Constitution Trail Access? Check. Shelf of board games? Check. Bring-your-own-food or order local? Check. Full slate of locally-sourced craft beers? Check.
Keg Grove Brewing Company (KGBC), nestled in the heart of Bloomington-Normal, is an elevated neighborhood bar with two stories of seating and a small outdoor, dog-friendly seasonal patio.
My husband and I ventured over to Bloomington on a rainy day to get out of the house. We had a few must-stops on our list, and this brewery was at the top of it. We got in around noon and had no problem securing a table.
The bartender was friendly, and he was open to making recommendations and answered our questions with ease. Since they opened two years ago (when we were Normal residents, in a previous life), their beer selection has tripled. They had ten beers on tap, several options in cans, and guest drafts from other nearby breweries.
Based on the availability of other beer, their social media game, and their food options, this place exudes a “local first” vibe. Keg Grove does not have a kitchen, but you can purchase Ropp Farm products (cheese curds and a variety of meat sticks), or order Tony’s Taco delivery (menus on all of the tables), or visit one of the visiting food-trucks.
But before we could think about lunch, we needed a few drinks to get our brains going. We both opted to get the flight ($7), which includes four, four ounce pours – maximizing our taste test game. Since it’s solidly Fall (at least at the time we visited), we were hoping for more amber options, but the menu did have a variety of wheats, IPAs, and a stout.
The first theme of our flight was on the lighter side. Velvet Tracksuit (5.6% ABV) is a fruit-based beer. It hits you with black cherry when it touches your lips, and the wheat comes at the end. It wasn’t quite as good as their signature, Holey Jeans, a blueberry wheat, but it put up a stiff competition. Duke (6.2% ABV) is Keg Grove's cream ale, and was my personal favorite. The rich malt makes it a cozy choice for the season, but it’s light enough to be consumed year-round. Cornfuzed (American Ale, 6.6% ABV) is, as the name suggests, brewed using “an abundance of corn,” according to their menu. It’s a solid base beer, maybe not the most memorable, but with a steady grain flavor that goes down easily. Brothers Gotta Hug (6% ABV) is a traditional IPA with the addition of blood orange. You can smell the hops before you taste them, but the slight sweetness helps to balance out the bitter finish.
For our second flight, we kicked up the alcohol content and hops. Wrong End of the Telescope (6.4% ABV) is a Hefeweizen in the most traditional sense. It’s light, it’s crisp, it’s citrusy. If this is your style of beer, you won’t be disappointed. Any Direction You Choose (5.2% ABV) is brewed using locally-sourced hops. The hops in this one pack a punch, but it also brings some light citrus notes. Divergent Travels (8.6% ABV), an American Strong Ale, lives up to that name. The color and caramel flavors are bold, and its rich amber color delivers exactly what you want. The worst thing about this beer is not being able to have more if you’re focused on drinking responsibly. Late Night Golf Cart Ride (5.2% ABV), the only current stout option on the menu, is a coffee oatmeal stout. The coffee flavor will jolt you awake, but it’s a yummy stout, and perfect for keeping your energy up on a dark, wintery day.
Pints range from $5 to $6, and Keg Gove offers growlers, and an enticing Growler Club: $150 gets you 20 fills plus other brewery benefits. It’s a great location to cycle or walk to due to its trail access, but if you’re driving in, the parking lot can get cramped during peak hours as it shares it with several other local businesses. KGBC has a modern, industrial vibe, with plenty of seating for large groups. It’s the kind of place you can sit with friends, enjoy beers for a couple of hours, grab a taco, and play Scrabble.
Keg Grove Brewing Company
712 E Empire St.
M - T 3 to 7 p.m.
W - Th 3 to 9 p.m.
F 3 to 11 p.m.
Sa 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. + Sun noon to 8 p.m.
Photos by Jordan Goebig