ALGONQUIN – Something happened to Mike Dallas eight years ago.
He opened a gift from his in-laws. A home beer brewing kit.
“I thought it was going to be another hobby, but it quickly grew into an absolute obsession,” said 38-year-old Dallas.
His wife, Jennifer, has seen his hobbies before. Guitar. Woodworking. Bagpipes.
“This one just took over,” Jennifer Dallas said.
Now Mike Dallas is hoping that obsession can translate into a successful business as they get ready to open a brewery and taproom in Algonquin called Scorched Earth Brewing Co.
Not to say he’s fickle, but Mike Dallas has had his fair share of careers. He calls himself a “perpetual dreamer.” From college, he joined the Air Force, then went on to law school. He worked as a lawyer for one month before deciding it wasn’t for him. From there, he enrolled in graduate school for public administration. The last stop on his career tour, he was a project manager for the village of Mount Prospect for the past eight years.
The ever-supportive Jennifer Dallas works as a financial adviser in Barrington. It’s her pragmatism that helped the couple go into the brewery business with their eyes wide open.
“You have to do it for the right reasons – because you love the beer and you want to work hard. Not for the money,” Jennifer Dallas said.
So they went in prepared. Both took courses at Chicago’s Siebel Institute of Technology, a brewing academy. They prepared a business model. They ran the numbers. And then ran them again.
“In the end, it’s still crazy, we’re putting our necks out there,” Mike Dallas said. “It’s scary, but we also know we love it. We always wanted to start a business, and we’re young enough we can recover.”
Their financing model is a three-pronged approach including personal investments, bank loans and investors. They know the risks; they understand the climate.
“Craft beer is so big right now,” Mike Dallas said. “I think the county wants this. So many people want a cool, new place to come and hang out.”
Scorched Earth Brewing Co. – named in a nod to Illinois prairie fires that created new opportunities for growth – is at 203 Berg St. in Algonquin.
Mike Dallas isn’t worried about being tucked away in an industrial park off Algonquin Road. Those who enjoy craft brews have a way of sniffing them out, he said.
“People find ’em. It’s this grass-roots thing,” Mike Dallas said. “People know where you are, and they just find you.”
He’s speaking from experience. Not only has he explored and bounced ideas off other local brewers, the Dallas family vacations almost always include a stop at a brewery.
Scorched Earth Brewing Co. will roll out four beers to start, with the bring-your-own-food taproom to open shortly after.
They’ve hired Dan Payson as head brewer. He’s a Cary native who recently returned from Seattle, where he worked at American Brewing Co. Mike Dallas will run the business end.
In a nod to their industrial surroundings and rural upbringing – they’re high school sweethearts from Marengo – the Dallases have incorporated both into their taproom decor. Corrugated tin will line the bar, while reclaimed barn wood from Harvard hangs from the walls.
Patrons will be just feet away from where the magic happens – Scorched Earth’s 15-barrel brewing system. In layman’s terms, that means at any one time they can brew 15 barrels. Tours will be available.
“We want people to see the brewery equipment,” Mike Dallas said. “We really want it to be an open-air feeling. You’re part of the brewing experience when you sit in here and have a beer.”
For information on Scorched Earth Brewing Co., visit www.scorchedearthbrewing.com.