Breweries have increasing presence in C-U

Michael Miller, Triptych brewery’s sales representative pours a taster glass of their special Pygmalion Pilsner created for the Pygmalion Festival in Champaign-Urbana that happened last month.

By Susan Szuch

Sipyard is an open-air beer garden located in the space called AirUrbana between Flying Machine Coffee, at 208 W. Main StreetJT and [co][lab], at 206 W. Main StreetJT. Red shipping containers dominate the area, one of which will be used as a concession area to serve beer, while the others are still available for other retailers to use.

Carl Catedral, one of the owners of SipyardJT, was inspired to start the project to provide more spaces for people to gather in Urbana. He hopes the project will provide the community with an environment where people can “have fun and create positive memories of living in our Midwest community.”

“(We want to) bring interesting places to the community,” Catedral said. “Downtown Urbana can be a place that has an urban feel — not that we’re trying to urbanize in a specific way — but inspire people to see it in a different way and feel excited about what’s happening here and participate in it. Through that, I hope we can inspire them to do things, also.”

Another one of the ways Sipyard hopes to contribute to the community is by serving local beers.

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    “I think, in general, we’re passionate about keeping things local. As business owners, we’re supporting other local business owners. Even if you’re paying a little bit more for stuff, that money is staying in the town,” Catedral said. “If money is staying in the community, in the town, that money is helping infrastructure grow.”

    Catedral added that they want to be a part of that local support through their beer.

    Sipyard is not the only place that contributes to the community through their plan to serve local beer. Bars like Black Dog Smoke & Ale House and The Canopy Club serve beer made by Savoy-based brewpub, (a combination of a brewery and a bar) TriptychJT. Triptych is currently undergoing construction to put in an automated canning line so they can increase production and expand where they provide their beers.

    The almost three-year-old brewpub offers anywhere from 10 to 12 different types of beers on average. Owner Anthony BenjaminJT said that in the time they’ve been open, they’ve brewed around 200 different beers.

    “A lot of times, if you blink, you’ll miss two or three beers down here. Every week, two or three new beers come on draft,” Benjamin said. “If a beer is really popular, which we measure by sales and customer feedback, we’ll put it back on again.”

    Much of the inspiration for the beers Triptych brews comes from the seasons and weather, as well as different ingredients that they come across.

    “Sometimes it’s just random ingredients get dropped on our laps, we had peaches get dropped off here from Prairie Fruit Farms, which is a goat farm in Urbana. We’re making a special beer with those soon,” Benjamin said. “Sometimes it’s apple cider from Curtis Orchard. It really depends on what we might find, or what somebody brings to us or suggests.”

    The Blind Pig is another brewpub currently looking to expand its reach. Started by owner Chris Knight in 1990JT, as a bar in the space where Cowboy Monkey currently occupies, The Blind Pig has expanded to three locations since then. The main location, The Blind Pig Co. on Walnut Street, as well as the brewpub on Neil Street and the expansion of the brewpub.

    Knight has been working for the last 15 years to add a brewery to The Blind Pig’s lineup.

    An adjunct professor in chemistry who came to the University to do post-doc work, Knight saw an opportunity when he first came to Champaign to educate people on beer, something he did by serving beers like Guinness and Bass on draft when the norm had been mainly domestic beers like Budweiser or Pabst Blue Ribbon. Eventually, as the demand for craft beer increased, Knight came up with the idea to start his own craft beer brewery in Champaign, especially given the fact that the community’s water comes from the Mahomet Aquifer, one of the purest sources of water in the United States.

    “So put together the fact that we have good water and that there’s a lot of people who like craft beer, and it should be obvious that you should start your own brewery,” Knight said. “And it’s been over 15 years that I’ve been trying to organize that.”

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