By Kim Jansen
News Report Staff
In fact, you would have to travel an hour away to find anything similar to what Aric Cornell, Colby Patterson and Chad Eirhart have brewing — and we literally mean brewing.
The three business partners are opening Effingham’s first brewery, Effing Brew Company, where brew masters Cornell and Eirhart will brew their own craft beers.
The microbrewery will also feature gourmet dining at a reasonable price, with the menu designed by Chef Mike Fuqua, of Teutopolis, who will feature signature dishes including burgers, shepherd’s pie and pot roast.
“It will be comfort food with a flair,” said General Manager Trevor Arsenault, who was hired by the trio to handle the day-to-day operations of the brewery.
The owners, along with the management team, are excited to introduce the Effingham area to craft beers and unique dishes.
“It will be a full experience. It is something you can’t get anywhere else in town,” said Arsenault. “We want to create a culture in Effingham that has not been here before.”
And, they believe their original brews, along with a variety of other crafts, are sure to lure in customers.
“I really like beer,” laughed Cornell when asked about being a brew master. “When I first started to tinker with the idea 10 years ago, you couldn’t get but maybe five different craft beers in town.”
But now, a variety of craft beers can be purchased in the Effingham area.
“Back then, you were lucky to find one craft beer in one liquor store, and now the shelves are full,” said Cornell, who added the lack of availability in Effingham inspired him to create his own brews. “I figured I would make my own, so that is what started it.”
Cornell and Eirhart enjoy the process of brewing beer, but not just because they like beer — because it is an art.
“I enjoy making something from scratch,” said Cornell. “It’s a creative outlet, and I love doing it.”
As far as the taste of their microbrews, Cornell and Eirhart are happy to report that they have received positive reviews and have even won nine awards in home brew competitions.
“They have loved it,” said Cornell. “Not everyone likes every single one, but everybody has found something that they like.”
As far as Cornell and Eirhart’s plans for opening day at the brewery, Cornell said they are starting with five of their own brews, then serving 19 craft beers from Illinois and other parts of the country.
The five original craft beers planned for the brewery’s opening are Rey Rye IPA, Belgian Dubbel, Coffee Stout, Belgian Golden and Red Rye.
Cornell added that eventually he would like at least 20 of their 24 taps to have their own brews, but that will take some time.
“I want to do something different every month of the year. I don’t know if that is going to be possible at this point. It will depend on how everything sells,” said Cornell.
Although Effing Brew Company has its microbrewery set up, Cornell and Eirhart will actually begin brewing off-site at Mainstreet Brewing Company in Belleville, due to the timing of receiving their federal, state and local licensing.
According to Patterson, the process to get the licenses needed to operate a microbrewery is extensive. As a result, they have contracted with Mainstreet Brewing Company, which will allow them to open their business in a timely manner and serve their own brews.
Patterson said he hopes the licensing will be complete in the next nine months. At that time, they will begin brewing at their business. He added that because of the way the licensing works, they will only be able to sell draft beer to be consumed at the brewery and will not be allowed to sell growlers until licensing is in place.
“With this option, we can be open and have our beer,” said Patterson.
Although craft beers have become very popular, the Effing Brew team recognizes that not everyone is familiar with craft beers and some may not even know where to start when it comes to selecting a beer.
But no need to worry because the staff at the brewery will be knowledgeable and eager to help customers through the process of selecting a beer they will enjoy.
For those who may not like craft beer, a variety of other drink options will be available, including domestic beers and signature drinks, which will be specifically designed and “like nothing else in town,” according to Patterson.
Although the business is just a few weeks away from opening, the three owners admit that it was a long road to get to opening day.
The business venture started in 2014, when Cornell and Patterson were guests at the same wedding and admittedly had a little too much to drink to talk too seriously about business.
But the following week, Cornell visited Patterson at Scrubby’s, which Patterson owns, to discuss if Cornell and Eirhart could start brewing at the local downtown bar.
Although Patterson liked the idea of having a craft brewery, he didn’t think it was a good fit for Scrubby’s, so he told Cornell that it just wasn’t going to work for him.
Butjust a few minutes after the meeting, Patterson said the hair on his arm was standing up, and he called Cornell to tell him that he was on board.
“I told him I was with him and asked if he was with me, and he said ‘yes,’” recalled Patterson. “I told him I would do everything in my power to make sure this becomes a reality. So from there, we took our time figuring out how we were going to do everything.”
Because of Patterson’s business background, he handled the recruitment of investors and the business plan for the brewery, while Cornell and Eirhart focused on the beer.
When looking at locations for the brewery, the trio considered a few locations and was about ready to lease another location, when they learned that 221 W. Jefferson would soon be up for lease, giving them an ideal location in Downtown Effingham.
“We were getting close to pulling the trigger on another spot, but then we heard this space was going to be available,” said Patterson. “It was a no brainer to pick this location, and it kind of fell in our lap.”
Cornell added the downtown area has become home to more restaurants, shops and community events, making it is the perfect place for their business.
“The downtown area has become a huge selling point for Effingham,” said Cornell, adding their location next to Village Wine Shop and the soon to open Gopher’s Grill will be a plus.
Over the summer, the building was leased for the project, and the trio has been busy getting ready for opening day.
Renovations have included setting up an area for the brewing equipment, but also creating a welcoming atmosphere for customers.
The main bar area features an open area where customers can drink and dine. Off to the side of the main dining area, the brewery is set up behind a glass wall where guests can view the equipment while enjoying a drink.
Another room in the bar will feature a more relaxed atmosphere, with features including comfortable couches, a cozy fireplace and a few tables.
“The back room is less bar-like setting for people who want something a little quieter,” said Cornell, who compares the area to a lounge or coffee-shop style setting.
Although an opening date has not been set at this point, the owners expect it will be in the next few weeks and said the announcement of the opening day will be shared in a variety of ways, including through social media like Facebook and Twitter.
Patterson said they are working hard to make sure everything is ready and staff is properly trained before the doors open to the public.
“We want to make sure we do this right,” said Patterson. “This is Effingham’s first brewery, and we have to do this right.”
When the doors do open, hours will be from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. seven days a week, and the dining and lounge areas will be open to all ages, although only those 21 and older will be allowed to sit at the bar.
To keep updated on the opening day, follow Effing Brew Company on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram. Also, information can be found online at www.effingbrewcompany.com.