Route 66 update:  it’s Craft Beer Week, and Lagunitas Chicago is opening…

You think you’re heard everything, and then, whoa – a beer circus!??  Well, it appears to be an annual tradition for Lagunitas Brewing Company at its Petaluma, CA home base.  But now that founder and CEO Tony Magee, better known to Twitterati as @LagunitasT, has opened a Chicago brewhouse down in Douglas Park, Lagunitas has finally come home to the Windy City where it belongs.  And what better week for a grand opening than Craft Beer Week.  Hey, you north side Goose Island guys, look out for the near SW side!
So, even though the Tap Room & Beer Sanctuary (read: brewpub) won’t be ready until some time in June, the grand opening celebrations are beginning already.  The beer circus is this weekend, Saturday and Sunday from noon to 5 p.m..  The $40 ticket price is because it’s a benefit for for Rock For Kids Chicago, which provides music education programs to poor public school children in underserved areas like Lawndale (which is right next door, though technically the park itself is in Lawndale).  In addition to the ‘freaktacular’ circus performances will be lots of live music.  All we need is cooperative weather. BTW, visitors are encouraged to come in costume (you always wanted to be the ringmaster or sword swallower, right?).
Saturday tickets for the charity event are already sold out (and NO, tickets will not be sold at the door on Saturday, either).  Yowza!  You can still buy tickets for Sunday’s beer circus online at Eventbrite. The ticket cost includes four beer tastings (for four beer tokens), a souvenir mug, and all the performances. There’s even a discount for designated drivers ($30 and all the fun, but no beer tokens).  A prudent move to accomodate the designated drivers, considering there’s a Chicago PD district station less than a mile away down Ogden Avenue/Route 66 (and if that isn’t enough of a hint, one of the busiest trauma/ER units in the city is a few blocks away at Mt Sinai Medical Center; don’t end up there, please).
This, we are told, will be only one of several opening events.  We like the sound of that:  such an accomplishment deserves a long, drawn-out welcome party.  But if you’re coming, know that the front door (or should we say back door/only door?) has been moved over to the west side of the building – the official address is 1843 S. Washtenaw Ave., which is a few blocks south of Ogden/Route 66.  While there is limited street parking, you might want to think about parking in the lot on the north side of the building, where the Cinestage folks park during the week and walking down to the other end of the building.

CEO Tony Magee with the first pallet of Lagunitas-Chicago’s IPA for shipment   (Photo courtesy of Lagunitas Brewing & Tony Magee)

Those of you who follow us here at CuriousTraveler66 know we’ve been keeping tabs on developments at 18th and Rockwell, where the brewhouse has been built inside a former Ryerson Steel warehouse-come-soundstage for Cinestage Chicago (Cinestage occupies most of the former Ryerson campus and had room to spare).  Magee, who was born in Rogers Park and grew up in NW suburban Arlington Heights, began making plans  about two years ago and cut a long-term rental agreement with Cinestage way back early last year around March.  His plans got temporarily detoured by fire marshalls over some spinkler system issues, but the guys worked it out and made nice, and things really got going about a year ago, even though it took a while for equipment to start arriving.  But arrive it did, and the first shipments of the brewery’s IPA went out late last month.  Hooray!  This will double the company’s output and help it serve the entire eastern U.S., not just Chicago.
Lagunitas-Chicago is technically in the eastern end of Lawndale; yeah, we know, Lawndale’s a crummy area – but the pocket neighborhood between Lagunitas and Mt. Sinai in this end is possibly on the verge of seriously regentrifying because of its proximity to the Illinois Medical District and all those west side medical campuses. There’s been rehabbing near the medical center and north of Ogden as well as new constructer ion during the last two or three years between Ogden and Roosevelt Road to the north. And there are a lot of yuppie types who live and work in the IMD; that’s a potential customer base not only for the brewery’s product but also for the brewpub, once that opens.
We know that this project has been a big deal for Tony Magee, and well it should be.  But it’s a big deal for the neighborhood, too, as there haven’t been any major employers coming into Lawndale/Douglas Park in a few decades.  Maybe this will be the beginning of a trend …  Who knows?
Best of luck, Tony – we’ll be seeing you soon as that Tap Room & Beer Sanctuary opens!
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Until next time,
your 66 guide, Marie

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