It’s a business that has been about a decade in the making, but Oak Park is close to getting its first brewery.
Kinslahger Brewing Co., is set to open sometime in the next few weeks at 6806 Roosevelt Road if all goes as planned, according to co-owner Steve Loranz.
Loranz and his business partners, Neal Armstrong and Keith Huizinga, hope to corner the lager market, which Loranz says is oversaturated with hops-heavy beers such as India pale ales. Loranz said his lager-centric brewery will likely have five flagship beers year round that run the gamut of flavors from light, low-alcohol brews to heavy darker beers.
He’s also looking forward to experimenting with small-batch varieties that will only be available at Kinslahger’s tap room.
“Because there’s not a ton of it on the market and we like it,” Loranz said. “I like IPAs and hoppy beers as well, but there are so many people making them.”
Loranz said that he hopes to have the roughly 600-square-foot tasting room and backroom brewing facility up and running by January, but there are still a lot of moving parts.
While the tasting room will be the front of the house for Kinslahger, the back of the house is where the majority of their business – about 90 percent, Loranz said – will take place. Kinslahger will initially distribute kegs to bars but eventually will start bottling the beer for distribution in retail stores sometime next year.
The tasting room will seat about 30 people with standing room for about 15 additional patrons. Don’t expect to come to Kinslahger and watch the Sunday football game, though. The brewery won’t have televisions, he said.
Loranz said he’s hoping that people will come to Kinslahger for a pint and stick around and enjoy a few with friends. The tap room will offer finger foods – think cheese plates, cured meats and the like – but won’t have a kitchen. Patrons are invited to bring their own snacks, he said.
Being among the handful of retail-oriented businesses on the north side of Roosevelt Road, the Kinslahger crew anticipates they’ll get some customers from nearby businesses such as The Wire nightclub across the street in Berwyn.
John Lynch, executive director of Oak Park Economic Development Corp., which is tasked with attracting new business to the village, said his organization is excited about Kinslahger coming to the commercial corridor.
He said the Oak Park side of Roosevelt Road is largely occupied with businesses, but he says residents living near the business area would like to see more retail-oriented businesses.
OPEDC is not encouraging thriving businesses to move, but Lynch noted, “We’re always looking for those opportunities,” to get more restaurants and entertainment venues on the strip.
“We like this area a lot,” Loranz said. “There’s so much going on with The Wire across the street, and the Berwyn side’s got a lot of stuff going on. People have always said they’d like to see more stuff on the Oak Park side and this seemed like the perfect place to do so.”
Loranz made a point to note that he and his partners live in Oak Park and River Forest, and they hired primarily Oak Park-based businesses for the brewery buildout.
He said they wanted to be in Oak Park “because we want the taxes we generate to go into the community that our kids are growing up in.”
Building communities is nothing new to Loranz and company. In 2014, he and friends launched Oak Park Homebrewers, which started with five members. The group has quickly grown to about 45 dues-paying members. About 25 to 30 people turn out every month for their meetings, Loranz said.
The brewing club is where he met one of his co-partners Keith Huizinga.
Loranz said he hopes to build brand loyalty with Oak Parkers, but rooting for the hometown brewery isn’t going to be a given, he said.
“The important thing now is making sure everything is dialed in and it’s the highest quality,” he said. “I don’t expect that (loyalty) unless the beer is good.”