Drinkers looking for the world’s freshest craft beer might want to start frequenting Eataly.
In just six years, the company — which purports to be the world’s largest artisanal Italian food and wine marketplace — has expanded globally, with 11 locations in Italy and another four in Japan. While a majority of the chains focus primarily on upscale grocery items and in-store dining options, Eataly New York — the company’s first U.S. location, which opened in 2010 — also features a beer-themed restaurant and brewery, Birreria. It’s a collaborative venture between Dogfish Head Craft Brewery and two Italian craft breweries: Birra Baladin and Birra Del Borgo.
After expanding the concept to Rome last year, Eataly has decided to open a third Birreria location in Chicago this fall. Dogfish Head founder Sam Calagione announced the news and unveiled blueprints at a “tap takeover” event in Chicago on Tuesday night.
The Chicago project will include a five hectoliter brewhouse and a handful of 10 hectoliter fermentation tanks. The entire brewery will only be capable of producing about 450 barrels annually, 99 percent of which will be served at Birreria and the other eateries contained within Eataly Chicago.
“It is only about 10 hours of Dogfish Head’s annual production when it is all said and done,” said Calagione. “But the amount of attention, care and creativity that will go into that production at the Birreria Chicago will be exponential in terms of what it can show for world class beer and food pairings.”
Eataly Chicago is hoping to open its doors in September and Alex Saper, a managing partner and minority owner of Eataly U.S. said the company is also eyeing additional locations in Boston, Los Angeles and Washington D.C.
For Calagione, the Birreria project represents more than just fresh beer and is a reflection of his relentless attempts to brand Dogfish Head beyond the beer. Other branding initiatives include partnerships with The Grateful Dead, Google and even a line of Dogfish branded, hop-infused pickles. And as the craft landscape continues to mature — another 1,500 breweries are supposedly on the way — standing out in the crowd is increasingly important.
The Birreria concept is one way for Dogfish Head to cut through the noise, Calagione said.
“We have always been focused on beer and food but beer has always been the engine,” he said. “There are always these parts that connect to the engine that make things move. We see things getting more competitive and the more meaningful parts that we put around that engine, help make our brand more distinct.”
The Birreria concept allows Dogfish Head to connect with craft consumers who ordinarily wouldn’t receive as much attention from the small but growing brewery, Calagione said.
“It’s a unique business model that allows us to have a local presence in cities and countries that we love without us having to direct a lot of dollar resources from our expansion,” he said. “Those authentic stores [Birreria locations] that let us tell the Dogfish Head story make it worth doing the project.”