Updated: Mar 5, 2019
After Thursday night's show in Indy I hit the road for Decatur, Illinois... the location for Friday's show at Door 4 Brewing Company. The city is almost right in the middle of Illinois, about halfway been St. Louis to the SW and Chicago to the NE. Everyone thinks of Chicago and its surrounding industry when thinking of Illinois, but Decatur is in an area much more like Iowa or Kansas.... very flat, and surrounded by hundreds of miles of farmland, and on a winter day like it was, very grey, barren, windy, and cold.
I'd never been to Decatur before, and learned some interesting history about the city in the hours prior to the gig. First, it was the location of Abe Lincoln's very first political speech. It was evidently completely impromptu, while Abe was either 19 or 21 years old (sources vary, as Abe was a nobody at the time so nobody was really paying much attention), and he gave his speech barefoot after coming in from working a nearby field to hear a local politician speak. Decatur was also the home of the Chicago Bears for a few years before they moved to Chicago (a more logical home, considering they were called the Chicago Bears....), and is also the location of what is supposedly the most haunted theater in the U.S. (the Lincoln Theater, which is no longer open, and was build on ancient burial ground).
Door 4 Brewing Company - Decatur, IL
Beers are available to-go via 4-pack 12 oz cans at the brewery. D4 Nitro is available in 12 oz cans through retailers regionally, and coming soon to larger retailers in the U.S..
The taproom is expansive and has a hip industrial feel, with some of the brewing gear actually located inside the taproom. The bar serves Door 4's own beers, some ciders, and a number of popular beers from other craft brewers. The brewery and taproom are on street level, and upstairs is a related business called Marquis Beverage, which specializes in fine teas and coffees. The association with the coffee business will come into play a little later....
I was rather thirsty after setting up my gear (seems like a trend lately), so I wanted to start with something particularly refreshing, and bar manager Mark directed me towards their haze, the Hazy Halas (6.3%). Appearance wise the pour was very true to the New England IPA/Haze family... a bright golden color that was in fact hazy. Flavor wise I found it to be bolder than most of the genre. In my experience many hazes seem a little fruity and somewhat light, but this one had a good IPA flavor that actually took me back a couple of years to a time when a good IPA was a well balanced blend of hoppy citrus forward overtones and hoppy pine flavors on the back, with just a touch of bitterness on the finish. This was a very nice beer that gave you a fairly bold IPA flavor, but with a smooth hazy texture. A very good beer.
Being that first one went down so quickly I decided to stay on the lighter side for my next beer, and moved to the D4 Lager (4.2%), which was a pale lager. I haven't been drinking many lagers lately (a lot of placed don't even seem to make them), so it was a nice change of pace, and exactly what you're looking for in a good lager... crisp, well carbonated, and with a bit more body and flavor than you get from the mass produced American lagers. The D4 Lager reminded me of a good Canadian or European lager, and I definitely could have had a few more, ideally in a big stein.
During my set my sipper of the night was the 2 Beans 1 Beer (5.8%) Coffee Stout. This is where things get interesting with Door 4 Brewing and Marquis Beverage upstairs. Door 4 makes several beers utilizing Marquis' locally roasted coffees, and Door 4 also cold brews some coffee for Marquis' ice coffee (and a hybrid product I'll talk about in a minute). The 2 Beans 1 Beer coffee stout was a rather different and interesting coffee brew. It poured black, with a dark tan head, and immediately hit you with a dark coffee aroma. What was interesting is that while so many coffee-infused beers carry with them a chocolate or sometimes caramel or toffee overtone, this beer didn't at all. What we had here was a good stout beer with a rich, black coffee flavor. No cream or sugars, just a bold coffee stout for people who like their coffee bold and black. It took me a sip or two to adjust to it, as I think I have become conditioned to just expect that chocolate or caramel aspect in there, but once I got used to the concept I rather enjoyed it.
Taking advantage of this brewery and coffee relationship, Door 4 and Marquis have also partnered on a product that, as someone who struggles to stay awake during frequent long boring drives, was of particular interest to me: an energy drink alternative called D4 Nitro. D4 Nitro is sold in 12 oz cans (I got a 4 pack), which is a high-octane coffee product with a nitrogen cartridge in the can, much like the canned and bottled Guinness Draught. Each 12 oz can is the caffeine equivalent to 4 cups of coffee, and like the coffee stout, it is served black... so what you have is a powerful energy drink that tastes like a rich black iced coffee, without all the sugar and toxic chemicals that you find in your convenience store energy drinks, and without the sugary milk that Starbucks sells in those little bottles. I'm told the product is doing great in several states via their self-distribution, and they are in the process working on wider distribution via some large retailers... so keep an eye out for it, and if you sometimes need that burst of energy but don't want all the sugars or don't like energy drinks, this is a pretty interesting alternative.
At the end of the night I had one more beer, this time the Fog (4.6%), which was another New England IPA. Perhaps even hazier than the haze I started with (which I guess is why they call it the Fog), this NE IPA was similarly citrusy up front, but perhaps a little lighter on the overall hoppiness, and I don't recall any bitter remnants on the finish. I obviously had a rather different brew in between, but if I had drank the Hazy and this one side by side I would say the Fog was perhaps just a little lighter in body. Both were crisp and refreshing and probably pretty good choices for a six pack or so.
Thanks to the help of the D4 Nitro I drove about halfway to my next stop, Fort Wayne, Indiana after the show. When I finally decided to stop it was more from physical fatigue... my mind was still ready to roll, which is a testament to how well the D4 Nitro worked. I watched a little HBO and slept in Saturday morning, then hit the road the road to Fort Wayne...
Dennis O'Hagan's Great Brewery Tour is a completely grass-roots operation. Please show your support by subscribing to the page for periodic updates, and visiting our shop for tour merchandise and music.