Our brewing-fueled life began to take shape in 2009 when Aaron (A.Y.) starting homebrewing ferociously. Countless brew sessions and an apartment filled with dozens of fermenting carboys gave him the necessary knowledge to take the head brewing position at JT Walker's Brewery in Mahomet, Illinois in 2011.
In the Spring of 2011, with a future farm brewery always in mind, we took our vision to the next level with the purchase of 15 acres in Vermilion County, Illinois. We planted our first 60 hop plants and excitedly watched them grow. While A.Y. was brewing professionally, Anna started honing her skills on the farm. While working at the Blind Pig Brewery in Champaign, she planted berries, fruit trees, herbs, mushrooms, garlic, and baby ginger, and started marketing produce to area restaurants, knowing that the ultimate goal was to grow things for use in beer on the farm.
While consumed with brewing and farming, we knew the missing link in our repertoire was the knowledge of building. We started with an underground earthbag cellar and then our tiny house. We learned how to wire solar panels and inverters, hook up a solar well pump, dig a septic system, put a roof on, frame walls and windows, and plumb water lines. With these projects under our hats, we knew we had the know-how to build our brewery. In March of 2016, after the birth of our son, McCoy, we began construction on our three-barrel brewery and earth-bermed cellar.
Our farmhouse brewery is off-grid and solar-powered, with two outdoor taprooms and an on-site food truck. We brew cellar-fermented, naturally-carbonated beers that change with the seasons. Our beer can be enjoyed at The Tree Bar in May through October, and The Greenhouse Bar in October-April. Both venues offer an escape from the ordinary, where you can enjoy the outdoors with your family, and grab some delicious food from The Truck. We also have a large, outdoor pavilion (seats about 100 people) available for events and rentals.
Big Thorn beer is fermented in our underground cellar, allowing for seasonal temperature fluctuations that add complexity and interest to the beer-making process. Additionally, many of our beers spend time aging on logs harvested from our woods. We use mulberry, oak, hickory, cherry, autumn olive, and sassafras trees in our beer-making process. After log-aging, our beer is naturally carbonated at the time of kegging/bottling. After about three weeks in the cellar, the beer is ready to be enjoyed or aged for quite some time.
There is no greater joy than watching our vision come to life, and we feel extraordinarily lucky to have the chance to share it with you all. Here's to beer!
Anna & Aaron