Sometime around 2010, my brother Steve started brewing beer. A few years later, he told me about his new hobby. A few years after that, we thought "Hey, maybe we should open a brewery." From there we began to scour the globe – within the confines of Bloomington-Normal and Champaign-Urbana – seeking the perfect spot for our brewery.
One day while wrestling with choosing a creative name for this project, we thought “Why not just put our name on it?” Steve pointed out that doing so would force us to make it a success so as not to bring shame upon all who bear our name (the bar is set pretty high: our other brother is a doctor, and Fialas can be found in the NHL and leading the Czech Republic). And thus Fiala Brothers Brewery & Beer Hall was born. But it still needed a home.
For three years, we explored myriad possibilities – including paying an architect to show us why we couldn’t squeeze it into less than 1,000 square feet. Then, by sheer good fortune – or their frustration of navigating their vans around my fleet of tiny calzone cars – Bill’s Key & Lock decided to relocate, and sold us their building in Uptown Normal. It was structurally sound, but we decided to tear it down and build from scratch because we believed Uptown Normal’s first Brewery & Beer Hall needed a rooftop bar. And it needed a purpose, a means of bringing people together.
Our Beer Hall concept originates in Germany, where strangers are tacitly encouraged to become friends by sharing a long wooden table. Although a global pandemic challenged the logic behind tightly packing unrelated people into a confined space, our cousin Doug still hand-built a signature Beer Hall table near the entry in order to retain the Beer Hall ethos. Now it just needed food to pair with the beer.
Enter Steve again. Courtesy of a friend who pioneered gourmet grilled cheese in his restaurant, we found the core of our menu. With a focus on sourcing local or regional ingredients where possible, and making as much from scratch as possible in our diminutive kitchen, we created a focused menu of sandwiches and sides that complements our beers.
About the beers. Steve – the brewer among us – has never been one to chase trends. If he likes something, he brews it. If I like it, he probably brews it. A Farmhouse Ale is his signature beer, but he also loves exploring ales and stouts, while the occasional lager will find its way to our fermentation tanks when conditioning space allows.
But Fiala Brothers is about more than just our beers; with 24 taps, we try to feature all other local breweries, along with many regional brews and some personal and seasonal favorites of ours from outside of Illinois. As bourbon enthusiasts, we also feature an assortment of our favorite whiskeys. But it took awhile before anyone was able to enjoy a beers at Fiala Brothers.
The project design ended up far more complex than we’d planned. Everything took longer. Amid materials shortages and other delays that pushed us back months at a time, we began to wonder if we’d made the right call undertaking such an ambitious project. But by then there was no looking back; we needed to get open. And we did. And we hope you enjoy our beer and our brewery. We can honestly say we’ve given it our all in order to build something special that will bring people together for year to come.
~ Ryan Fiala ~