The new Lagunitas brewery in Chicago. Photo by, and courtsey of, Tony Magee.

The new Lagunitas brewery in Chicago. Photo by, and courtsey of, Tony Magee.

The long-awaited Lagunitas brewery in Chicago is expected to start brewing its first beers this morning, company CFO Leon Sharyon told me yesterday afternoon. They’ve been doing some test batches, founder Tony Magee told me late last year, but this time “they’re going to brew somthing that tastes like beer,” Leon said as he and Tony toured the plant on Wednesday. The new facility should boost the company’s capacity from about 500,000 barrels per year to at least 1.7 million over the next couple of years.

Perhaps more importantly, it will give Lagunitas valuable insurance against California’s epic drought. If things stay dry and cities such as Petaluma have to impose mandatory water cuts, Lagunitas can shift production quickly to Chicago, which has a nearly limitless supply of water from the Great Lakes, an advantage no other Sonoma County brewer can match.

The new taproom in Chicago will, however, have to wait until May sometime. The scramble to get the brewhouse itself open forced Tony to put the taproom on hold, – “gotta get making beer first,” Tony tweeted yesterday – though Leon said construction is well under way on the taproom. He described the new facility as “freakin’ amazing.” Road trip anyone?

– Sean Scully