4:05 am Oct 25 - by Scott Bowdich
Destihl, a relatively new brewpub located on Neil Street in downtown Champaign, is a singular dining experience. Much like The Blind Pig, Destihl is a brewery; however, uniquely,
Destihl serves only beers brewed on-site, and after sampling a few, all on offer seem to be of the highest quality. The owners and managers of Destihl also pride themselves on cooking using
local ingredients whenever possible. Their fried cheese curd appetizer, for instance, is sourced from a local dairy farm which uses Destihl’s leftover brewing ingredients for cattle feed.
Based on a sample of one meal, the food at Destihl is excellent. The waitstaff was extremely helpful and friendly, and everything arrived at the table promptly, from drinks to dessert. Even the desserts reflect Destihl’s “gastrobrewpub” branding – one dessert in particular is based on a chocolate ice cream flavored with the pub’s own house-brewed stout.
Anyone can see Destihl’s commitment to brewing as soon as they walk through the door. Brian Durking, manager, gladly showed me an enclosed room containing a massive boiler and several large fermenters Destihl uses to create its unique brews. Preparing a beer for fermenting, Durking said, only takes a day. The ingredients are boiled into a wort (pronounced “wert”), strained, and have yeast added. The wort must then ferment for one to four weeks in one of the room’s steel fermenters before it can be prepared for serving; depending on the type of beer being brewed, the fermenters must often be temperature-controlled. Though the process sounds intimidating, it can be done at a small scale by any hobbyist at a low level of effort and cost.
Having only opened in April, the restaurant is already quite busy. While 11 beers are already on tap and more are fermenting all the time, the bar is also capable of serving up to 19 different beers on draft. 25 percent of the restaurant’s sales is already from beer. “Champaign’s a pretty big beer town,” Durkin said. Destihl’s other location, in Normal, Ilinois, does only a fraction of the sales of the Champaign branch.
Destihl is, at its root, a homebrewing and small business success story. The CEO, Matt Potts, started his professional life as a lawyer, and discovered a passion for homebrewing in his free time. In the early 90s, he began to capitalize his passion by opening his first pub in Elmwood, Illinois. He drafted the help of a friend, Fred Morrisette, to help create new brews. While Fred began by volunteering his time, he now splits his full-time brewmaster position between Destihl’s Champaign and Normal locations, and business shows no sign of slowing down.
Having only just opened, Destihl seems poised to provide wonderful beer, food and experiences for years to come.
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