I had been an avid craft beer drinker throughout my 20s, but I stopped around a year ago. I think I enjoyed it because going to different bars and sampling whatever was on tap was as much a social activity as a foodie (drinkie?) experience. When the social aspect was taken away by the pandemic, I tried to keep it up on my own, but eventually the endless stream of gimmick beers and mediocre IPAs just lost its appeal.
So, my visits to Pour Bros. this past week marked my grand return to the world of beer. I had been on several occasions with my friend group because the premise of pouring the desired amount of each beer oneself appealed to our desire to drink on weeknights while also being Responsible Adults. Pour Bros. has expanded into Peoria and Moline, and they have a Bloomington location is in the works, stretching its claim to be a local establishment thin. It was worth a revisit to see what they’re up to.
Due to truly wonderful scheduling on my part that was not at all a mishap, my first visit occurred at 1 p.m. on a Sunday, where I found the premises completely deserted except for a group of four at the bar watching the Bears-Packers game. Even then, the room seemed noisy. As I think about it, my group always visited in the summer and sat outdoors, so I wonder if my memories would be as fond if I had visited on Saturday nights in the winter.
After getting my card, I went to look at the tap wall to weigh my options, and I was horrified to see that there were no local brews! I didn’t realize there was a second tap wall in the adjacent room with the local options until I was three beers in. Clearly, it had been longer than I thought since I had visited! Still, I was on a mission, so I picked the only Illinois beers brewed outside Chicago and got to drinking.
Note: The selection here constantly changes. What is there one day may very well be gone the next — as I learned the hard way when I tried to plan my selection in advance. For that reason, I have not included the pricing with each beer. Lower-end beers tend to run $5-6 per pint while the fancier brews can be almost $15 per pint. (One of the plastic cups they provide filled to the three-quarters point is about half a pint.) Keep an eye on costs and volumes — or a few “tastes” could easily turn into a $40 tab.
“Blue Hour” Vermont-style IPA by Phase Three Brewing (Lake Zurich, IL)
An IPA with added spruce sounded like the kind of gimmick that originally turned me off to craft beer, but I was won over after a single sip. I was expecting another bland, hop-centric IPA, but the spruce added a sweetness that was quite nice. It was full-bodied, and I was not overwhelmed by the carbonation. From some Googling, I learned that this style, the Vermont or New England IPA, is on the rise right now. If you’re looking for a soft introduction to the Cult of IPA, or if you’re tired of overpowering hops and bitterness in your beer, keep an eye out for this one or others like it.
“Gezelleron” maibock-dopplebock blend by Evil Horse Brewing Company (Crete, IL)
A “premium” brew blending two kinds of bock aged in bourbon barrels for two years. Because the sting and gag reflex accompanying bourbon makes everything taste better obviously. It did not disappoint in this regard because it tasted like Jack Daniels cut with malt-water. To its credit, though, it did have a lighter body, and it was easier to drink than I anticipated. It even surprised me with sour notes a few sips in.
“Orenda – Volume 2” Belgian quadrupel ale by Pollyanna Brewing and Distilling (Lemont, IL)
Another premium, this time aged in grape brandy barrels. And oh boy, did they deliver the grape! At first, I honestly couldn’t decide if it reminded me more of soured grape juice or cough medicine. But, as much as I hate to admit it, it grew on me. Belgian ales, especially the tripels and quadrupels, are usually not my favorite, but the grape flavors made this one more palatable.
As I mentioned above, it was after finishing the Orenda when I realized there was a second tap wall hosting the more local brews in the “game room” (pinball and skeeball, if I only I still carried quarters!). However, I was starting to feel the last two beers I had, both around 10%. It seemed wise to save the second wall for a different visit, so I returned on Wednesday night.
This time, the room with the bar was packed for music bingo (pretty much exactly what it sounds like). My suspicions about the noise level confirmed, I made for the game room to complete my mission. I spied three Triptychs, but the rest were ciders and seltzers from out of the area. Not wanting a repeat of my first visit, I decided to limit myself to two this time.
“O Christmas Meme, O Christmas Meme” IPA by Triptych Brewing (Savoy, IL)
Another IPA with added spruce, and just in time for Saturnalia! Sounds like the start of a tradition, Charlie Brown. As the tap made a point of advertising, this beer was hoppy, much more so than the Blue Hours I tried on Sunday. I think it was to the point of detracting from the spruce, but I do know that hoppy beers are Triptych’s thing. I did very much enjoy the frothy mouthfeel, however.
I also tried “Luke’s Still Here, Man,” a Scottish ale by Triptych Brewing (Savoy, IL), but I did not get a photo. It was a not-at-all-bad Scottish ale, in my very humble opinion. It was strong and malty, just as it should be. I don’t have much to say other than keep it up, Triptych.
In my two visits, I experienced a well-curated collection of beers to sample and an atmosphere conducive to a night out with friends if one doesn’t mind background noise. My only critique is the scope of their selection: paying more attention to in-town brewers would set them apart from the other bars in the local ecosystem who seem to go out of their way to carry beers from everywhere else in the country.
Pour Bros. Craft Taproom
40 E University Ave
T-Th 3 to 11 p.m.
F+Sa noon to 1 a.m.
Su noon to 10 p.m.