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Curbside, grocery, and patios: There’s no shortage of beer in C-U

When the stay-at-home order hit, like many other service industry businesses, the local brewery scene had to make massive changes to the way they do things. Fortunately for Champaign-Urbana, our favorite places to grab a local beer quickly adapted to the changing times. My house has been able to stay well-stocked, and like many, we’re able to support local and ensure that our favorite breweries stay open in the coming months. 

Two cans of beer from Triptych brewery are on a table. Photo by Jordan Goebig.

Photo by Jordan Goebig.

Triptych Brewing 

A staple in the community since they opened their doors, Triptych Brewing has a special place in my heart for all the Lord of the Rings references in their beer names. Known primarily for serving up a wide selection of IPAs like crowd favorite Dank Meme, their other beer is nothing to sneeze at with sessionable drinkers like No Big Deal (simply noted as their ‘beer flavored beer’) and the noteworthy English brown ale Dirty Hippy.

We found out during a failed growler filling attempt just before the shelter in place took effect that they stopped filling growlers late last year. Luckily, there is no shortage of standard canned beers, crowlers (32 ounce cans filled to order and capped on site), and sixtels (essentially a small keg with 40 pints in it) available for curbside pickup that you can enjoy at home. Ordering on their website is not intuitive as some of the other breweries on this list (several beers are listed as ‘sold out’ while others have a ‘only a few left!’ label), but you can find their standard brews pretty much anywhere that sells beer here in Champaign-Urbana

There’s no word on when their patio seating will open up according to their recent social media posts, but it sounds like it will be soon. Once they do open their outdoor seating you’ll likely want to get there early because with shaded seating on the north and east sides of their building and ice cold beers Triptych will be a popular place to beat the heat on those warm summer evenings this year.

Triptych Brewing
1703 Woodfield Dr
M-Sa noon to 6 p.m.

Two unmarked glass bottles of beer, one with a green paper wrapped toilet paper roll sit on a dark wood table. Photo by Jordan Goebig.

Photo by Jordan Goebig.

25 O’Clock Brewing Company

Located next to the Boneyard Creek near Downtown Urbana, this eclectic, community-focused brewery hasn’t slowed down their beer sales since the pandemic.

Though you can’t plunk down and chit-chat with the friendly bar staff in person, 25 O’Clock is offering daily curbside pick-up for bottles and growler refills from 2 p.m. to 8 p.m. on the weekends and by appointment. If you’ve lost your human interaction skills from months indoors, you can conveniently order ahead on BierMi. It’s a simple and smooth ordering process. They had our order ready to go when we arrive on Sunday afternoon, and even included a roll of toilet paper.

Though I’m a big fan of going straight to the source, several stores in the area including Common Ground, Binny’s, Friar Tuck, and Harvest Market also offer a limited selection of 25 O’Clock bottles. Like all local breweries, their selection can regularly change, but they’ve got a killer line-up right now that fits this warm weather.

The Exotic Pink Tuxedo is a dangerously light Berliner Weisse brewed with hibiscus. It has a beautiful, rich color and a subtle tart flavor. Their farmhouse ale, C & C, is made with chamomile and cubeb pepper, is a tasty and unique profile for this traditional beer.

25 O’Clock Brewing Company
208 W. Griggs St
F 5 p.m. to 8 p.m.
Sa + Su 2 p.m. to 8 p.m.

A tall glass bottle and a shorter growler sit on a table from Big Thorn Farm. Photo by Jordan Goebig.Photo by Jordan Goebig.

Big Thorn Farm and Brewery 

A little off the beaten path, but well worth the visit, Big Thorn Farm and Brewery has had an evolution of offerings since “shelter-in-place” took effect. With a mission rooted in sustainability and local, I keep tabs on their latest seasonal releases as many of their drinks are brewed with their own farm-grown ingredients or through community partnerships.

Big Thorn beer is currently available to purchase, in bottles, at a variety of locations. Check out this section of their website to find it. However, if you’re in desperate need of a social distance appropriate outing, this is your spot. Big Thorn has the Treehouse, an outdoor bar, though with limited seating, as well as a sprawling lawn with tables and chairs (and it’s OK to bring your own). It’s a space made for large events, and in these circumstances, keeping everyone at least six ft. apart. Big Thorn is currently open to the public Thursday – Sunday. If you’re wary about staying outside for too long, they also offer growler refills.

