Penrose Brewing puts Geneva on the map as a spot for some of the best craft beers in the 'burbs.
Summer is inarguably a little busy for everyone, so while Penrose Brewing is one of the places I was eager to feature first on my site, it took until Fall to find a mutually convenient time to meet up at their taproom for a chat. Day-of, I arrived with our empty growler in hand (Ryan wanted more beer) and sat down with Operations Manager Jeff Cagle.
I told Jeff a little about myself and my site, and described what I liked to share with my readers. Jeff explained that he has a background in photojournalism (which helps with marketing the Penrose brand) and appreciated the storytelling aspect I was going for. With a beer in hand, Jeff dove right in to how Penrose came to be.
Though they’ve officially been open since March 2014, Penrose Brewing has actually been in the works since August of 2010. Founder/Brewmaster Tom Korder and his business partner at the time spent the three and a half year gap researching, recipe testing, and working to understand the ins and outs of running a business. Tom, with his degree in mechanical engineering and meticulous training from Anheuser-Busch, was more than qualified to dive right in. But, it was important to give the vision a strong foundation.
After establishing their base plan and partnering with beer-loving investors, the Penrose team set out to find the perfect space. They looked at several spots in the Tri-City area, but it was the Stevens Street location that spoke to Tom the most. His engineering mind could easily see the linear layout of the potential brewing setup, and it fit the industrial vibe they wanted to keep.
There was some work to do, though. The building they were taking over was split into three separate spaces that desperately needed to be reworked. The front section (which is now the tap area you enjoy) was an old manufacturing company office, while the middle and back units (now the barrel room and brewing line) were partially vacant with random tools and toys. If you’ve been on their tour, you can probably tell how it was originally separated by the arrangement of the garage doors.
While Tom’s engineering skills were put to good use constructing the layout of their workspace, the team opted to work with a local designer for the look of the taproom. Jeff, who has been with the team since 2013, explained that they were going for a “rustic industrial” vibe with clean lines, metal, and warm wood tones that gave the space a Pacific Northwest kind of feel. Much of the lumber you see trimming the walls and bar are resourced from four Midwestern farms – including wood from Tom’s grandfather’s farm.
Additionally, the family-style tables and benches that fill the open floor space in the taproom are made with wood that came from none other than Pabst Brewery in Milwaukee. Jeff explained that while it turned out pretty cool, it wasn’t intentional. They didn’t know until delivery that the recycled wood was making its second brewery appearance. Funny how it ended up doing what it knows best!
You’ll also notice clean white subway tile, Edison bulbs, pipe shelving, and chalkboards decorating the space. The shelves are filled with Penrose gear for purchase along with stacks of board games you can play with your crew while you hang. Into shuffleboard? They have that, too.
Behind the taproom is their barrel cellar, which doubles as a perfect private event space for up to 50 people. The taproom is also available to rent, which holds an additional 100 people. Jeff tells me they’ve hosted it all – wedding receptions, brunches, business meetings, and even a first birthday party (I want to grow up in that family!). You can check out the events page on their site for more details.
If you’re interested in seeing the brewing space behind all this, I highly recommend taking their Ten Buck Tour ($10 gets you a 45 minute tour, a full pour, and a glass to take home). Ryan and I have been on their tour twice and it’s really cool to see behind the scenes!
They take a no-rush approach to brewing their beers - tasting them often throughout the process and letting the beer decide when it is ready. This method results in an outstanding rotating selection of Belgians, IPAs, Seasonals, Sours, and Stouts for you to choose from. Their barrel aged brews are also growing, and they actually have more oak capacity than stainless at this point! Since they are always trying something new, you’ll often have the opportunity to give your feedback on the latest release, which helps them gauge if they should do the same thing again on a larger scale.
Shockingly, there are a few people that come in and ask for a Bud Light, Jeff says. He explained that they seem a little concerned when the answer is no, but he says that it is an easy problem to tackle because they obviously already like SOME kind of beer! The Penrose team uses this as an opportunity to educate their guests about various beers and help them find a Penrose brew to suit their taste. One of their most popular brews is their Taproom IPA, and I also like their Devoir, P-2, and Session Sour.
So what happens when you get the munchies? Well, the team at Penrose Brewing has never run a restaurant, and they don’t want to pretend to be experts in food. Instead of offering their own culinary creations (which would probably have the faint taste of hops), they plan to stick to beer. However, they do let you bring in whatever food you want! Jeff says people opt to bring their own chips and dip, or a pizza to-go from nearby Gia Mia.
Penrose Brewing works closely with local restaurants in the area, featuring them during their Local Flavor Series during the summer and through beer dinner collaborations throughout the year. This winter, you’ll notice that Penrose Brewing will also be inviting local food trucks to their location for good eats. Many area restaurants return the support – Jeff says pretty much any place in Geneva that serves draft beer now has Penrose on tap. This makes it easy for Ryan and I to enjoy our favorite Penrose beers while we are out and about!
What’s next for Penrose Brewing? The obvious answer would be more beer (they are constantly trying new recipes!), but they also hope to open another taproom or two in the future. Yes, please!
For now, visit their current location at 509 Stevens St, Geneva and be sure to take some beer home with you! Growlers, bottles, and cans are available in their taproom, and you can arrange ahead of time to pick up a keg if it’s for private use. They only accept credit cards, though, so don’t bring cash. It’s a quicker form of payment in a busy setting and safer for them and their guests not to carry cash onsite.
I was careful to remember not to leave empty handed. On my way out I had my growler filled with their P-2 (a Belgian Pale Ale) and grabbed a six-pack of Session Sour. Sure made for a happy husband that night!
509 Stevens Street, Geneva, IL 60134
Monday - Thursday: 1PM - 9PM
Friday: 1PM - 10PM
Saturday: 11AM - 10PM
Sunday: 11AM - 6PM