He’s still months away from opening his new brewery in Chicago, but Lagunitas founder Tony Magee is already emerging as a power player in the Second City’s thriving food and beverage scene. The website NewCityResto acknowledged Magee’s growing significance this week by naming him to their list “The Big Heat: Chicago’s Food & Drink Fifty 2013.” That puts him in the company of some of the best chefs and hospitality pros in the city, even in the country, including the legendary Rick Bayless and Top Chef Season 4 winner Stephanie Izard. Tony comes in at #36.
Meanwhile, Tony has been in Chicago this week supervising the final frantic stages of construction, aiming to open later this year – perhaps December, he told me last month. He had been hoping to be open in October, but what with this and that – like the city requiring him to install a complete sprinkler system – the project got delayed a little. When the brewhouse opens, it will dwarf any other brewery in the city.
It appears to be dawning on him, however, that his crazy plan of building a second brewery might just be working. In fact, he took to his Twitter feed today to marvel at the fact that demand is so high that it is possible that the Chicago brewery might take just months to reach it’s 1.7 million barrel designed capacity, rather than taking several years to ramp up. Originally, he planned to make about 250,000 barrels per year at first, but his Petaluma brewery is maxed out at around 500,000 barrels and he still can’t meet demand.
“I told our tank builder, ROLEC, to ship 4-750bbl ferms every 3 months until we say stop,” he wrote. “They were slack jawed but said they’d do it…!”
And by that he means he is says he is ordering and endless stream of huge 750 barrel fermenting tanks, capable of holding 23,250 gallons at a time. He said they are frantically making changes on the fly, trying to add capacity even before the doors open.
Once the Chicago brewery reaches full capacity, it puts Lagunitas in position to challenge even the mighty Boston Beer Company, makers of Sam Adams, for the top spot as America’s largest craft brewer. Lagunitas was #6 just last year.
– Sean Scully