Ever heard of a "session beer"? You will if the aspiring entrepreneurs at Noon Whistle Brewing Company are successful in opening a craft brewery at 18 Chicago Ave.
Noon Whistle co-owner Paul Kreiner said the company, which aims to open shop in Oak Park near Austin Boulevard within the next six months, will specialize in so-called session beers, which typically contain less than 5 percent alcohol content.
Kreiner explained that many craft beers are as high as 11 percent or more, making drinkers tipsy or worse after just a couple of pints.
"We just want a beer with bold flavors and lower alcohol," he said in a recent interview.
Kreiner works as a beer distributor in Oak Park and earned an associate's degree in brewing technology from the Siebel Institute, a brewing school in Chicago. With co-owners Mike Condon and Jim Cagle, three friends since grade school, they presented plans for the new venture at this month's meeting of the village Liquor Control Review Board. The microbrewery will operate primarily as a manufacturing facility with a small storefront tasting room, offering the sale of cans and "growlers." The brew crew says they anticipate 90-95 percent of their sales will come from wholesale distribution.
The company initially hopes to manufacture 2,000 barrels a year, but they project ramping up production to 15,000 barrels — 465,000 gallons — annually by 2015.
The bar area tasting room is expected to hold 35-50 people and will be open Wednesday through Sunday until 10 p.m.
"We're not serving food; we don't have a restaurant in-house," Kreiner told the board, but the group aims to invite food trucks to operate outside the facility.
Condon said the tasting room would allow customers to bring in food from local restaurants or order delivery.
Commissioner Sara Spivy questioned whether the business would "benefit the community that much because it's a tasting room."
"It seems like almost all of your business is going out the back door into other communities — Chicago, River Forest, Forest Park or wherever that would be," she said.
Cagle said the draw for Oak Park would be support for the local brewery. "It is a draw for the local community in that this is my community and this is my home and this is my beer, especially after you start growing that name brand," Cagle said.
Viktor Schrader, vice president of the Oak Park Development Corporation, said the economic development group has been working with Noon Whistle for about 10 months on the project. The proposed location is currently home to Derby Lite, a roller derby fitness club.
He said the co-owners of Noon Whistle will hold a public meeting for neighbors to find out more about the proposed business on Feb. 12, 6:30 p.m., at 18 Chicago Ave., the site of the proposed microbrewery.