When the weather warms up, one of the best things to do is jump in the car, roll the windows down and experience something new for the weekend. Here in ILLINOISouth, we have just the trip – and it involves some of the tastiest food and beer you’ll find.
The Southern Illinois Beer Trail is comprised of 18 local breweries, broken up into three different loops – north, middle, and south. Ten of those breweries fall within our territory – and each of them has their own unique twist on beer.
We’ll start with Excel Brewing in Breese, which is open for purchase and growler fills - but tours are currently on hold. Excel is a great mix of the latest brewing products and equipment, with an old school feel. Excel is one of the few independent family bottlers in the nation and is the only returnable bottling line remaining in Illinois. They’re famous for Ski, but their beer is just as good. With a lineup featuring everything from lagers to stouts and IPAs, it’s easy to leave Excel with more than one six-pack in tow.
A quick 28 miles west of Excel you’ll find Peel Brewing Company in O’Fallon. If you’re hungry, this is one of the best stops along the way to get food with your beer. Peel offers up everything from tacos and sandwiches for those in need of sustenance – but they’re best known for their wood fired pizza. Of course, beer is the other star of the show at Peel – and they have a lot of it. Their Blood Orange Wheat is a great summer beer, along with the Double Take Blonde; and if you’re feeling adventurous, Peel has a handful of Beer Cocktails to try.
Just in case you weren’t hungry at Peel, the last stop on the trail for Friday has some phenomenal fare as well. 4204 Main Street Brewing in Belleville has a vast array of options on their menu including steaks, pastas, flatbreads, and a unique Espresso Burger. For those ready to have another drink – 4204 is well known for their Pecan Brown as well as the Blueberry Blonde Juele.
If you're starting at Stumpy’s Sprits on a Saturday – we first recommend a quick trip to Café on the Abbey in Columbia for a latte and a plethora of breakfast food to get your day started off right. The tasting room at Stumpy’s opens at noon; and some of the spirits available to drink are a honey flavored whiskey, a lemon drop whiskey, pecan pie flavored whiskey, a traditional bourbon whiskey, and a very smooth vodka. It’s not hard to leave with a bottle of each!
Just a short six-mile drive northeast will take you to Millpond Brewing and Incubator in Millstadt. Millpond is the newest brewery on the Southern Illinois Beer Trail, having just opened in the summer of 2019. Millpond usually has around a dozen brews on tap, everything from stouts and ales, to a saison and pilsners are all professionally brewed by owner Bryan Schubert. The unique thing about Millpond though, is that they allow homebrewers to brew their recipes there and offer it for sale to the public.
A mere thirteen miles south from Millstadt lies Stubborn German Brewing Company in Waterloo. Here, it’s Oktoberfest all year long – as they always have their signature Oktoberfest brew “Stubbornfest” on tap no matter the month. There’s also a fantastic selection of light, dark, hoppy, wheat and fruit beers to sample. Flights are available, and if you’re really into Stubborn German’s brews – you can try all 16 for just $29. While there is no food available for purchase here, you can bring whatever food you’d like!
Speaking of food – the next stop on the trail has some phenomenal eats, and it’s only a block away from Stubborn German. Hopskeller Brewing Company has 17 different wood fired pizzas to choose from, or you can build your own. Not feeling pizza? You can also choose a unique hot dog or brat; some of which are garnished with offerings such as pineapple or chardonnay mustard. Obviously, a beverage is needed to pair with said food – and Hopskeller has something for just about anyone, from beer to cocktails and even sangria. The flagship beer at Hopskeller is the Raspberry Ale – which is a crowd favorite that isn’t too sweet. If you’d like to try more than one, there are flights available to purchase as well.
Fourteen miles southeast of Waterloo on Route 3, you’ll come upon Red Bud which is home to Lieferbrau Brewery. This is one of the more impressive venues on the route, as the building was built in 1888 and has since been beautifully restored and renovated. The outdoor beer garden at Lieferbrau is the perfect place to spend an hour sipping one of their 12 varieties of beer, including their Double Crop Cream Ale – a fan favorite. If you did not get food in Waterloo, there are several great eateries within walking distance of Lieferbrau – including The Burnt End, Sling N’ Scoops, Mi Casa Sub Shop, and Opera House Bistro.
The next to last stop on our Saturday adventure leads us to the White Rooster Farmhouse Brewery in Sparta. Enjoy one of several unique brews – some of which are collaborations with other breweries. One of their more unique offerings is a Belgian dark ale brewed with cinnamon and raisin bread!
Last but certainly not least, is a stop at St. Nicholas Brewing Company in Du Quoin. The building is a staple of the community, having been a hotel in town for 125 years. After being abandoned in 2005, it sat vacant for a few years before renovations began towards what is now St. Nicholas Brewing Company. If you’re feeling a little hungry, this is one of the better stops on the trail for in-house food, with some of the best BBQ nachos you’ll have. In terms of beer, St. Nicholas offers four flagship brews as well as nine other seasonal beers throughout the year. Small-batch beers are also an option, depending on availability.
There are eight other establishments on the trail that is out of ILLINOISouth's service area, but we definitely recommend them:
Old Bakery Beer Company in Alton
Old Herald Brewery and Distillery in Collinsville
Recess Brewing in Edwardsville
Route 51 Brewing in Elkville
The Hop Brewery in Christopher
Molly’s Pint Brewpub in Murphysboro
Big Muddy Brewery in Murphysboro
Apple Knocker Hard Cider in Cobden
Enjoy the Southern Illinois Beer Trail!