Sycamore brewery opens downtown


Head brewer John Sanderson shows some of the various instruments used to create microbrew craft beers.

By Jessie Kern

DeKALB — A Sycamore business has relocated to downtown DeKalb after transitioning from a brew pub to a microbrewery.

Forge Brew House, 216 N. 6 St., had a soft opening March 17 and grand opening March 24. The Sycamore location, previously on Airport Road, opened in June 2015.

The Forge of Sycamore, 327 W. State St., is a pizza place and pub, serving Forge craft beer not brewed on site.

Owner S.D. Heinrich said they were looking for a location with more space for opportunities to expand the business. He said the DeKalb location is industrial enough for the production side of the beer industry and the build out was relatively simple to modify the space.

“I’ve been out this way since 1981, so Sycamore or DeKalb, it wasn’t a big issue to be in either one,” Heinrich said. “Sycamore is our physical address but it’s pretty much one town.”

Heinrich said when they first looked at the DeKalb location, they planned to focus on production and didn’t intend to include a taproom, but including a taproom helps people to understand what Forge Brew House is.

“Anywhere you go new it requires getting people to know what you’re about,” Heinrich said.

Heinrich said they have around three years experience and are kind of a continuation of what they were in Sycamore. He said in the past month they have started self-distribution, predominantly selling to bars and having three verbal commitments.

Head Brewer John Sanderson said he started at Forges in January 2017 after having worked in the engineering field for six or seven years after college. He said he was homebrewing during that time but wanted to get into the beer industry and took some classes at College of DuPage for brewing.

Sanderson said he was talking to as many breweries as possible when he found out Forge would be looking for a brewer, but they met and hit it off.

“When he told me that we’re looking in DeKalb I was all for it because I’m an NIU alumn I like being close to where I went to college,” Sanderson said.

Sanderson said the space is intended for people to come in, try new beers and see what the Forge has to offer.

“You’re not coming here to drink 10 beers and then go home or whatever,” Sanderson said “Y`ou’re here to enjoy and learn.”

Heinrich and Sanderson attended the Illinois Brewers Conference last week where they learned there are 6,400 breweries in the country, 200 plus breweries in Illinois and that craft beer makes up 13 percent of beer sales but 95 to 98 percent of breweries.

“We really don’t limit ourselves,” Sanderson said. “We kind of take a style, put our stamp on it and do everything. We have anything from an American lager to a bourbon barrel-aged barley, wine and everything in between.”

Sanderson said he thinks it’s more common for breweries to focus on one style of craft beer, but they produce all kinds and even non-alcoholic root beer.

“All of our bartenders they all know the beer, they all can talk you through,” Sanderson said. “So they’re all here to teach you about beer and expand your horizons on beer.”

Heinrich said they aren’t bound to do everything the same as other breweries, so they don’t limit themselves on how and what they produce. He said craft beer is its own world that people love to visit breweries and talk about.

“The craft scene is different than the college bar scene,” Heinrich said. “Our pints are $5 to $6. You know, it’s not a bucket of beer for $3 kind of a place; it’s not going to be. We’re after people who are a little more knowledgeable or those that want to be more knowledgeable about beer.”