Editor’s Note: This article was researched and written before the COVID-19 pandemic. The patio is open at White Oak Brewing, but indoor seating is not available at this time.
As a former Bloomington-Normalite, I remember the buzz around the opening of White Oak Brewing. White Oak jumped all-in on the surrounding community, not only crafting delicious concoctions but also establishing themselves as a company that wants to be here.
When White Oak first opened in a warehouse district off of White Oak Road in Normal, it was a small operation. It was just a little tap room with friendly staff; it almost felt like a place to get growler fills until the weather warmed up and you could sit on their outside patio. As Champaign residents, my husband and I were excited to make the drive to Normal to re-discover White Oak.
White Oak is still in its original operation, but what once was a bare building now boasts a large outdoor seating area and plenty of distinguishable signage. There’s a small parking lot directly next to the building, and there is ample, free street parking. We arrived at 1:30 p.m. on a Saturday, just after opening, and there was a solid showing of patrons already. We were pleasantly shocked by the transformation since our last visit.
An entire wall had been taken down, now doubling the space of the bar area. When we lived in Normal, the limited seating kept us from visiting. The additional seating is a game changer. The brew tender was quick to check in with us, asked about preferences, and helped us craft two flights. We grabbed a couple of board games and our beer. We had no problem getting a table.
Adam, the more adventurous drinker, went winter seasonal with darker ales. I created a flight of what I deemed to be lighter options so that we would have a well-rounded sampling.
We started with the #CharmingAF (5.0% ABV), a White Oak classic. This cream ale is fizzy, nutty, and bright. A wonderful afternoon beer to get you started. We took a sharp turn into the IPAs with Follow Me to Hoppiness (7.0% ABV) labeled an “old skool” IPA that demands you taste the hops. This beer was crafted for the India Pale Ale super-fans. It’s a sharp flavor, but it mellows quickly. The Flatlander Pale Ale (5.5% ABV) is a milder version of Follow Me. Personally, Adam and I are not IPA folks, but, wow, does White Oak know how to brew. I have to give them credit because the flavors are spot on, and the beer is smooth.
We ended our light flight with Pression (5.5% ABV), a sour saison created in a collaboration with White Rooster Brewing out of Sparta, Illinois. It’s got a strong beer-mosa vibe with tart lemon and lime notes. If you’re ready for spring or need something to complement brunch, order this.
For round two, we switched to the dark side. Me Llama Llama (4.0%) is their English Mild commonly found on draft around the state. It has coffee and vanilla undertones with caramel and roasted malt flavors.
The Brass Rail (5.5% ABV) was a surprise for us. We’re a “Red Ale” family, and this one was worth grabbing a to-go crowler, or a can-growler. It has the traditional color and flavor of an amber ale with forward caramel and malt character.
The White Oak Winter (9.5% ABV) is the opposite of the Pression. Sip the White Oak Winter on a overcast day. This strong beer has a straightforward wheat flavor. The Two Thousand Nineteen (10.0% ABV) is a boozy, dark barrel-aged porter. It tastes like a porter, but it goes down like a bourbon, so enjoy it with a friend if you happen to be driving.
White Oak does not serve food, but they regularly have food trucks at their location, and they allow outside food. We brought snacks along. The beer averaged $5 for a pint. Higher ABV drinks were $5 for a 12 ounce pour, and flights were $2 – $5 per 5 ounce tasting. You can purchase select cans and bottles from their Crayon series.
Dogs are not allowed inside of the brewery, but we have brought ours to hang out on the patio in the past without any issues. The interior has an industrial-country vibe. True to their namesake, there’s a lot of exposed wood and wooden accents throughout. It’s a beautiful aesthetic — one that is worth checking out.
White Oak Brewing
1801 Industrial Park Drive
W-Th 3 p.m. to 7 p.m.
F 3 to 9 p.m.
Sat 1 to 7 p.m.
Su 3 to 7 p.m.