My heart belongs to Big Thorn’s Cherry Wood Wheat, but they’re featuring a few new drinks that might just get me out of the house. Their Spiced Saison, brewed with farm-grown citrus southernwood and apple mint, and the Strawberry Cinnamon Cream ale, made with homemade cinnamon extract (what!) and strawberry puree. Perfect for cooling us all down in this early summer heat.

If getting outside is not an option for you, Big Thorn is offering e-gift cards. The perfect way to keep yourself safe and still support local.

Big Thorn Farm and Brewery
14274 East 600 North Road
Th + F 3 p.m. to 9 p.m.
Sa noon to 9 p.m.
Su noon to 8 p.m.

A six pack of Bling Pig's raspberry wheat ale sits on a counter. Photo by Jordan Goebig.

Photo by Jordan Goebig.

Blind Pig Brewery 

The Blind Pig Brewery didn’t let a national quarantine squash their creativity. The brewpub was quick to ensure that Champaign-Urbana would not go the way of the prehistoric, with free, local beer deliveries courtesy of “Del the Dinosaur.” Though the transition to Phase 3 has ended free delivery, individuals can still purchase to-go bottles, howlers, and kegs online and directly from the brew location on Neil Street. In addition to direct sales, Blind Pig beer can be found at a variety of local grocery and liquor stores.

One of my favorite parts of Downtown Champaign is Bling Pig’s extensive outdoor patio, and it’s going to be put back into action now that folks are allowed to drink and dine outside. They opened their beloved patio on May 29th from 1 p.m. to 10 p.m. on the weekends — with plans to open during the week soon. Very aware of health and safety, the brewery has a list of rules you should follow: always wear a mask, groups limited to six per table, and one person ordering from the bar at a time. You can find all the details on their re-opening on their Facebook page. To welcome us back, Blind Pig is currently highlighting a new, yummy drink called “Mai Tai Offer You a Beverage?” a slushy-style Berliner weisse made with pineapple, passion fruit, and guava. I’m personally looking forward to gathering my Mug Club together to sample this new drink and sip on some of my old favorites like the Raspberry Wheat or the U of IPA.

The Bling Pig has been great about keeping the community up-to-date on their latest news and information. They’ve even started a newsletter to keep you even more in the loop, for the superfans.

Blind Pig Brewery
120 N Neil Street
1 p.m. to 10 p.m., daily

Two cans of Riggs Heffeweissen beer. Photo by Jordan Goebig.

Photo by Jordan Goebig.

Riggs Beer Company

We used to order a growler or two from Riggs Beer Company regularly when headed to family events. From stalwart favorites like the American Lager and Hefeweizen to seasonal brews like the Black IPL and Schwarzbier, they have a beer for pretty much everyone. Luckily, with their curbside growler refills we’ve been able to keep up that tradition over the past couple months, even if our family events are hosted on Zoom (and we don’t have to share the beer with anyone).

Ordering a growler or growler refill for curbside pickup is quick and easy, simply visit their website set up for online ordering, choose between a new growler fill or a refill, swing on by the brewery, and give them a call when you arrive. If you’re getting a refill they’ll ask you to leave your empty growlers on a pair of folding tables out front. There are instructions on their site when you’re ordering and written out largely on their front door to make it as painless as possible.

Riggs recently announced on social media that they are opening their beer garden again. There is a list of rules (and accompanying video) regarding this over on their Facebook page, but it appears as though it will be business as usual, just with face masks and some social distancing — which, let’s be honest, we’re all far too used to at this time. Their large, inviting, dog-friendly outside space is easily the best part of Riggs besides their beer, so you will likely see me and my border collie out there in the coming weeks enjoying some cold water (for her) and a tall Weizenbock (for me). Oh, and I might bring my husband along too.

Riggs Beer Company
1901 S High Cross Road
T-F 3 p.m. to 10 p.m.
Sa noon to 10 p.m.
Su noon to 8 p.m.

Top image by Jordan Goebig.

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