“I can serve beer and meet a need”
ROGERS PARK – Rogers Park’s only brewery made its debut on Howard Street after four years of working to bring craft beer to the neighborhood.
Howard Street Brewing Company opened May 26 at 1617 W. Howard St. It was founded by Chuck Patella, a homebrewer for 10 years and husband of Shannon O’Neill, co-artistic director of neighbor factory theater.
The brewery storefront was previously vacant and served as something of a rehearsal space for the Factory Theatre. Patella’s band played a show in space and he realized it would make a great – albeit small – brewery.
“I started bringing beers to [Factory Theater’s] opening nights,” Patella said. “It got to the point where the kegs were empty when we got home. It made sense to open here. I can serve beer and fill a need.
The brewery, which bills itself as Chicago’s northernmost beer producer, could also be one of the city’s smallest.
Howard Street Brewing has a one-barrel system, which isn’t much larger than many home setups, Patella said. The small system has its advantages: it can allow for greater experimentation without having to produce massive amounts of beer.
“The advantage is that we can do whatever we want,” he said. “We can test anything, and if it doesn’t work, we don’t have to throw away so much.”
Although it produces only small batches, Howard Street Brewing offers nine draft beers co-brewed by Patella and partner Dexter Ellis. This includes a sour Indian lager with mango notes, a chocolate porter and a ginger wheat beer.
The selection is constantly rotating with seasonal and experimental additions.
“It’s easy to do all the styles,” Patella said. “Keeping them in stock is the issue.”
Howard Street Brewing serves food at the Sol Cafe, which is right next to the brewery. It also plans to hold events with its other neighbor, Factory Theatre.
“We’re sandwiched between two big venues,” Patella said.
Patella has worked on opening Howard Street Brewing for about four years.
First there was a public fundraising campaign that brought in about $10,000. Patella and investors contributed an additional $5,000.
Construction began in the summer of 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 37 seats.
Despite the small setting, Patella hopes the brewery will be successful enough for him to expand the business. The next step will be distribution to bars and restaurants in the area.
That would require contract brewing or using another brewery’s facilities to make products in sufficient quantities for local distribution, Patella said. If the business grows to that extent, the Howard Street brewery would remain its headquarters, the place where the beers are rolled out before moving into larger production.
“This would be our pilot system,” Patella said.
The Howard Street Brewing Company is open from 3 p.m. to 11 p.m. Thursday, 3 p.m. to midnight Friday, noon to midnight Saturday, and noon to 8 p.m. Sunday. To learn more about the company, click on here.
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