Plank Road Tap Room
If you love great craft beer, a chill atmosphere, and a little sarcasm, Plank Road Tap Room will quickly become your local hangout.
A little over a year ago, Ryan and I were chatting with a bartender at Cademon Brewing Company in Genoa and began talking about other great beer spots in the area. The bartender asked where we lived, and told us we needed to visit Plank Road Tap Room in Elgin. We hadn’t heard of it, so we agreed we should try it out the next week. Fast forward to our first visit, and we were almost pissed that we didn’t know about this cool place sooner! It wasn’t long before we had racked up several visits.
Before I get into the juicy beer details, let me tell you a little bit about my recent sit-down with owner Alan Moreno:
I dropped in on a Friday around noon (it’s never too early for a beer, right?) and took a look at the day’s beer list. The list is displayed on a roll of butcher paper near the bar, which Alan told me was inspired by a butcher shop they visited in St. Louis. It’s a pretty convenient way to list their beers, too, as Alan is constantly updating it with new beers that he brings in. I scanned the list and decided on the Tropical Pale Ale from Boulevard Brewing Company. So good!
I was the first customer of the day, so it gave us an opportunity to chat about how Plank Road Tap Room came to be. Alan explained that the idea happened about 3 years ago when he and his wife, Breanne, were out in Colorado. They hit up about 15 breweries in one week, which Alan admits is a “pretty good pace” (jealous!). They loved craft beer, but didn’t want to brew it themselves because it just wasn’t their vibe. About halfway through the week, it sunk into both of them that a tap room was the way to go. Once they got back from their trip, they started to do more research on how to get their idea up and running. Like true entrepreneurs, Alan and Breanne started out with zero experience, but attribute their success to meeting a lot of good, influential people early on in the process and learning from them along the way.
The location they chose has a lot of meaning to them. The building and property that Plank Road Tap Room calls home has actually been in Breanne’s family for over 100 years, serving as a local general store back in the day. It had been sitting empty for about 5 years prior to them taking it over, so there was a lot of work to be done to create the space you now see. The outside of the building was patched up quickly with a few new logs and some stain, but the interior was a total gut job. They designed the interior themselves; taking vibes and elements from some of the breweries they visited out in Colorado. They used lighter colored walls, medium- to-dark wood tones, and warm lighting to create what people would describe as a “gathering place” – not a place you go to get ripped. After about a year and a half, they were ready to open.
Alan didn’t really tell anyone they were starting a business – not even his close buddies. He didn’t want the initial wave of “pity attendance” with people giving him fluff about how cool it was. Instead, they chose a completely organic route of simply inviting the public to share a nice cold beer with them via social media. Alan simply tweeted out “Where is everybody? We’ve been open for 20 minutes!” just after noon on their first day open (a Monday) and by 2pm Plank Road Tap Room was full. The local community was obviously ready for a place like this, because business has only grown since.
If you’re a first time visitor, here’s what to expect:
Plank Road Tap Room is nestled on none other than Plank Road on the western edge of Elgin. The exterior of the building has a log-cabin feel, with casual outdoor seating on both the front porch and a separate patio area. Once inside, you have the option of sitting at one of the stools lining the welcoming bar, or at one of several large industrial –looking picnic tables in the open room. Take a look at the beer list posted on the butcher paper near the front door and order your first of probably several beers they have on tap. The first on the list is usually a yellow, fizzy lager (which can serve as a bailout for you if you’re just getting into craft beer), with the second usually being a darker lager. The rest of the list moves down through a variety of tastes, with the bottom of the list featuring beers you might have to be a bit more open minded about. They also have canned beer options available, but don’t ask for a vodka tonic or red wine. Alan says they will never serve anything other than the best craft beers – they don’t even have soda.
If you’re curious about the glasses lined up on the shelves on the left side of the bar, just know they aren’t for sale. These platinum-rimmed 20oz abbey goblets belong to Plank Road Tap Room’s Worst Kept Secret Society Members. Each glass has 10oz and 16oz pour lines and is engraved with each member’s unique number. If you every get a chance to join this exclusive club (only 40 people do), you’ll get access to private events, dinners, and first pours of newly-tapped beers. Why isn’t the club open to more people? Alan explained that he didn’t want to do a large-scale “mug club” because he didn’t want to look at 400 sad mugs that no one uses. We joked that this would only end up with him drinking out of them at 3am because they looked lonely, thinking “I remember how great Marcie was…” **drinks and moves to the next one**.
You can bring your own food to munch on while you drink, or you can visit on the weekends when various food trucks are onsite. Alan and Breanne knew they wanted to feature local food vendors as this was also a highlight of their Colorado trip a few years back. Ryan and I have eaten food from Mario's Cart before during one of our visits, and Alan says Toasty Cheese is another customer favorite.
You can stay in touch with Plank Road Tap Room via their website, Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. Alan is in charge of the Twitter and Instagram feeds, so you might notice the playful, snarky feel on those pages. He has a blast bantering back and forth with his favorite breweries on social media – an example of the great relationships he’s established thus far. These outlets are also a great way to stay abreast of the events that Plank Road Tap Room holds. They are on pace for over 60 brewery events in 2016, and private events area always an option if you have a birthday or anniversary coming up. Be sure to visit my events page, also, for some of the events they keep me updated with!
I plan on taking some of my work there on occasion, so if you see me with a cold beer and my laptop, come say hi! Stay tuned for plans on their growth – you never know what might be coming…
39W149 Plank Road, Elgin, IL
Monday – Thursday: 2PM – 10PM
Friday + Saturday: 12PM – 12AM
Sunday: 12PM – 8PM