I was excited about my visit to Industry Brewing Company. Industry is a relatively new operation on the North side of Peoria. The owner, Travis Mohlenbrink, took advantage of the opportunity to buy what was previously Peoria Brewing Company and he put his own spin on it with a newly remodeled tap room and an outdoor seating area including fire pits where you can roast smores while enjoying a nice stout.
Prior to my visit, I scheduled some time with brew master Mike Anderson. Upon my arrival, I ordered the currently featured “Walkout” Hazy New England IPA (7.4% ABV and very good) and sat down for a chat. Mike is new to the Peoria area, and a welcomed addition. He brings self-reflective insight, tales of lessons learned, and a sense of humor. If you appreciate good beer and a good story, you should visit and say hi; Mike is awesome (and who doesn’t like being bothered at work).
Mike’s first experience working in the brewing industry came during college at Iowa state. However, he wasn’t there to brew; his job was to clean. He grew to love the process and culture of brewing and decided to immerse himself in it. “I really tried to learn from the previous guys I worked with, and as I learned from experience, I realized that quality ingredients make great beer.” Mike places importance on inspecting the raw ingredients before every new brew. Industry Brewing utilizes locally sourced ingredients as much as possible. Mike won’t use an ingredient that upon inspection isn’t the best. “Sight, smell, and taste will tell you if the ingredient is fresh and of good quality, it really makes a difference in the end product.” “It’s a little tougher obviously with the yeast, in this case you have to trust your suppliers.”
When enjoying a beer brewed by someone else, Mike isn’t quite as analytical. When he first started drinking microbrews, he placed a lot of focus on the details of a beer, “I tried to identify the specific tastes and smells of a beer.” He says, “Now, I believe that appreciating the moment holds importance. Absorbing the environment and enjoying yourself is arguably more important than the finite details of the beer. “I’ve had very few bad beers in my life and most brewers are doing a good job right now.” “My Perfect beer day would be an afternoon baseball game; a 1:20 start at Wrigley on a warm sunny day. However, any team, any stadium, and at any level is a great way to spend a day.”
Providing an environment for customers to enjoy their beer, goes beyond having a welcoming space. “Knowing our customers, what they like, and making sure they get the best versions of their favorite styles is a must; improving the job I do brewing them every time is a focus of mine. Additionally, improving the quality of our unique brews every cycle is important and people notice.” If he were to choose one beer to introduce to a new customer, it would be “No Call No Show”. It’s a New England APA, it is citrusy and grapefruit forward. It’s their best seller hands down, “people love it.”
Mike states that intuition and “gut feel” play a big role in his recipe design. He consistently makes changes to his brewing plan mid process. He starts by designing a base recipe; he then considers the details of how he wants it to look, smell, and taste. Then after a couple days he revisits it. For example, he’s currently designing a recipe now for an Amarillo wheat beer. It’s a 50/50 barley/wheat mash. “I know what I want it to look like in color and body, but I’m considering adjusting the mix. Specifically, how much barley should be roasted, and what type of roasting (Vienna, Munich) I should use. Often I go through a similar thought process through multiple revisions for every beer.”
We’ve all had a bad day at work, I asked Mike what his most disastrous brewing experience was. “When in Ames Iowa,” Mike offers, “I was filling a keg from a serving vessel. When done, instead of unscrewing the keg filling hose, I unscrewed the valve keeping the beer in the vessel. The valve came off and shot 10 barrels of beer at me!” the beer was lost. “Once the cooler had cleared a bit, I had to clean it all up. That happened in my first year in the business.” “That isn’t it, I’ve got another one,” Mike says. “I was driving a beer trailer that holds 50 kegs for Bent River Brewing to a festival; I didn’t attach the trailer correctly. I turned up a hill and the trailer disconnected from the van. It went straight down 38th street and Rock Island through 4 lanes of traffic. It was moving fast and crashed into a building pretty darn hard. Fortunately, no one got hurt, the trailer wasn’t too messed up, and the beer was safe. That was a rough day. I was running after it like “What am I going to do? It was terrible at the time, but I can look back on it now and laugh.”
Mike, being new to the Peoria brewing scene, has gained an immediate appreciation for it. There is an excitement and openness here about collaborating and sharing experience. “Burlington Iowa, where I had previously brewed, didn’t have much of a scene at the time, so there wasn’t anyone to collaborate with. The quad cities on the other hand, have a great brew scene but there is a lot of internal competitiveness among brewers. Peoria is supportive and open. Chicago is putting out some great beers. It’s hard not to be a bit intimidated by it.”
The beer horizon looks bright at Industry. Mike is excited about making a lot of small batch recipes. He plans to go experimental with some things and is looking forward to seeing how they turn out. He also intends to release some aged beers.
Owner, Travis Mohlenbrink, put his own flair on the taproom at Industry Brewing Company. The result is a modern yet rustic feel. The light fixtures add unique character and are designed by Travis. Industry brewing’s logo, designed by local artist Kaitlyn Mugg, is an impressive work of artistry and craftmanship over the taproom bar. Industry Brewing Company is a member of the Spice Hospitality Group, which is a portfolio of establishments completely local to Peoria. Spice Hospitality’s establishments are individual and unique spaces that place value on customer experience and providing quality locally sourced food. Industry Brewing Company establishes a quality local craft brewing operation to the equation.
Industry Brewing is located at 8012 N Hale Ave, Peoria, IL 61615. If you can’t make it to the tap room, you can find cans of Industry Brewing Company’s beers in central Illinois stores. It is also on tap at local restaurants. Distribution is through market place selections.
Only a short three-hour drive from Chicago, St. Louis, and Indianapolis, Peoria is a great option for a weekend get-away for beer lovers. Every brew pub in town is producing great beer and they complement each other well. I encourage you to spend a weekend there and visit all of them. You can read my impressions of the other Peoria area breweries here. John S Rhodell, Bearded Owl Brewing, Obed and Isaacs.