Champaign-Urbana locals raised many pint-sized glasses to celebrate the community’s oldest brewery, The Blind Pig, at its annual “Toast of Champaign” event Saturday.
Several Central Illinois breweries were featured in the Blind Pig’s beer garden to celebrate this annual occasion. Sours and fun flavors paired well with the unseasonably hot weather. Toast-goers purchased a commemorative glass ($5) and tickets ($1 each) to try full pours of the breweries offerings. Most beer ranged from four to five tickets; it would have been nice to offer a smaller pour option to maximize your tickets and wallet.
Destihl Brewery was featured inside at the taps, along with the whole menu of Blind Pig offerings. Triptych Brewing provided a stout and their popular “A Wizard is Never Late,” but infused the India Pale Ale with jalapeño, bringing all of the flavor without the heat. Riggs Beer Company featured their staple drink, the Hefeweizen, and a personal holiday favorite of mine, the Oktoberfest. It’s smooth, with rich caramel flavors that practically beg Fall to finally get here.
J.T. Walker’s had their traditional Orange & Blue and key lime gose, which is almost comparable to a shandy — it’s summery, light, and easy to drink quickly when the sun is blazing. Big Thorn Brewery, out of Georgetown, brought along a chocolate milk stout and a lemon drop sour. I’m always excited to sample what this off-the-grid farm is showcasing at events like this because I know I’m going to try something new. The lemon drop sour delivered. Minus the sugary sweet punch the namesake candy delivers, it was lemon-sour strong, tart, and dry. The Blind Pig had a small tap set up outside featuring their dry cider and introduced a garden variety sour. Made from, you guessed it, seasonal garden ingredients, the first in this sour series is a lemon and rosemary beer that is herb-forward. With fall on everyone’s mind, Blind Pig is planning to launch a sage-infused one next.
The event started at noon, but was slow to pick up the pace until other downtown events wrapped up (coupled with the post-lunch crowd) started to mosey in and fill the wonderful outdoor seating space. Much like the normal ambiance of the Blind Pig, the event was Midwest chill. One of the visiting pourers provided music for the patio folks, while the inside tables were for those who wanted a cooler, quieter atmosphere. The bar staff was happy to provide tips and additional information about the featured craft brews. The event was both kid- and dog-friendly during the afternoon hours, giving families a fun reason to celebrate the weekend’s festivities.
While there were not any food trucks or vendors, there are plenty of walkable options to bring offer from the local restaurants (or pack it in yourself to save a few dollars). This was my first year attending the Toast, and I was unsure of what to expect. It’s almost an all-day event, which means that though hundreds of patrons walked through, it didn’t ever give off that “beer fest” vibe. The upside is that our little group never felt cramped, and we never had to wait. The downside is that we decided to pursue other Downtown Champaign options after a couple of hours to liven up our evening.
With only five years under its belt, the Toast feels like it’s still got some growth but is a welcome addition to the community.
Photos by Jordan Goebig