NORMAL — Destihl christened the north Normal location of its planned brewery Wednesday in fitting fashion: with beer.
Founder, CEO and Brewmaster Matt Potts; his wife, Lyn; Chief Financial Officer Laurie Nelson; and Chief Operating Officer Jason Bratcher combined brews from each of Destihl's locations into a 5-gallon container that Matt and Lyn Potts then emptied onto the future brewery site at 1200 Greenbriar Drive during Wednesday's groundbreaking ceremony.
"We're doing kind of the beer version of a unity candle," Matt Potts said with a laugh. "We just figure it's got to be good luck because the other locations have been really successful."
Matt Potts — who received the 5-gallon carboy, basically a large bottle, as part of his first home-brewing kit from his wife for Christmas 1995 — celebrated the company's past and future in front of about 75 employees and supporters.
The $14.5 million, 47,000-square-foot brewery on a 6-acre site is expected to open in 2017, dramatically increase the Normal-based company's brewing capacity and create 70 new jobs.
"The other goal of this facility is to create a destination brewery/tourist attraction in town," Matt Potts said. "Breweries shouldn't be tucked away in ugly old warehouses where you can't even tell it's a brewery.
Breweries are meant to be seen and invite people in to see the process and taste the beer," he said. "It should be a great catalyst for this entire area."
He also answered two lingering questions about the brewery: The company will shut down its current brewing facility at 1616 General Electric Road in Bloomington when its lease expires next August, and the new location is now officially part of an enterprise zone — which allows Destihl to get tax abatements on building materials purchased in Illinois.
Matt joked with state Rep. Dan Brady, who attended the groundbreaking, about the Bloomington Republican helping to get the enterprise zone extended. It will expire June 30 but the state is considering an application to reinstate it as of Jan. 1.
Bloomington Normal Economic Development Council CEO Kyle Ham and Vice President Mike O'Grady and Normal City Council member Kathleen Lorenz also attended Wednesday's ceremony.
Matt Potts also spoke about the history of Destihl, which operates brewpub restaurants at 318 S. Towanda Ave. in Normal and 301 N. Neil St. in Champaign. He reiterated the Normal location will stay open even though the brewery will serve "food truck-inspired fare," according to marketing materials.
The facility also will include a 6,300-square-foot taproom and event space, an outdoor beer garden and corporate offices.
Destihl produces about 15,000 barrels annually in cans and kegs at the G.E. Road facility; the new site will be able to brew more than 150,000 barrels a year.
"A project of this size brings a large investment — a very scary investment for Lyn and myself — but it's something that we know will be successful and well worth it in the end," Matt Potts said.