DeKALB – A DeKalb brewery plans to grow both its variety of brews and the volume it keeps on tap for patrons with the company’s forthcoming expansion into a nearby warehouse, which will be for production only.
Family-owned and operated Byers Brewing Company, which opened its doors at 230 E. Lincoln Highway, Unit 100, in 2019, has found needed space. Byers Brewing opened after DeKalb couple Steve and Megan Byers had been home brewing for almost a decade. Steve Byers said the expansion will aid increased production, so that those who enjoy drinking the Byers Lager, Doc Brown’s Ale and POG Seltzer can have more options available to them.
The expansion was announced in January in line with the retirement of the Forge Brewhouse owners. The 216 N. Sixth St. location was a ready-made space for the Byers family as they set their sights on even more beer.
“This expansion will really allow us to get creative,” said co-owner Steve Byers.
Byers Brewing is awaiting licensing before it can proceed with production in its new space.
Steve Byers said the East Lincoln Highway brewery wasn’t originally equipped to produce beer at the level to meet the community’s demands.
“We put in, relatively-speaking, small brewing equipment,” Byers said. “After pivoting with COVID, and doing more canned beer than we expected – we didn’t expect to do any when we first opened – we needed the ability to make more beer than what we could do at our original location.”
Steve Byers said he and the owner of the Forge Brewhouse were chatting one day when he learned that he intended to retire, move out of state and sell the business. The Forge owners announced their retirement in a December social media post.
Steve Byers said that despite some uncertainty with the economy, he sees a way forward for his brewery.
“We want people to think of us when they come to DeKalb County to visit or if they live here,” he said.
It’s that kind of hometown spirit that makes Byers Brewery work, said Matt Duffy, executive director of the DeKalb Chamber of Commerce.
“It’s great to see someone that got their start here in DeKalb and be able to expand what they do,” Duffy said. “I know the pandemic played a roll in that and having to maybe go to canned beer to offer an alternative at the time, but they’ve taken that and gone with that in the addition. They’re a great family in the community as well.”
The space offers a kids corner and also can be rented out for private events.
Duffy said the Byers Brewing operation is unique and offers a chance for downtown patrons to support more than one local business at a time. Byers doesn’t offer food of its own, but patrons are encouraged to bring their own food, or even neighboring restaurants, and enjoy a meal and a beer together downtown.
“They’re not competing. They’re trying to work with that,” Duffy said. “So I know their neighbors are pretty happy as far as places that serve food. It’s almost like overflow seating. You get your food, go down to Byers and have a beer there.”
Byers said the brewery is leasing the roughly 1,800-square-foot North Sixth Street warehouse for production only in order to boost beer sales and accommodate its growing number of patrons. During the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, the brewers moved to canned beer to boost ailing sales. Indoor dining was banned under emergency pandemic-era orders by Gov. JB Pritzker for months in 2020, meant to help limit the spread of the virus.
With canned beer in production and now a return to indoor drinkers, the Byers family said it’s the perfect time to expand production.
“We’re just a small brewery here in DeKalb,” Steve Byers said. “We don’t make a lot of beer. It doesn’t generate a ton of income. We were just having trouble keeping the doors open with the smaller margin on canned beer. We needed some way to make more beer. With that smaller margin, if we had more of it, we could do better. So it kind of worked out for both of us.”
Shaw Local News Network’s Kelsey Rettke contributed.