Barrington's first brewery not only is expected to bring energy to a mall in a 113-year-old building, but also serve as a potential regional draw for the village's downtown.
O'Brien family members are set to open Flesk Brewing Co. at noon Saturday at the Ice House Mall and Village Shops. The nanobrewery ended its production-only business in Lombard last year in favor of operating a tap room with seating for roughly 75 guests in the Ice House space.
Flesk, which started brewing in January 2013, has extensively remodeled space on the mall's east side that had been vacant for about five years, with the decor featuring brewing tanks, exposed brick, and a bar and tables handcrafted by Peter O'Brien. It joins longtime tenant Chessie's restaurant and other businesses in the historic structure originally occupied by Bowman Dairy in 1904.
"I believe it will absolutely add pizzazz," Ice House marketing director Maria Straussner said of Flesk. "Everyone is abuzz about the opening."
Will O'Brien said he hopes Flesk brings new patrons to Barrington who decide to visit other downtown businesses. He said Barrington landed on Flesk's radar, in part, because of the downtown Metra commuter rail stop that allows patrons from well outside the village to visit without driving.
"I kind of hope we bring that to Barrington, something that's just a little bit more unique to an area," O'Brien said as he took a break making final touches to the brewery. "There's a few breweries around here that are great and they do phenomenal things, but there's nothing like this here in the downtown setting specifically like us."
Barrington's economic and community development director, Peg Blanchard, said Flesk's arrival is part of an overall increase in the village's dining and night life options. Among the choices are McGonigal's Pub, Alley 59, Neoteca Pizza and Wine Bar, Shirley's Piano Bar, Remember Charlotte's Pizza and Shakou.
"Flesk opening up just really continues on that entertainment theme," Blanchard said, "that you can come down to the village center and there's a lot of things to do."
Flesk produced about 80 barrels of beer in its first year. It grew to roughly 240 barrels, with self distribution across the Chicago area, before production ceased in Lombard so the O'Brien family could focus on opening the Barrington tap room.
In 2016, the Barrington village board gave permission for Flesk to serve wine, cider and some hard alcohol in addition to its beer. James O'Brien said Flesk's beer will be produced exclusively for the tap room to start.
"In the future, we might increase our tank size," he said. "We might start bottling or canning beer and selling it, distributing. But that's kind of down the road."
Flesk will not serve food, so patrons may bring their own grub or have deliveries made from local restaurants.
Will O'Brien, the oldest of five brothers, said the brewery's name came from ghost stories their father told them about Flesk Castle in Killarney, Ireland.