Our first Illinois brewery to visit during our trip last year was Scratch Brewing Company located on some farmland about an hour and a half southeast of St. Louis, MO. Scratch was one of the most distinctly unique, beautiful, and remote breweries that we saw all year and remained that way through to the end. With a focus on locality, the people at the brewery forage and/ or grow ingredients on their land to use in the beer recipes; mushrooms, roots, pine needles, multiple herbs & spices, and hops for example. During our time sampling in their taproom, we got to try some Gruits, a Gotlandsricka, a Licorice Basil Schwarzbier, a beer made with maple sap instead of water, and a handful of other beers that prove this is not your everyday brewery; the best part is they are brewed well and we enjoyed each and every one of them! The Scratch crew also told us that they were planning to only enter beers that do not have hops in them at GABF in Denver later in the year and when we ran into them at the festival a few months later they had done just that. Do not miss out on an opportunity to visit the amazing people, location, scenery, and beers that make up Scratch Brewing Company – it’s the full package!
After visiting Against the Grain in Louisville, KY, we made the short drive over to Apocalypse Brew Works. Co-founders Bill Krauth, Leah Dienes, and Paul Grignon opened up the taproom (which they call “The Fallout Shelter”) on May 11, 2012 with the 3 1/2 barrel system they are using today. We spoke to Leah, the head-brewer, while sampling their brews and learned all of the information found below – including the fact that Leah is an active BJCP judge. Between the three co-founders, there is over 40 years of homebrewing experience which helped them open the taproom with 10 beers on tap and maintain that number since. Also, if you happen to be in the area when the world gets taken over by zombies, keep in mind that the brewery makes for a nice Apocalypse bunker since they can lock the razor wire laden gates to keep the zombies out; hence their motto “Drink Beer Til the End.”
After spending a few days in Lancaster, PA with the guys behind The Blind Tiger Podcast, we made our way over to Tröegs Brewing Company on Friday 4/4/14. We learned a lot about the brewery during our visit by talking with Jeff Herb, their marketing coordinator, while sampling a flight of all the beers on tap, followed by taking a detailed tour of the facility with Andrea Bernardo, their brewery tour coordinator. Tröegs is always blending the organic and mechanical aspects of brewing. John Trogner (one of the owners and the brewmaster) is big into the brewing and tech side and is always looking for new equipment, while the other owner and John’s brother, Chris Trogner, does more of the business side.
After caving for the first time and spending the night in a hotel because of a pretty heavy snow storm, we made our way to Stewart’s Brewing Company in Bear, DE on Thursday, 3/27/2014. The first thing we did when we walked in was order a flight of their beers, then head brewer Ric Hoffman sat with us while we indulged. Afterwards, he showed us around and went over everything that makes the brewery unique.