Ales, IPAs and more on tap as Beer Garden at Independence Grove returns for second season

Forest preserve spot returns for a 2nd year

  • Fire pits are available for use along the lakefront near the Beer Garden at Independence Grove.  The hours are 1 to 9 p.m. Saturday, Sunday and holidays, plus trivia nights Wednesday.

    Fire pits are available for use along the lakefront near the Beer Garden at Independence Grove. The hours are 1 to 9 p.m. Saturday, Sunday and holidays, plus trivia nights Wednesday. Courtesy of Lake County Forest Preserve District

  • The Beer Garden at Independence Grove features a variety of local craft brews on tap on weekends beginning May 14.

    The Beer Garden at Independence Grove features a variety of local craft brews on tap on weekends beginning May 14. Courtesy of Jeanna Martinucci

 
 
Updated 5/13/2022 8:46 AM

After an unexpectedly successful inaugural season, the Beer Garden at Independence Grove Forest Preserve near Libertyville returns Saturday with some tweaks and twists.

Expanded hours, beer flights, growlers and tastings, trivia nights, more fire pits and the availability of space for private and semiprivate events are among the new features for what's become a popular enterprise for the Lake County Forest Preserve District.

 

Hours are 1 to 9 p.m. Saturday, Sunday and holidays beginning this weekend.

Operations will be six days a week and holidays June through August and four days a week and holidays in September and October.

Visit lcfpd.org/beer-garden-at-independence-grove for hours, preserve admission fees, group rates, reservations and more information.

District officials in March 2021 permanently closed the swimming beach on the signature 115-acre lake because of operating costs and declining use.

The former beach house, which had been a seasonal fixture for 19 years, was converted for a new business model featuring locally brewed beers, nonalcoholic beverages, snacks and ample lakeside seating in a picturesque setting.

Any initial uncertainty dissipated quickly after the beer garden debut Memorial Day weekend.

"It really took off," said Daniel Stearns, chief business development officer for the forest preserve district. "It's a short history but it's been very positive so far."

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Stearns said gross revenues for the 2021 season were $140,000. The resulting net revenue of $79,000 far exceeded expectations, he added.

"However, the biggest success was the public reaction to having a family-friendly place to congregate while supporting Lake County small businesses," Stearns said.

Local craft brews flowed from eight taps on a rotating basis. Stearns estimated more than 100 half barrels. About four or five half barrels, which hold 15.5 gallons, were emptied each week.

Larry Bloom, owner of ZümBier in Waukegan was among the local brewers.

"It went really well," he said. "They sold a lot of beer."

Bloom created 15 Mile for the venue.

"It's a hazy IPA," he said. "It's named after their mile marker on the (Des Plaines) river."

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

This season, Bloom will start with the Irish red ale SRMX2 and the India pale ale Liberty Call on tap, plus cans of Evil Squirrel brown ale and Burermeister, a German wheat beer.

Taps and the beer garden and facilities are operated by the forest preserve district.

Trivia nights are planned for the fourth Wednesday June through September. Each week will feature a different theme and cover fun, unique facts about the area's past and present, said Alyssa Firkus, the district's education manager.

"Topics may include dinosaurs, aquatic mammals, favorite recreational activities, famous people and more," she said. Educators will bring additional materials for beer garden visitors to explore and look at before or after the game.

Eight fire pits and free firewood will be available for use along the lakefront on a first-come, first-served basis. S'mores kits will be available for purchase.

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