Steam Hollow Brewing Co. is celebrating one year in the brewing business next weekend, and I cannot believe it already has been a year. It opened in February 2019 with lines out of the door for first drafts of a brand-new enterprise. I remember attending that first weekend with surprise and elation our community was supporting such a new venture. With Steam Hollow opening, that makes two craft breweries in Kankakee County, alongside a handful of dedicated craft establishments such as The Hoppy Pig in Bradley, Grapes & Hops in Kankakee, Liquor World and Liquor Zone.
Craft beer is growing in our area, and we are lucky to have another high-quality craft brewery serving up great beer by some great people. In September, Blane White invited me to brew a collaboration beer with him in honor of the first time we brewed the beer formerly known as Penelope’s Pale Ale, for the birth of my only daughter. A small business making it to a year is a significant occasion, and I am glad they are marking it with a great event.
I sat down with owner Natalie White to discuss happenings during the course of the brewery’s first year in business.
So, it’s been a year, huh? Can you believe that?
The first year has been incredible and truly humbling. We have become way more than just a brewery. We have become a gathering place for people and the community. We started seeing this within the first two weeks of being open that the vibe we created was unique. We had an amazing amount of organizations and events that have held events here.
What has been the most surprising part of running a brewery?
The most surprising part is surely the customers and the family we have created. A Steam Hollow family has formed with friendships that would not have been made if it weren’t for the brewery. You assume you open a brewery and it’s all about the beer, and that’s, of course, true, but there is so much more than that. The connections, partnerships and involvement with the community have been the foundation along with brewing great beer. People are what make you great.
What has been your biggest lesson along the way?
No matter how well you are prepared, there are always moments of learning. Each beer — from brewing to canning, staffing, booking bands and food trucks — all of it the first year was learning to go with the flow. Every event, every holiday, everything this year was a first, and you learn by just jumping in and doing it and then figuring out how to do it better next time.
What has been the best connection you have made during the course of this year?
We have had so many, which is why our first year has been so incredible. We were humbled to have held Coach Blake’s Celebration of Life, the Bike Run benefiting It’s a Pittie Rescue, hosting the Beach to Brewery Run and Kankakee County Taste Fest and hosting numerous community fundraisers such as events for Project Headspace and Timing. In addition to that, we have made wonderful friends and partnerships with our food trucks and music performers.
What is something you want to aim for in 2020?
In 2020, we just want to continue having fun with what we’re doing and, of course, growing our production and distribution capabilities.