Have you been out and about and seen a boldface “R” on one, or even several, tap handles in our restaurants and bars? We have a feeling you have, because that boldface “R” has made its way into 123 bars and restaurants throughout Illinois (about half of which are located in Champaign-Urbana) all within 10 short months. We have great news for those who don’t know much about that boldface “R”: It’s local. We’re not talking about any kind of local either. We mean 100% family owned and brewed right here in Urbana. We’re sure most of you already know of course, but we’re referring to Riggs Beer Company.
Matt Riggs, a German government certified Brew Master is one of two brewmasters at Riggs Beer Company. Accompanying in that brew making process is his right-hand man and brother, Darin, who previously worked for AB InBev in California and is a graduate of UC Davis’ Brewmaster program. I asked Matt, along with his wife Caroline (who also works for Riggs Beer Company), what the German distinction process brings to the table.
“German-made products have a great reputation around the world. The main reason for that is they tend to obsess over quality and getting every detail right.”
If Matt and Darrin’s rich education and brewmaster accreditations don’t speak truth to this quality statement, we don’t know what will.
Wait. Yes we do.
In addition to an unparalleled expertise in the field of brew making, the brothers grew up on a farm about 20 miles Southeast of Urbana where they harvested corn and soybeans from the same soil their ancestors did back in 1874. Fast forward to modern day and you’ll be happy to know they’re still using that corn and, more recently, added Riggs grown barley in their brews, making them a pretty authentic local operation.
How much grain have they used from their own farm? Well, in their first ten months of brewing they have used over 6,000 pounds. To put things into perspective that weighs about as much as an African Forest Elephant. The Riggs brothers realize this local aspect gives them a pretty unique flair here in Champaign County, and have planted several different kinds of wheat and barley (some of which are visible from their very own beer garden and tasting room) to use in their beers.
Riggs makes four staples year-round: American Lager, Hefeweizen, Red Lager, and India Pale Lager. Additionally, they bring out twelve seasonal beers each year.
Speaking of seasonal releases, Riggs hosts one release per month, always scheduled on a Thursday. You will find these events on their website, social media, and the Visit Champaign County events calendar. Riggs uses these seasonal beer releases as a platform to partner with Gregory Street Catering of Urbana. They come out to the brewery and serve beer-inspired meals. A few days before the beer hits the market, Gregory Street gets a sneak preview. They may braise beef in the Riggs seasonal release, incorporate spent grain from the brew day in beer bread, or surprise you with authentic German dishes.
These releases are perfect for the entire family to come out and enjoy. Did you notice we said “the entire family”? We mean that.
Riggs Beer Company wants you to know that this is a family-operated business that wants the entire family to feel welcome. That’s why they host events like Easter egg hunts, have an outdoor wooden tractor playground, and also have the two outdoor “brew cats” Helles and Dunkles. Disclaimer: “Helles” is a kind of light pale lager found in Germany and “Dunkles” is a dark lager. Once you meet the friendly creatures, it will be easy for you to guess who’s who.
Through and through, Riggs Beer Company embraces the community their business is a part of. Caroline, who actually grew up an hour South-East of Frankfurt, Germany shared that this philosophy is a staple in German culture. The regional brewery often serves as the community event organizer. So when we shared our appreciation for their community involvement, she simply replied “It’s all I know and I love bringing this part of my culture here .”
A major upcoming part of this community planning is the celebration of their upcoming one year anniversary. Riggs knows how to throw a party and understands it will take just that to rally the community to come celebrate. That’s why they are planning their inaugural Riggs-Fest, happening June 29-July 2.
In an effort to celebrate the success of their first year in business, you can expect to revisit some of the greatest they have welcomed throughout the past year. This includes appearances from several food trucks they do regular business with, live music, drone racing, disc golfing, an authentic Bavarian brunch, and more beer than you’ll know what to do with. All of this and more over the course of four days means everyone can participate.
The Riggs Family wants you to see their operation as an extension of your own home. They want you to feel comfortable and at ease while you’re there, and most importantly wish that you embrace beer as a component of a balanced lifestyle. After all, there are far and few in-between beverages that are comprised of as few as four ingredients: Water, grain, hops and yeast. It doesn’t get much more natural than this.
Want to learn more about Riggs Beer Company? Riggs offers brewery tours most Saturday’s and Sunday’s at 3 pm. One of the brewmasters will explain the details of beer making, you’ll get to taste the raw ingredients, and you get to see the inside of the brewing vessels. Afterwards there will be a sampling of all beers on tap while you learn more about the different beer styles. Be sure to sign up on riggsbeer.com to reserve your spot. Or get a bunch of your friends together and ask for a private tour.
Be sure to like them on Facebook to stay in the know. We’ll see you at Riggs-Fest!