The taste Curt Ames is offering during the upcoming Taste of Downtown McHenry has a bit of a historic twist to it.
As part of the second annual event, the owner of Chain O’ Lakes Brewing Company is bringing back a beer once brewed in the very spot where he opened his business last year. Ames took over the original building on Pearl Street where the McHenry Brewing Company brewed beer from 1868 until it shut down in 1942.
During Prohibition in the 1920s, an underground tunnel would pump beer from the brewing company to a speakeasy across the street, Ames said.
As a symbol of that history, he’s going to remove part of the foundation from where that tunnel once stood and plant a time capsule in it. It’s unknown whether the tunnel will be there still or not, Ames said.
Regardless, inside the hole will go “I’m Bock,” the bock beer he’s releasing that day.
“This was a beer that McHenry Brewing Company used to do before it shut its doors,” he said. “We looked at the styles they used to do. ... It was natural we bring that back.”
Bock beers are dominated by rich malt with little hopped aroma.
Ames expects to take a sledgehammer to the wall around 5 p.m. June 7 at the end of the Taste of Downtown, scheduled from 1 to 5 p.m. that day. The event includes 18 downtown McHenry restaurants on Riverside Drive, Green Street and Main Street.
Each will offer a taste of some of their favorite food or beverages at a cost of $1 to $2. Those who attend can walk block to block or ride a trolley. Downtown shops and businesses also will offer discounts and specials throughout the afternoon.
As part of Ames’ event, he’ll officially open his brewery’s beer garden with bands from noon to 6 p.m.
Those who come to the brewing company will receive coasters containing spots where they can write their own messages about McHenry or the brewing company. The coasters will go in the capsule along with a beer growler, or jug, of the new beer.
T-Shirts celebrating the beer’s release also will be on hand. The shirts will contain billy goats because “bock” means billy goat in German, Ames said.
Patrons who’ve come in to the new brewery remember the history behind the building, along with the beers it once produced, Ames said. One man reflected on how he’d bring lunch to his dad as he worked at the brewery years ago.
“What we really wanted to do when we first opened the brewery was bring back craft beer to the city of McHenry,” Ames said. “We wanted to take advantage of the brewing history McHenry had.”