BYRON – Todd McLester looks equal measures happy, and tired.
Happy because his business, Hairy Cow Brewing Company in Byron, is open and is proving to be very popular. Tired because, well, Hairy Cow is very busy.
“It’s been busy since we opened that Tuesday morning,” McLester said, referring to the Dec. 18 opening of the restaurant and brew pub.
In fact, there was no giant announcement of the opening. They simply stuck a sign on the door, took a picture and posted it online and people started walking in.
“Ever since then, at 10:45 people are waiting in the lot,” he said.
The business opens at 11 a.m.
It has been a long road to get to this point for McLester and his partners, including Jim Orlando and brew master John Lambert of Rockford. It took three years to get the financing in place, the building constructed on the banks of the Rock River and the doors opened.
“There was a lot of planning, a lot of trying to get financed,” McLester said.
The planning included paying special attention to the pizza served at Hairy Cow. It is cooked in a custom-built wood oven and the dough and sauce recipes were developed just for Hairy Cow. The dough even contains some of the brew house’s own beer.
“We make the dough by hand every day, which is very time consuming,” McLester said, adding that it sits for a least 24 hours. “If it sits for two days, it’s even better.”
Of course, the star of the show is the beer. Currently, Hairy Cow is serving four of its own brews, with more currently being brewed and developed. The big seller now is Turtle Tree, described as “light, crisp, and refreshing.”
“It’s selling like crazy,” McLester said.
He said they will eventually have 10 of their own beers on tap, with other guest taps also available.
If McLester has his way, Hairy Cow will be the first step in a more developed riverfront in Byron. He said he wants Hairy Cow, which has about 30 employees, to be “the hub” of a very busy river area. He said the plan is to put in boat docks and host kayaking and bike and running events.
There will also be live music at Hairy Cow, which boasts a large open space, fireplace and high-ceiling. A coffee station is also being added.
For now, Hairy Cow is open daily from 11 a.m.-11 p.m., but McLester said they will adjust that soon. He said they could possibly close on Monday, but that will be dictated by demand.