A little over a week ago, we were on hand to witness Werk Force Brewing win both Gold and Silver medals in the coveted Fruit Beer category at the National Barrel-Aged Beer Competition during FOBAB 2018.
A mere six days later you’d find us posted up in the Plainfield brewery’s just-over-one-year-old taproom, an assortment of tasting cups and pint glasses scattered in front of us, for a little Black Friday family outing.
Coincidence? I think not.
As it’s my girlfriend’s mom’s favorite brewery, we went into the afternoon with lofty expectations for Werk Force. Great anticipation can often lead to a letdown, but the opposite proved true in this case — the place is fantastic.
After we entered the front door into a warm, dimly lit space, we quickly forgot about the gray, dreary afternoon we had just left behind. The establishment has a unique setup, with a sleek, zig-zagging wooden bar lining the back of the room. Hand-built communal tables and benches fill the interior, supported by cinder blocks and thick legs made with industrial pipe.
Once inside, you’re surrounded by wood — from the rafters in the high ceiling to stacks of barrels adjacent to the bar — giving the whole structure a log cabin type of quality. We immediately felt at home.
Atmosphere and Staff
A blend of amiable patrons and an attentive staff with rustic, homey décor helps create a neighborly environment that makes you want to park your rear end and stay awhile.
Thanks to the taproom’s dog-friendliness and the new family puppy that accompanied us, my dad immediately befriended a fellow dog lover. Plenty of additional canines were in attendance, and they seemed more than happy to soak up all the attention, my folks’ pooch included.
One item worth mentioning is Werk Force’s efficient ordering system, which is an approach more taprooms should mimic. Instead of forcing customers to wade through a crowd in an often futile attempt to reach a bartender, they’ve built a designated area on the bar for those who are sitting at tables to come up and order brews. It’s wide enough for more than one staff person to assist multiple patrons at once, making the process simple and streamlined.
Styles Available: The taproom offers two draft lists: one standard menu and a separate special one for experimental brews. I came darn close to sampling every option — and my only gripe with the whole experience is that, without any sort of labelling system, it was easy to confuse which taster was which.
For the Hop Heads: None of the offerings hit you with any serious bitterness, but the Derby Hat Riverman Pale Ale or Blood Orange Formerly Known As IPA should satisfy most hop lovers, especially if citrus is your thing.
For the Dark Beer Folks: With a brown ale, Scottish ale, stouts and porters to dabble with, there’s no shortage of malty options. The Coconut and Vanilla Sleepy Bear, a thick blend that features hints of chocolate and coffee as well, is pleasantly boozy and flavorful.
For the Serious Snobs: I’m still struggling to hop aboard the fruit beer train, but the Farmhouse Vultures with Blackberries & Raspberries and The Legend of Birger won Gold and Silver at FOBAB for a reason — people go crazy for them.
For the People Who Are Going to Ask “What Tastes the Most like Bud Light?”: If, like me, you prefer to follow up a mishmash of samples (and all the conflicting flavors they produce) with a smooth, palate-cleansing German Pilsener, the Lone Ranger Race Car is exactly what the doctor ordered.
My Favorite: A toss-up between the People Power hoppy red wheat ale and the Moth Kidz New England pale ale goes to……Moth Kidz. I was just beginning to think I’d come down with a case of hazy beer fatigue, but that appears to have been a false alarm.
Living in Chicago, any complaints about access to breweries ring hollow — I can name several great taprooms within a mile of my place. But a lack of proximity to Werk Force genuinely bums me out, as it’s the type of place where I could easily see myself achieving “regular” status if it was located within walking distance.
However, I do recall that Beermiscuous on Lincoln carries their beers, so city dwellers can at least enjoy the product without having to make a trip down I-55.
- In February of 2017, the owners of Work Force discuss the decision to substantially expand and open a second taproom a few doors down from their original operations.
- Later that same year, the Herald-News checked in on them once the expansion was complete to check out the new digs.
Photos courtesy of yours truly and facebook.com/werkforcebrewingco.