BLOOMINGTON — Two Bloomington men's dream to turn their home brewing beer hobby into a business will become reality on Friday.
Neighbors Jeff Mroz and Mike Hoff started brewing beer in Mroz's driveway in the Oakland subdivision about eight years ago.
"There were other people hanging out with us, sampling what we brewed and watching our passion and really just thinking, 'Hey, this is really something you should give a shot at," said Mroz about what led to opening the business.
They will open Keg Grove Brewing Company at 3 p.m. Friday and begin serving their craft beers in the former Bloomington Cycle and Fitness store at 712 E. Empire St.
Getting that location was key, the co-owners said.
"Just this building is different. It isn't something you see every day. Then the location being right on the Constitution Trail, that's what got us really excited," said Mroz.
The build-out of the 4,300-square-foot building with two levels started in December and now features a taproom with seating for about 65 people, visible brewing tanks and equipment and a mezzanine that overlooks the main floor.
For now, Mroz and Hoff are the microbrewery's only employees. Hoff has left his job as a landscape designer, but Mroz will maintain his employment as an elementary teacher and college level educator.
The brewery will not sell any other products other than the beer it produces during normal business hours. Beers will sell for about $5, Mroz said. There will be no food service other than some snacks and food provided by food trucks that will come to the site.
The microbrewery will be open from 3 to 11 p.m. Friday, 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. Saturday and noon-5 p.m. Sunday.
There are eight beers available at the taproom, including American Wheats, cream ales, corn ales, India pale ales (IPA) and stouts. Others, including a saison, will be added soon.
"Craft beers are super popular, especially right now," said Mroz. "It's kind of like the coffeehouse trend of 1990s. We're all riding a wave."
The competition, however, is collaborative and cooperative in nature, he added.
"There's a lot of camaraderie amongst all of the brewers," said Hoff. "It's all a bunch of friends, and we like to taste each others' beers."
When seeking a city liquor license last year, some neighbors in the nearby White Place neighborhood initially voiced concerns to the liquor commission about foot traffic, noise, alcohol issues and decreased property values.
Mroz and Hoff have talked individually and reached out to residents in the neighborhood about their concerns and to explain their vision for the microbrewery.
A taproom is not the same thing as a bar, the co-owners said.
"Obviously, we have beer and alcohol, but it's more relaxed," said Mroz. "It's not people getting smash drunk. It's sitting and sipping on a nice craft beer and coming together to enjoy friends and family."
The microbrewery's name reflects a local legend about how Bloomington got its name.
"Legend has it that back in the day, some trappers were passing through the area and they stashed a keg in the grove here. Most likely it was whiskey or rum. Some Kickapoo Indians found that keg and they had a good time with that keg," said Mroz. "Then they referred to the area as Keg Grove. Then it changed to Blooming Grove and then Bloomington."