Recently, Chuck Stuhrenberg, owner and brewmaster of Big Muddy Brewing Company in Murphysboro, was given one of the most coveted invitations a brewer in the midwest can receive: an invite to the Great Taste of the Midwest in Madison, Wisconsin. Last weekend he set up a table, armed with his growing line of beers–the Kinkaid Wheat, the Saluki Dunkeldog, and his newest addition, a hoppy American Pale Ale–and poured beers for the 6,000 people in attendance at this sold out event.
Chuck invited me along to help pour, and I’m happy to say that the festival was a success for Big Muddy.
This isn’t the first beer festival that Big Muddy has attended. In April this year, the brewery poured its wheat and dunkel at the St. Louis Microfest in Forest Park. The dunkeldog was relatively new then (and t-shirts with the saluki logo were hot off the press), but there was great interest in the Southern Illinois University mascot’s namesake beer from locals and alumni who were enjoying the festival.
Madison may be almost 400 miles from St. Louis, but the same was certainly true at Great Taste. Dozens of people with ties the university–whether alumni themselves, or people with friends who spent a weekend in Carbondale–were drawn to the table as if magnetized by the brewery’s connection to southern Illinois. T-shirts sold like hot cakes. The dunkeldog was a hit.
Most people in southern Illinois are aware of the fact that locally brewed beer is hard to find, but it is astonishing to note that in this re-invigorated craft beer scene, there is still only one brewery in Illinois south of the Bloomington/Normal area. That brewery is Big Muddy. But the popularity of the beer isn’t just because of its connection to the region; it seems to hit a chord with people looking for well made “session” beers, beers that are light and easy to drink and won’t put you in a coma if you drink more than two. At a beer festival marked by lots of high-hopped, high-ABV, and big bourbon barrel-aged beers, Big Muddy stood out as a brewery making refreshing beers you can drink long into the evening.
I heard many comments from people wishing the brewery well and saying that they hoped it would be back again next year. Hopefully this kind of attention will bring more interest and more great beer to complement Chuck Stuhrenberg’s pioneering brewing work in southern Illinois.
For more information on Big Muddy, go to their website, or find them on Facebook.