MACOMB — Forgottonia Brewing, a brewery in Macomb that offers a seasonally changing menu of craft beers brewed in-house, will be celebrating its one-year anniversary from June 12-13.
Forgottonia Brewing co-owners Jill Beck, Scott Parke, and Beau Ingledue reflected upon both the ups and downs of their first year and what it was like operating a new business during a pandemic.
According to Beck, business was great during the brewery's first year. The community was reportedly very welcoming and was excited by the unique prospect of having a brewery in town.
The COVID-19 pandemic resulted in Forgottonia Brewing implementing rapid changes to ensure the safety of staff and customers. At the city’s approval, the brewery switched to only offering carryout and delivery. As the state entered stage three of its Restore Illinois initiative, the brewery was able to re-open seating in its outdoor beer garden.
According to the brewery, its biggest challenge during the pandemic was changing its business model from 90 percent draft beer sales in the tap room to fully implementing a packaged/to-go model in a short period of time.
The co-owners reported having a number of favorite memories from during their first year of operation, including the atmosphere during their Oktoberfest celebration and fundraising with local organizations.
“My favorite thing about the brewery is the incredible sense of community, whether it's seeing familiar faces, or seeing so many people who make a point to visit the brewery when they are back in town to visit friends or family,” said Beck.
Regarding plans for next year, Forgottonia Brewing stated that they are looking forward to safely re-opening their tap room in the future. Additionally, the brewery is looking to increase their local distribution, saying that it would be “very rewarding to see [their] beer in bars and restaurants throughout the area.”
“We look forward to continuing to provide great, craft beer and a friendly venue where friends and families can get together and enjoy food from local restaurants of their choice,” said Beck.
In celebration, John Cooper, professor and director of Jazz Studies at Western Illinois University, composed a new piece titled “The Governor of Forgottonia.” While the song will not be performed live at the anniversary celebration due to safety concerns, the song is available on YouTube.
Cooper enlisted the help of fellow musicians Whitney Ashe, George Turner, Matt Hughes, Kevin Nichols, and student vocalist Yoseph Henry. A testament to social distancing and the conditions during the pandemic when the song was recorded, each performer recorded their parts separately. Cooper then edited the video performances together to create the final product.
The name of the brewery, Forgottonia, is a nod to the name given to west-central Illinois in the late 1960s in protest to being forgotten by the government regarding a lack of state and federal investment in highways and other regional infrastructure. Forgottonia Brewing stated that they believe they live up to their namesake by bringing in people from other areas.
“We get to share the story of Forgottonia with customers and even do a little ‘To the Governor’ toast when the train rolls through, saluting Neil Gamm, the self appointed Governor of Forgottonia, whose actions did lead to nationwide recognition and our region ultimately getting more access to rail service and roads,” said Beck.
When asked if they had any advice for businesses looking to set up shop in McDonough County, the co-owners encouraged businesses to take advantage of local resources, saying that groups such as the Macomb Chamber of Commerce and the Macomb Area Convention and Visitors Bureau were invaluable to them. They believe that McDonough County is a great place for new businesses and that the community “wants to see them succeed.”
“Our first year's success is truly a tribute to this great community and all of those who patronize us and help spread the word about us,” said Beck. ”We feel really lucky to have the support of our awesome customers and look forward to providing great, local, craft beer for years to come.”
Forgottonia Brewing is located at 324 N. Lafayette St. in Macomb. For more information, visit Forgottonia Brewing’s Facebook page or its website at www.forgottoniabrewing.com.
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