I have made it a goal for 2016 to stop going to chain restaurants if I can at all help it. This is mainly for two reasons: 1.) I want to support local businesses over larger conglomerations 2.) I want to drink good beer at brew pubs whenever (and wherever) humanly possible.
So when I found myself in Champagne-Urbana for a weekend event I asked around for some brewpub recommendations. A good friend and fellow brewer pointed me towards DESTIHL RESTAURANT & BREW WORKS for serving decent food and drinkable brews.
DESTIHL’s restaurant is not your grandfather’s pub- it boasts packed seats, a large college clientele (not surprising in a college town), a candle lit atmosphere and a “hip” menu.
This “gastrobrew” pub is riding a very close line between being a “culinary” destination and trying just a little too hard. However, I am here to review the brews, not the restaurant (although our servers were pretty awesome and made up for some of the almost yuppy atmosphere of the place).
Instead of a flight option they had 4 oz samples available ranging from $1.25-2.75, which I actually appreciated as we could choose as many or as few samples as we wanted. In contrast, something I did not appreciate was that these samples did not come with any way to easily identify one from another. Over the course of the night I think I had to ask my server a half a dozen times what each beer was.
The first beer (and my date’s favorite beer) was the Privyet Russian Imperial Stout. Privyet, which is Russian for ʻhiʼ or ʻheyʼ, is one of their award-winning beers. DESTIHL’s classifies it as a bourbon barrel ale, even though this beer isnʼt aged in oak barrels. They say you can’t notice, but I think you can, as some of the notes come across as burnt as compared to barell aged. They also pride themselves in this being a more hoppy imperial stout, and I have to agree – in the terms that I found it just a little more hoppy then I enjoy in my stouts. The thing they got right was the mouthfeel; this is a smoooooooth beer. It is incredibly rich and creamy and if you enjoyed caramelized burnt hops this is a great beer for you. 12.4% ABV and a solid 4 ranking by others on Untappd. I would give this beer a 3.75, meaning I wouldn’t buy it to keep it in my fridge but I would drink it when I went out if that is what I was in the mood for.
Next up was the Roggenbier, a German style rye. Basically if a red and Belgium mated this would be their offspring: an unfiltered red. Traditionally Roggenbier’s are older (as in medieval) rye beers made from 50% barley malt and then equal portions wheat and rye malts. They are low in hops and usually unfiltered (which is what gives you the Belgium taste). I applaud DESTIHL’s for choosing beer styles that are not the norm and this Roggenbier is not a bad example of the style even though it won’t be everyone’s cup of tea (or pint of beer). 5.7% ABV and a 3.5 ranking on Untappd. I would give it a 3 (OK. Drinkable if there is nothing else. Would not buy a six pack.) because I think it was just to reminiscent of a red beer that happened to be unfiltered over being a true roggenbier
The Black Cherry Stout neither tasted like black cherries or really a stout. It has very little cherry taste to it and it almost seemed liked a dark colored sour beer than a stout. I am calling it a black cherry stout as that is what the server called it (the menu it was listed as just black cherry). At 7.2 ABV this had so few cherry undertones it was one of the beers I had to keep asking the server what it was. Untappd members gave it a 3.5 and I think that is really generous as there was so little good I could write about in the beer. It was not vile, but it was lacking anything really stellar so I had to give it a 2.5 (a 2 means it’s not good and I would prefer to not drink. Would never spend money on it.) In this case I am glad I only spent $1.40 on it.
It wouldn’t be hard to beat the black cherry but luckily our next brew the Farmhouse Double Stout was a decent stout. The Farmhouse Double was just a tad bit harsh on the end but not enough to not drink it. Overall it was mellow with a slight coffee flavor. It also came in at a very strong 9.3% ABV that could easily sneak up on you. Untappd users gave it a 4 and on this one I would agree with them except for the fact that besides being a good decent stout there was nothing that said I must drink this again- therefore I learned towards my 3.5 rating
Now if you are thinking there was nothing really fabulous happening at DESCTIHLS, don’t worry I saved the best for last. I am a hard critic when it comes to sour beers. I either love them or I find them to be the most vile, repulsive thing a brewer can create. Therefore I am always just a tad surprised when I find a sour I really enjoy. Always eager to give sours a chance I went for the DESTIHL’s Wild Sour Series in their Smoked Gose. Now, most regular beer drinkers might not be familiar with Gose beers as they are not ones brewed regularly or found in a six pack at the quickie mart. A Gose is a an old German beer style with a low hop factor, spice from coriander and salt.
Yes Salt! Salt was a common early brewing ingredient used for a plethora of reason from stopping the yeast in a beer from over processing to changing the flavor of sour bad beers and vinegar like wines. It is easy to over salt any home-brew so it is not one many people try. The salt is DESTIHL’s Smoked Gose is a combination of smoked sea salt and mesquite-smoked malt. I found the Smoked Gose not heavy on the smoked flavor or heavy on the sour. The only thing I regret on the Smoked Grose is that I had a 4 oz sampling instead of a pint. If you have never tried a gose before I recommend DESTIHL’s Smoked Gose. At only 6% ABV, it is an easy Rauchbier (think smoked Octoberfest beer) to enjoy. Try the sample size first, just in case smoked beers, sours or salt in your beer is not the flavors you enjoy. Me? I gave this one an easy 4.5 ( as compared to Untappd’s 3.5- I blame the style of the beer not the beer itself)
Overall I appreciate DESTIHL’s attempt to create beers most breweries aren’t and overall every one we tried was drinkable, even if some of them were not noteworthy. The food portions were good sized and really well done. I would recommend DESTIHL’s for anyone in the Champagne-Urbana area. Though I would try it again if I was in the area, I don’t think this would ever be a regular go to place as I like to feel relaxed in my brew pubs and I found DESTIHL’s was trying just a little to hard to achieve “something” – which is a shame, as I found their food and beers solid.