White Oak Brewing Looking to Double Production in Normal

 White Oak Brewing produces all of its beer in Normal, Illinois. They produced around 500 barrels of beer last year. (Image Credit: Matt Johnson)

White Oak Brewing produces all of its beer in Normal, Illinois. They produced around 500 barrels of beer last year. (Image Credit: Matt Johnson)

A small group of lively locals are creating quite a buzz in the Twin Cities as their craft beer brewing company gains popularity.

White Oak Brewing is a small production brewery located at 1801 Industrial Park Drive in west Normal. Their taproom opened in February 2017, offering a handful of beers on tap and roughly 30-40 different beers in their inventory. 

White Oak began operating out of its current location in late 2013, but its local roots trace back to 2011 when Normal native Bryan Ballard acted on his passion for brewing beer. He and his father then opened the Hop Shop in Downtown Bloomington.

“We were making a lot of home brew and winning a lot of awards, so we contemplated starting a commercial brewery as part of the home brew shop concept,” Ballard said.

White Oak Brewing spent most of 2014 and 2015 obtaining the proper licenses and working with local leaders to draft legislation allowing tap rooms in Normal. (Prior to this, any Normal establishment that served beer also had to hold a restaurant license). Ballard has a law degree and his knowledge helped White Oak Brewing secure their tap room.

After a long process, White Oak Brewing successfully achieved a tap room license in late 2016. They subsequently replaced the home brew supply shop with the current tap room in February 2017. Today, Ballard co-owns the business along with Scott Scherer and Mark Reichert.

“The tap room gave us an opportunity to identify with our consumers on a more regular basis,” Ballard said. “People identify with our brand because of the people who make it and the place where we make it. It is made locally by local people.”

The graphic artwork for White Oak Brewing’s brand and beers are created by Half Hazard Press, another local business in Bloomington. The beer is primarily distributed within McLean County, but the White Oak brand has spread to surrounding cities such as Peoria, Decatur, Springfield and Champaign.

White Oak Brewing produced about 500 barrels in 2017 and the number will continue to grow, Ballard said. By the end of the year, the brewery will house a larger cooler and the old cooler space will be retrofitted with more tanks. The goal for 2019 is to double production to 1,200-1,500 barrels. All the production is performed and distributed in-house with a team of three owners and three employees. 

“What I enjoy most about White Oak, aside from their great variety of beer and excellent customer service, is their commitment to collaborating with local businesses and serving outside of their tap room,” said Jake Johnson, a Bloomington resident and White Oak Taproom visitor.

White Oak Brewing enjoys concocting experimental beers to provide the customers with new tastes with the same great quality, Ballard said. Ballard follows the mantra, “Make good beer and be nice.”

The names of the beers share the same experimental and creative spirit as the flavors of beer. A few of the titles include the “Bro…Do You Even?” and “Me Llama Llama.”

Most recently, White Oak Brewing released a new haze and will soon begin ramping up for hoppy wheats for the summertime demand.

“The beer is made by the people who are concerned about making the best beer possible,” Ballard said. “We drink the beer we make. Maybe it is naive, but we do not focus on profitability, coolness, or brand identification. We focus on pure beer quality.”

The tap room is open Wednesday and Thursday from 3-10 p.m., Friday from 3-11p.m., Saturday from 1-11 p.m., and Sunday from 3-7 p.m. White Oak Brewing can also be found online.