Ballast Point to Open Chicago Brewpub in 2018

An already competitive craft beer scene in Chicago is about to get even more crowded.

Constellation Brands – a beer, wine and spirits producer that makes popular import beer labels such as Corona, Pacifico and Modelo — yesterday announced plans to open a Ballast Point outpost in Chicago early next year.

The San Diego-based craft brewery, which Constellation Brands purchased for $1 billion in 2015, will establish its “first” Midwestern location inside of a 12,000 sq. ft. space in the city’s Fulton Market District, according to a press release.

“We’re thrilled to bring the San Diego spirit of Ballast Point to such a great beer-drinking city like Chicago,” Ballast Point president Marty Birkel said via the release. “The entire team is looking forward to sharing some of our new innovations and passion for great beer and food with Chicagoans.”

As part of the move into the Midwest, Ballast Point will install a 3-barrel pilot brewery for the production of exclusive small batch beers, as well as research and development. The company will also serve Southern California dishes, such as Baja-style fish tacos, and operate a rooftop bar.

Birkel, who responded to questions via email, told Brewbound that a Ballast Point presence in Chicago was important given Constellation’s “roots” in the city; the company’s beer division is based in Chicago.

Constellation has just begun meeting with architects, Birkel added, and a specific opening date has not been determined.

The company declined to disclose investment figures.

Ballast Point already operates seven locations throughout California and Virginia, including tasting rooms in San Diego, Calif., Long Beach, Calif., Temecula, Calif., and Daleville, VA.

“Retail locations are a big part of building the Ballast Point brand,” Birkel wrote. “It’s [an] opportunity for people to experience our beer and unique culture and creativity in a different way.”

He added that the company’s Virginia brewery is “nearly operational” and that an initial production run is slated to occur within the next two weeks. The tasting room there is already open.

“These are all unique and beautiful properties that bring the Ballast Point brand to life and give beer lovers a new way to experience and enjoy our beer,” Birkel said, noting that more tasting rooms could “be on the horizon.”

In addition to its presence in Chicago, Ballast Point will also be the “official craft beer sponsor of Barclays Center” in Brooklyn after Constellation executives last year negotiated a “comprehensive arena sponsorship” that will also give the San Diego brewery a branded bar on the main concourse.

As for Ballast Point’s performance through the midway point of the year, Birkel said sales within tasting rooms are growing but that the company’s wholesale business was “not where we want it to be.”

“We are cycling successful fruit beer launches from last year, but we are focused on building the brand for the long term, taking a closer look at our portfolio and investing in our core brands to build the business,” he said.

Ballast Point grew production by more than 55 percent in 2016, to 431,000 barrels, according to data from trade group the Brewers Association. The company produced just 123,435 barrels in 2014.

Ballast Point is now the third corporate-owned craft beer maker with a presence in Chicago. Lagunitas, now 100 percent owned by Heineken International, opened a massive 300,000 sq. ft. Chicago brewery in 2014. And longtime local craft stalwart Goose Island was purchased by Anheuser-Busch InBev in 2011. A-B InBev is currently renovating Goose Island’s Clybourn Avenue brewpub after brewery founder John Hall finally sold the original location, which was not included in the 2011 deal, to the global beer giant in early 2016.

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