Sunsets & Sap Beers: A Journey to Emancipation Brewing Firm






Sunset at Emancipation Brewing.

Century-old dairy barn now house to high-quality beer

Roughly 100 miles south of Chicago (effectively past our craft beer map boundaries), east of Pontiac, south of Dwight, even 8 miles exterior of Fairbury, automobiles are lined on a rustic street and households are headed to a barn on a sprawling farm. There’s little doubt that your GPS has taken you to Emancipation Brewing as a result of, effectively … there’s actually nothing else round.

The century-old barn, which sat empty for a decade, was final house to dairy cattle. The milking room is now crammed with a 2-barrel brewing system. The grazing space of the barn – fittingly – is now a taproom. And on a current Friday night time, it was packed. Regulars swapping tales on the bar, {couples} taking part in board video games on the tables, children tossing a soccer round hop bines within the again and oldsters having fun with wood-fired pizza with beers which can be actually rooted within the fields round them.

It’s been 4 years since head brewer Lincoln Slagel and his dad and mom, Don and Susan, opened the brewery on their household farm, nevertheless it took a novel launch to get our consideration.

“There was no water used to make this beer,” they declared on social media.

Brown’s Maple Ale is manufactured from tree sap from a neighboring farm and pictures from the brewing course of function a reminder that recent maple sap is skinny and clear, not the thick and darkish liquid we placed on pancakes. Likewise, the beer wasn’t as candy or thick as you may anticipate, however as an alternative was a well-balanced 7.5% brown ale with maple taste that’s not overpowering. It’s a part of their small-batch experimental Authentic Ideas collection.

Whereas it takes as a lot as 45 gallons of sap to make one gallon of syrup, Slagel mentioned it’s solely about 2% sugar earlier than boiling. Altering the PH was key, however in any other case “it was remarkably much like brewing with our regular water from a course of standpoint.”

“Had I brewed a normal brown ale, it might have been too candy with even a small syrup addition,” he added. “However the sap actually made the distinction. It added a depth that was by no means current, and allowed a smaller syrup addition than anticipated, which was nice. I’m extraordinarily pleased with it, and it’ll actually be a convention.”

Bottles of beer and a pour of brown ale from Emancipation Brewing.

As we sampled different choices, we discovered Slagel not solely retains his beers true to his farming roots, however true to fashion, as effectively – a cream ale, golden ale, hefeweizen, hazy IPA and session IPA had been all dialed in. And aside from that brown ale, all of them start with water from a 550-foot effectively on the property.

Then there’s their standard “Kolsch Evening within the Boonies” service (subsequent one happening on Might 17), which has change into so effectively attended that reservations are required. It’s change into certainly one of Slagel’s favourite occasions as a result of “it accomplishes certainly one of my favourite issues about beer – bringing folks collectively and creating reminiscences.”

“I feel the way forward for craft beer is exclusive, high-quality experiences, and getting again to our business roots – differentiating ourselves based mostly on high quality, each within the beer we brew and of the experiences we give our clients,” he mentioned. “That doesn’t imply we will’t comply with traits or make loopy beers, it simply means doing every thing in a high-quality and considerate method. To me, doing a Kolsch service allowed us to not solely brew a scrumptious beer, however to supply a complete expertise round that beer that can educate our clients, depart a long-lasting impression, and most significantly, give them a incredible time.”

That focus to element jumped out throughout our go to – employees usually are not simply welcoming, however educated. Not nearly beer, however in regards to the brewery, the farm and the household behind it. They’ll let you know how the Slagels are a household of entrepreneurs (yep, his cousins personal Slagel Household Meats) and the way an amber from a homebrew package began this entire factor seven years in the past.

Pouring beers at Emancipation Brewing.

A enterprise administration and finance main at North Central School, Slagel opted to do a senior mission on beginning a brewery, having been impressed by a roommate who was a member of a month-to-month beer membership. Earlier than lengthy, he was touring together with his spouse to Germany to be taught extra and analysis recipes, even later studying that his great-grandfather was a hop farmer within the Willamette Valley of Oregon. Once they opened Emancipation Brewing, a relative dug up the long-forgotten signal from that household farm – “Hop Pickers Needed” – and it now hangs above the bar.

“Rising up right here, I didn’t see the fantastic thing about it
[but] I began noticing the sunsets…”

Lincoln Slagel

Slagel, 28, lives in Plainfield and together with his spouse, Kim, who additionally works full-time on the brewery, makes the roughly 140-mile round-trip commute to the brewery.

“We got here into this with the intention to supply all kinds of kinds, from basic European kinds to trendy American traits, however that’s not distinctive,” he mentioned. “What we really feel is exclusive is how we current them. You received’t discover any snobby undertones of IPA supremacy; you received’t be made to really feel unhealthy should you don’t like imperial stouts or pastry sours. We don’t do ‘token’ beers in the best way that some breweries which can be centered on fashionable kinds do after they’ll have ten IPAs and a token lager.

“We really feel that every fashion is as vital as the subsequent, even when it’s an ‘uncool’ fashion that doesn’t promote effectively. It’s nonetheless going to be somebody’s favourite beer, and we received’t promote it quick. Our aim is to not have our clients ingesting IPAs and stouts, it’s to have them ingesting their favourite beers, no matter they could be. We don’t need to be gatekeepers; we simply need to brew the perfect beers we will and current them on their very own deserves.”

"Hop Pickers Wanted" sign at Emancipation Brewing.

They’ve grown sufficient that they’re now contract brewing some canned choices at Destihl, which has allowed them to self-distribute at choose downstate shops, bars and eating places, but additionally at locations like Bottle Idea in Elmhurst, Orange & Brew in Downers Grove and Flight Tasting Room and Bottle Store in Yorkville.

But the Slagels stay true to these rural roots – rising Emancipation Brewing thoughtfully and strategically whereas remaining grounded at house as an alternative of a extra populated space. “We see its distant location as a function, not a bug. It’s an exquisite vacation spot, and whereas lack of inhabitants density may cause issues, particularly with unhealthy climate for instance, it’s price the advantages of providing a retreat to folks, a spot they will go that’s off the crushed path,” he mentioned.

“Rising up right here, I didn’t see the fantastic thing about it. However once we began looking for a location, it quickly turned apparent that the household farm was the best spot. it not as a place of job, however a spot folks would spend time with household and mates made me see it in an entire new gentle. I began noticing the sunsets, which have change into a signature facet of our outside space, in addition to the attractive rolling hills, distant tree traces, and even the adjoining corn & bean fields, which lend one thing to the expertise.”

Extra From Guys Consuming Beer

Concerning the Writer


The talents Steve honed in his 20 years digging up corruption and cornering politicians as a newspaper reporter in northwest Indiana and Chicago at the moment are getting used to trace down and evaluate high quality craft beer solely accessible within the Hoosier state.

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