Mikerphone Brewing Opens Addition, Preps for Smells Like a Beer Fest
Two years to the day Mikerphone Brewing opened its taproom, the brewery officially opened its new addition, called the Mikerphone Blue Room. The expansion more than doubles the total square footage of the brewery, triples the seating capacity, and opens the door to a future that founder and owner Mike Pallen never could have imagined.
“Every night I go home and me and my wife sit back and we ask ourselves how we got here,” Pallen says. “This was not our life plan at all. It was a hobby that spawned into something that has taken off. Things spiraled into this amazing story and at the end of the day we sit back at home and realize that we’ve done something that is pretty cool. From brewing in my basement to this is amazing. We’re very appreciative and every day we have fun with it.”
Not only does the capacity of the brewery expand from 45 to 110, and eventually close to 150 when the outdoor patio opens, but it will allow Pallen to brew a wider variety of beers.
A More Diverse Menu
Pallen noted that often the beers on tap were either hazy or an adjunct Stout. He wants to provide drinkers more options, and now he’ll have that opportunity.
“The menu is going to be a lot more diverse,” he explains. “We’re getting back into pilsners, lagers and wit beers. It used to be the menu was half hazy and half adjunct Stout with maybe a fruited Berliner in there. It’s going to make this place more reliable where you can come here and there’s a beer for everybody.”
He also hopes to cut down on lines that form outside prior to a release or opening.
“We did have lines and people were discouraged that they couldn’t get in. Now that you know we have more space, you can bring a group in here and not worry about it,” he says.
Eventually the Blue Room will be able to be rented out for private parties and events; however, that isn’t going to happen right away.
The Barrel Program
As for the brewing side of things, the new space allows Pallen to double his barrel program going from 70 to nearly 150. His goal is to release a barrel-aged beer once a month, but he also noted that they won’t be held to a schedule and will ensure beers are released when they’re ready.
“We have a deep passion for barrel-aging,” Pallen explains. “One of our focuses is to grow the barrel program. We have these beers that we’ve built for years and years that have a solid base and we want to see what the barrel can do them. We’ve released five to date and they’ve all been incredibly successful so we want to keep it going. We’re going to invest the time, money and space into them.”
From Barrels to Cans
Just prior to opening up the Blue Room, Mikerphone announced it would begin canning their beers. Today, some Mikerphone cans are available, but the availability and variety of these will be rising quickly.
Pallen actually has had the canning line at the brewery since June 2018, but with no place to put it, he’s had to keep it in the box.
“I tried to not even know it was here,” he says. “We could try to bust it open and play with it, but let’s not do that. Let’s make sure it gets set-up in the right spot and have the manufacturer come out and train us on it and do it right.”
The canning line is now fully constructed and operational. Large pallets of empty cans sit where the new barrels will eventually go in the back. Those cans won’t sit empty for long though, Pallen knows the importance of getting beers into cans.
“We’re the old dinosaur in the game, which is hilarious because we’re not even that old,” Pallen jokes. “But as far as packing goes we are [old] because we stuck to the bottle format. A lot of that was just a product of space and time. In order to bring in the canning line you had to have the space and where we were packaging, there was no way to bring a canning line in there. We decided to wait.”
Everything except for the big Stouts will go into cans for Mikerphone going forward. As for the mini 8-ounce cans that have started popping up from breweries like Hopewell and Saint Errant, Pallen’s canning line has the ability to do those and it’s possible the mini cans could hit the market as well.
Smells Like a Beer Fest
The expansion opens just in time for the second annual Smells Like a Beer Fest, which takes place on April 27 at the brewery. Selling out in just minutes last year, Pallen is looking to repeat the success of 2018 but has a few tweaks to make it even better.
2nd Annual Fest
One of the most notable changes to this year’s event is that 4-packs of the Barrel-Aged Imperial Bean Spirit will not be included with your ticket purchase. Last year, attendees could either buy a ticket to the fest or a ticket to the fest with a four-pack of the beer.
“People lost focus of the fest when they had to wait in line for their beer,” Pallen explains. “There are a lot of logistical nightmares when people are drinking all day and then lining up to get their allotment.”
Barrel-Aged Bean Spirit and its variant, a double maple vanilla version, will be available for purchase at the taproom the Thursday and Friday before the event, and again on Sunday. Pallen said he wanted to do it this way so the beer was more accessible to people. They’ll take their total allotment and divide it by three, to ensure bottles are available all three days.
Another change this year is the focus on guest breweries at the festival. One thing Pallen noticed was that the host brewery gets a lot of the early attention at a festival, and he wanted to change that. For the first three hours, Mikerphone won’t even be pouring any beer.
“From noon until three you have to experience every other brewery we brought in here,” he says. “You get access to beers, meads and ciders … and the breweries get access to people they wouldn’t normally meet.”
At 3 p.m., Mikerphone will tap Barrel-Aged Bean Spirit and the variant.
One thing that isn’t changing from last year is the charitable importance of the festival. Pallen is a big believer in giving back to the community and he’s created a great working relationship with the city of Elk Grove Village, IL.
“The main focus of the event is charity,” Pallen explains. “We work hand-in-hand with the city on this event. They help us block off the day, they provide porta-potties, security and all that good stuff. Whatever we can raise for charity goes back to the city that we’re apart of.”
This year the festival is benefiting the Character Coalition of Elk Grove Village. Pallen hopes to raise over $20,000 through ticket sales, a raffle and donations to the organization.
Smells Like a Beer Fest will be bigger this year. Both in terms of the number of people who can attend and the number of breweries that will be pouring.
There will be almost 70 breweries, up from 45 last year. While some notable local names like Half Acre, Forbidden Root and Hop Butcher will be in attendance, Pallen said he was really focused on expanding the out of town options.
Other Half, Casey, Weldwerks and Cerebrial are just a few of the out-of-town breweries that will be pouring, but the full list is significantly longer.
Last year, 500 tickets were sold to make sure it didn’t get overcrowded and remained an enjoyable experience for all. This year, Mikerphone was able to add a third tent and with the additional space, they’ll be able to add another 300 attendees.
Whether it’s expanding the brewery or the festival, Pallen wants to make sure he’s always putting his local community first. As the brewery and its success have grown, Pallen is always thinking about his regulars.
“The local crowd here has been a huge support for us,” Pallen says. “We can’t neglect them and we have to make sure we have beers that they can have one or two, like a Pilsner, and be able to go back home. We have our lines for our big Stouts, but that’s not the core focus anymore. Our focus is now having a nice depth of beers so everyone can find something no matter what kind of drinking they are going to do.”
Tickets for Mikerphone’s Smells Like a Beer Fest go on sale Wednesday, March 27 at 7:24 p.m.