Revolution Fist City Pale Ale Label

Despite Hazy Licensing Rules, Revolution Brewing Forges Ahead on Massive Expansion

In Beer News by Ryan

Chicago’s Revolution Brewing is getting bigger. Much, much bigger.

revbrewlogoRevolution announced Tuesday that it is expanding its brewery at 3340 N Kedzie Ave to include a neighboring building and is adding a 120 barrel brewhouse and a handful of 800 barrel fermenters. This will boost Revolution’s brewing capacity from over 50,000 barrels in 2014 to an eventual 300,000 barrels a year.

That’s a lot of Anti-Hero.

For comparison’s sake Deschutes, Ballast Point and Founders all push up to or beyond 300,000 barrels of beer a year.

In announcing the expansion Revolution also introduced Fist City, a pale ale that will hit store shelves in 12 ounce cans in April.

revbrewfistRevolution’s expansion comes at a time when the state’s Liquor Control Commission is at odds with brewers and distributors in Illinois over licensing rules.

Over the summer the ILCC’s Chief Legal Counsel, Rick Haymaker, re-interpreted a rule that could cripple brewpubs in the state. Current law states: “a brew pub licensee shall not sell for off-premises consumption more than 50,000 gallons per year.” Haymaker says that caps the amount of beer a brewpub could sell to a distributor at 50,000 gallons a year. However Bob Myers, President of the Associated Beer Distributors of Illinois, says the law is meant to cap the amount of beer a brewpub can sell to-go in the form of growlers, six packs, bombers, etc.

The Commission put the rule on hold to allow the ABDI and Illinois Craft Brewers Guild to work out a compromise, which could ultimately require legislative action.

So how does this play into Revolution’s expansion plans?

Revolution currently operates both a production brewery and a brewpub, which is allowed under the current Craft Brewer Act, but only if the brewer produces less than 30,000 barrels of beer a year.

Revolution topped 50,000 barrels in 2014 so they’re over the cap.

A long-proposed workaround for brewers like Revolution is to switch the production brewery over to a brewpub license. But if Revolution can only sell 50,000 gallons of beer — which amounts to barely over 1600 barrels — to distributors under the proposed rule change, then that’s not going to work.

31 gallons of beer, by the way, equals one barrel.

Revolution Brewing Managing Partner Josh Deth tells Guys Drinking Beer he’s hopeful a resolution can be reached soon so they can continue with the expansion.

“We are in meaningful discussions with the ILCC, ICBG and other stakeholders on improving the licensing climate for brewers in Illinois and we are hopeful that state regulations won’t get in the way of our growth,” said Deth.

If the ABDI and ICBG works out a compromise on the rule change then Deth could switch the production brewery over to a brewpub license and Revolution could continue on its merry way. If that doesn’t happen then the production cap to qualify as a craft brewer in the state would have to be increased or Deth would have to sell the brewpub, something he told us in 2013 is a non-starter.

“The brewpub is the home base of Revolution and will always be if we are around,” said Deth. “We bought that building and gut rehabbed it so we could be around for a long time.”

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Equal parts beer nerd and policy geek, Ryan is now the curator of the Guys Drinking Beer cellar. The skills he once used to dig through the annals of state government as a political reporter are now put to use offering unique takes on barrel-aged stouts, years-old barleywines and 10 + year verticals.