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Hop Butcher for the World will open its new taproom in Chicago

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The gleaming white tile floor is the same. So is the sturdy concrete bar, the handsome matching Douglas fir tables and benches and the warped, wavy wall of wood harvested from the inside of a Wisconsin grain silo.

What’s different at Hop Butcher for the World’s taproom, which opens Thursday, are three major artistic flourishes and, of course, the beer pouring from the taps.

Otherwise, the bones of the room on a busy stretch of Lincoln Avenue in the North Center neighborhood largely echo its eight years as one of Chicago’s most venerable taprooms in the hands of Half Acre Beer Co.

The key, said Hop Butcher co-founders Jeremiah Zimmer and Jude La Rose, was maintaining what made the space special while also making it their own. It’s a room as meaningful to them as any beer drinker; after opening their first business checking account in 2014, they headed there to celebrate. They never imagined it would one day be theirs.

“Half Acre built a beautiful place to drink beer,” Zimmer said. “We stayed true to what we felt was already magical about that space and tried to breathe our own magic into it.”

Founders Jude LaRose, left, and Jeremiah Zimmer in their new Hop Butcher for the World taproom, Nov. 1, 2022, inside the former Half Acre location in North Center.

A year and a half after announcing plans to take over Half Acre’s original brewery and taproom at 4257 N. Lincoln Ave. in May 2021, Hop Butcher is finally ready to pull back the curtain, opening at 11 am Thursday.

The 14 taps will flow with both beer made on-site — Hop Butcher began brewing there in August — and at a production brewery south of the city the brand acquired in 2021. Though Hop Butcher is largely known for its intensely fruity hazy India pale ales , the Lincoln Avenue taproom will serve “a full drinking experience,” La Rose said. In addition to several hazy IPAs, there will be a saison, an extra special bitter, an Italian-style Pilsner and a hefeweizen on tap.

“We still love IPAs, and we’re making a ton of them,” Zimmer said.

“But we were brought up on all styles of beer,” La Rose added. “Our tastes can vary, and we’re excited from a brewing standpoint to lean into that.”

In a sign of the times, they’ll also serve an array of nonalcoholic options, including Metropolis hot and cold coffee, sparkling tea and nonalcoholic beer.

Just as Half Acre did, Hop Butcher will also sell beer to go, four-packs of 16-ounce cans and 64- and 32-ounce growlers, along with shirts, glassware and other merchandise from a shop beside the taproom.

The taproom will be the draw, though, and as much as it maintains its old vibe, it also feels markedly different.

The most striking addition is a mural snaking across parts of three walls, including the one facing customers as they step into the room. The art will be familiar to Hop Butcher fans, as it was painted by Dan Grzeca, who also designs Hop Butcher’s labels. In fact, the mural is a riff on one of those labels, for a Mexican-style lager called Soar that was released two years ago.

A mural on the wall, painted by Dan Grzeca, at Hop Butcher for the World's taproom.

The mural — warm, mingled shades of red, orange and yellow as a bird spreads its wings against the sun — fosters an intimate space, dominating the room in a way one single thing did not when it was Half Acre’s. It was a subtle transformation that surprised even Zimmer and La Rose.

“I didn’t realize how bold and striking the mural would be,” Zimmer said. “I mean that in a good way.”

Hop Butcher has made two other additions, both nodding to its identity: a commissioned painting of a Washington state hop field the partners visited in 2019 and, on a brick wall just inside the front door, the opening lines of Carl Sandburg’s legendary poem from which the brewery took its name (“Hog Butcher for the World/ Tool Maker, Stacker of Wheat/ Player with Railroads and the Nation’s Freight Handler;/ Stormy, husky, brawling/ City of the Big Shoulders”).

“It’s cool to stand in front of that thing,” Zimmer said. “If you’re going to take a picture in the taproom, it’s not a terrible place to do it.”

A new painting of a Washington state hop field the partners Jude LaRose and Jeremiah Zimmer visited in 2019 hangs in the taproom of Hop Butcher for the World brewery.
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Otherwise, Zimmer and La Rose said, they didn’t feel an urgency to change things for the sake of change. That included almost all fixtures and materials, including that wall of wavy wood that is one of the most dynamic visuals of any bar room in Chicago.

“Everyone kept asking, ‘Are you keeping that up?’” La Rose said. “It’s like asking if pizza is your favorite food. Of course we’re keeping it. It’s my favorite thing in here.”

For anyone who has been in the space many times — which accounts for many Chicago beer drinkers — the revamp offers fresh appreciation for what Half Acre built. It’s a handsome space, from the gleaming Japanese tile on the floor to the wood ceiling punctuated with four skylights. The kitchen where Half Acre made burritos and other quick beer-ready meals will stay closed for now, though food can be brought in or delivered.

The brewing facility at Hop Butcher for the World in North Center.

When the sale of the brewery and taproom were announced in May 2021, Half Acre co-founder Gabriel Magliaro said he likely could have gotten more money for the brewery on the open market, but was only interested in handing the keys to Hop Butcher as Half Acre consolidated operations at its larger brewery a couple of miles north. Hop Butcher are “people who carry the torch, and that’s wonderful,” he said at the time.

Though there is one other notable change: Changing tables have been added to both the men’s and women’s bathrooms.

“We want to be kid friendly,” Zimmer said.