Driving to Rolling Meadows Brewery you might forget that you are only seven miles from downtown Springfield, Illinois. As you leave town, the four-lane state highway becomes a two-lane and the signs of city life quickly thin out. Leaving the main road, you follow a barely-improved rural road through rolling farm land until it dead-ends at a dirt driveway. The farmstead at the end of that driveway is the home of Rolling Meadows.
The tiny building that houses the brewery looks as though it belongs in the “holler.” I halfway expected Loretta Lynn to step onto the keg and barrel-filled porch singing Coal Miner’s Daughter. Once you step inside it’s a different picture. The building was purpose-built for making beer. What seems to be a tiny, country cabin is in reality a two-story production facility with grain mill, office and tasting table overlooking the brewery in the lower level. It’s got a sleek, modern design that matches the brewery’s branding and labels. The foundation would support a 7-story building.
Rolling Meadows Brewery opened its doors in mid-2011. Founder and Brewer Chris Trudeau is one of a few in the craft-beer world seeking to return brewing to the land (up here closer to the Twin Cities think Dave’s Brewfarm and Olvalde Farm and Brewery). A hop variety that has grown wild on the farm for years is cultivated in a hop yard out back. Herbs and spices used in brewing are tended in a greenhouse. A field next to the brewery will supply wheat for the brewery’s Springfield Wheat hefeweizen.
Rolling Meadows currently has three beers distributed in the immediate Springfield area. Lincoln Lager is an amber, American-style lager. Springfield Wheat is a classic German hefeweizen. Abe’s Ale is a strong-ish, American brown ale brewed with maple syrup, brown sugar, and Belgian candi-sugar. I liked all three, but my favorite was Lincoln’s Lager.
Here’s my notes:
Aroma: White bread with the crust on and the lightest touch of graham-cracker. Limes and spice linger somewhere just underneath, not quite cracking the surface, but not quite going un-noticed. A pleasant and delicate balance.
Appearance: Amber and mostly clear, with just the faintest gauze of haze. White head stood up tall and persisted, falling slowly to a rocky layer of foam on the surface. Nice lacing on the glass.
Flavor: Simple and balanced. Slightly malt forward, with bread crust flavors leading the way. But the hops don’t let go easily. I wouldn’t call it boldly bitter, but it does something more than balance the malt with bitterness that lingers and grabs after the swallow. Spicy hops flavor with tart hints of lime citrus play over the top. Crisp and sharp.
Mouthfeel: Light body. Medium carbonation. Maybe a wee bit of astringency.
Overall Impression: Crisp and sharp as a lager should be. Light and drinkable as an American lager should be. Beer nerds may turn up their noses at this one, but I like it. It doesn’t demand your attention, but it does satisfy. At $10 for a 22-ounce bottle I’m not sure it’s worth the price point. It’s very good, but good American-style lagers can be had for far less.