So, last Saturday sure was ... a game of football. We've discussed the game against Northwestern enough here, so let's move on and take a look at Illinois' other Big Ten team, Illinois, and see what kind of beer the southern part of the state brings to the table. While Champaign is actually in central Illinois (much like USF isn't actually in southern Florida), according to this city slicker everything south of the Loop is "southern Illinois." While not nearly as vibrant as the Chicago beer scene, southern Illinois boasts a few excellent breweries that are worthy of your attention. Let's see what sort of beer you can try if you have any Illini friends coming to the game this weekend.
I have been to the Great Taste of the Midwest multiple times over the last five years and have had the chance to try a few breweries from the Champaign-Urbana area. One of those breweries is DESTIHL Brewery (which luckily distributes to Dane County, if you'd like to grab some for your tailgate) out of Bloomington, Ill. They have two year-round offerings that you can find in cans (again, perfect for tailgating): Abbey's Single and Vertex IPA. I was able to try the Vertex at GTMW and it is an extremely pleasant IPA, if you are into bitterness. This is not a particularly balanced IPA and has fruity and floral hop characteristics. Also, I'm the guy who takes tasting notes at beer festivals, so I must have stopped by DESTIHL early while my notes were still coherent.
More Illinois Beer
More Illinois Beer
The other beer I tried from them was their Strawberry Blonde Ale. This beer has won multiple awards and was just lovely. It really did taste like drinking strawberry puree with a little bit of beer mixed in. Light, refreshing and delicious. Unfortunately, their website tells me, the Strawberry Blonde is a summer seasonal. Their fall seasonal is a Pumpkin Porter, which I have never had, but it too has won multiple medals and it has "pumpkin" in the name so it has to be good. I'd grab some of their Pumpkin Porter and some of New Glarus' new pumpkin beer and have a good ol' fashioned taste test on Saturday morning.
Blind Pig Brewery is located right in the heart of Champaign and has the motto "better than the champagne of beers, it's the beer of Champaign." While their disparaging remarks toward Miller High Life did not go unnoticed by this humble internet bad joke maker, disregard their hubris for a moment so we can examine their lineup. The one beer that I tried from them at the GTMW was their Ich bin ein Berliner Weisse and this was for two reasons. One, I'm a simple man and LOVED the name and two, Berliner weisse beers are an extremely interesting style. They are very low in alcohol content, are sour and have been brewed in Germany since just about forever. According to their website, they only have four beers currently on tap: an IPA, a porter, a bitter and a summer golden ale ... none of which I have tried, unfortunately. My attempts to contact The Champaign Room about local beer went unanswered, probably due to shame more than anything, and my one buddy that lives in Champaign had this to say: "I wouldn't recommend them, but they do exist." Not exactly ringing endorsements.
This is the way I see it, folks: if the Badgers are winning large in the second half, you may want to sneak out early and enjoy a beer. And if the Badgers are losing late ... well, let's not go down that path. Just know that beer is always here for you.