It just so happens that the breweries that I visit the most I tend not to write about. I’m always thinking that I can take photos and write notes the next time I visit, but I just never do. This year my wife was pregnant and as a result we weren’t planning on visiting many new breweries. I vowed to do any and all blogging activities for each brewery that we visited but had never taken the time to write about. The top of that list is a taproom that’s so close to where I work that I’ve visited them more than any other, Lake Monster Brewing Company.
We have a steady group of people at work that like to go for a drink or two after we get off for the day. It usually starts with someone sending an animated gif of a small dog lapping at a beer to our happy hour chat and then continues either at Groveland Tap or Lake Monster. During the warmer months we lean towards the brewery due to the ample space for large groups on their patio. The first major positive of Lake Monster is the parking. They have a massive surface lot due to the businesses that are in the surrounding area and I’ve just never had an issue at all. It’s a small but important thing, as we’ve gone other places after work only to spend the first fifteen minutes driving around for a spot. That abundance of space carries right into the brewery. They have a large patio out front, another to the side of the building, and a relatively large taproom. It seems there is always a perfect spot for us, no matter our group size.
We gravitate towards the front patio. That usually means thirty minutes to an hour of sun before it will dip below the neighboring building. Finding a table with one of their large red umbrellas is a must. It’s also got some of the best views for a spot within the city. The brick campus that surrounds the brewery is named after the water tower that reaches above you: Vandalia Tower. Each year they add more and more green plants and a handful of large stone blocks provide much needed overflow seating for those that can’t get a table. It’s the only brewery that I know of that has a second patio as well. Hidden on the side of the building is a quiet space with a handful of tables. This is generally my favorite place to sit. It’s less busy and provides the perfect spot to unwind after a long day at work.
The interior is nothing to sneeze at either. It’s your standard craft brewery taproom. Concrete floors, brick walls, high tops, a large central bar, rail seating that flanks the brewing equipment, a mural, and a chalkboard tap list. I’ve seen these elements at so many places, but for some reason it ties together perfectly at Lake Monster. They are family friendly and I don’t remember the last time I’ve visited where there wasn’t a child or two playing with their toys on a tiny table in the corner. Dogs are also welcome but on the patio only. They used to have various metal screws and brackets protruding from the brick walls that made excellent coat hooks but unfortunately those have been removed! There was one element in their concepts that never made it to the final design. They planned to have a giant octopus hovering above the bar and I really hope it gets there eventually!
We can always count on one thing when we visit and that is a warm greeting from one of bartenders Joe. He always recognizes us, knows most of our names, and inquires about who’s going to join the group that day. We are fairly regular visitors so it’s not shocking but it is a nice touch. So what about their beer? They generally have their five year-round beers available and those are all solid, and now they’ve mixed in four to six seasonal beers. Usually one of those is available in cask. One of my favorites to try is their Monster SMASH (Single Malt, Single Hop) series which is currently on their eleventh iteration. You’ll usually find a couple of sours available and I think I’ve seen most styles of beer at some point in time. They didn’t start with this variety but now the rotation is such that there is always a new beer for us to try, so if you found the opposite earlier on in their life then I’d give them a second shot.
I’ve had a lot of great memories at Lake Monster. We’ve been visiting since they’ve opened so I’ve seen how they’ve evolved over time. Each time I visit I see improvement overall and their patio is one of the best in the cities for sure. There is no beer that knocks my socks off but there aren’t any that I’ve had that wasn’t enjoyable in some way. There are a fair amount of stingy drinkers in our group so the fact that we continue to return is high enough praise as it is. I can certainly see us continuing to visit regularly and, if you haven’t had the opportunity yet, set aside some time to do the same.