test anything out, and if it doesn’t work out, we don’t have to toss out that much.”
Despite only producing small batches, Howard Street Brewing has nine beers on tap co-brewed by Patella and partner Dexter Ellis. That includes a sour India pale ale with mango notes, a chocolate porter and a wheat beer made with ginger.
The selection is ever-rotating with seasonal and experimental additions.
“It’s easy to do all the styles,” Patella said. “Keeping them in stock is the question.”
Howard Street Brewing serves food from Sol Cafe, which is next door to the brewery. It also plans to host events with its other next-door neighbor, Factory Theater.
“We’re sandwiched between two great venues,” Patella said.
Patella has been working to open Howard Street Brewing for about four years.
First there was a public fundraising campaign that netted around $10,000. Patella and investors contributed an additional $5,000.
The build-out started in summer 2020 and was delayed due to coronavirus and supply chain issues, Patella said. He and a friend built much of the space themselves, including a handmade bar that wraps around the space.
Howard Street Brewing has seating for 37.
Despite the small setting, Patella is hoping the brewery is enough of a success that he can scale up the business. The next step will be distribution to area bars and restaurants.
That would require contract brewing, or using some other brewery’s facilities to make product in large enough quantities to distribute locally, Patella said. If the business grows to that point, the brewery on Howard Street would remain its headquarters, the place where beers are rolled out before moving to larger production.
“This here would be our pilot system,” Patella said.
Howard Street Brewing Company is open 3-11 p.m. Thursdays, 3 p.m.-midnight Fridays, noon-midnight Saturdays and noon-8 p.m. Sundays. For more on the business, click here.
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