On a recent trip to Dubuque, Iowa, I was able to run across the Mississippi River to the small town of Galena, Illinois to visit their brewery. The brewery is about 5 hours from the St. Louis area and is in a nice little shopping stretch of the downtown area.
- Galena Brewery
- Address: 227 North Main Steet, Galena IL 61036
- Phone: (815) 776-9917
- Cost: Varies depending on the time of year (includes a pint of beer for the tour)
- Times: 5 PM CST Friday and 11:30 PM CST Saturday
The brewery itself is a mix of the brewery and a restaurant (I didn’t get a chance to try the food). There is also a gift shop in the front that sells merchandise and beer (six packs and growlers). You purchase the tour at the bar and they give you the pint right then. The tours are limited to Friday and Saturday because they brew Monday through Thursday.
Brewmaster Jon Wagner leads the tour, so you get firsthand knowledge of the brewing process from the guy who makes the beer you have in your hand. Jon gets pretty technical about the brewing process, but keeps it understandable for the everyday beer drinker. He explains both the ingredients and the process. He also answered every question that was thrown at him. He even spent time to discuss home brewing with me at the end of the tour. Many of the recipes belong to the brewery and they don’t change them much; Jon does get to try out his own recipes for the seasonal offerings.
The best part of the tour was the size; there were 6 of us on the tour. The brewing area is pretty small and part of the tour is actually in the restaurant (where they do their boil behind the bar). The small size also made it feel more intimate; big brewery tours feel like you are just pushed in and out, but Galena was more about the experience of the tour and making beer.
The small size of the facilities was the downside. As mentioned, part of the tour is in the restaurant portion, so it can get a little loud and hard to hear Jon when he was talking.
Overall, if you are a fan of beer and have taken some of the big brewery tours, visiting Galena Brewery is worth a trip.