Southwestern Illinois Farm Family Diversify With a Microbrewery (VIDEO)
Sometimes opportunity comes knocking. Or, in the case of the Liefer family of Cedar Hill Farm in Red Bud (Randolph County), a chance to diversify started brewing as Kris Liefer learned a new craft.
Liefer worked at a local winery and took an interest in the fermentation/brewing process. So, after months of experimenting and perfecting his skill with a home brewing kit, the idea for a possible new business bubbled up on the home farm.
“We were looking for ways to diversify again (after exiting the hog industry in the early 2000s),” said Kirk Liefer, a Randolph County Farm Bureau member, former Young Leader and Kris’ older brother. “We saw Kris’ talents and thought, this may be an opportunity.”
So, the Liefers hit the road and took their own craft beer to festivals to gather feedback from other brewers and enthusiasts to see if the brew was worthy of larger-scale production.
And it was a hit.
“That (positive feedback) gave us confidence (to open a business),” Kirk said. “Our next thought was, where can we set something up. My aunt and uncle approached us. They bought a building in town and were going to renovate it (back in April 2016). Since then, it’s been full throttle ahead.”
The Liefer family worked around the clock the past two-plus years to open their own craft brewery. They cleverly named it Lieferbrau, which in German means to deliver brew. The Liefers specialize in German-style brews.
“We did a bunch of research trying different names. But we kept coming back to our name,” Kirk said. And after researching the German heritage, “that was like a sign that we needed to name it that.”The family also put a lot of thought into the Lieferbrau logo, building décor and drink names. The main theme of the business focuses on the Liefers’ history in farming.
The logo incorporates wheat plants, with each strand representing one of the Liefer siblings, while the facility is decorated with historic family and farming pictures throughout, some by Kirk’s wife, Stephanie, a skilled photographer.
“The last year has probably been the busiest of our lives,” Kirk said. “When we weren’t working (on the farm or other day jobs), we were there every night (preparing the brewery). It was a team effort.”
The Liefers currently source some of the malts for the brewing process from Germany and the hops from Washington state. In fact, Kirk and Stephanie visited the farm that supplies their hops years ago on a Young Leader Ag Industry Tour.
“We toured the farm and facilities. But if you were to tell me eight or nine years ago we’d be buying their hops, I’d have been surprised,” Kirk said.
“We’d like to do some of our own ingredients in the future.”
The Liefers are researching the use of some of their own wheat for the brews and perhaps partnering with a local pumpkin farmer to produce a fall brew.
Lieferbrau celebrated its grand opening in historic downtown Red Bud on June 30. The town, a former stagecoach stop in the 1800s located at the intersections of highways 3, 154 and 159, offers an ideal location for a cozy setting but close enough to the St. Louis metro area to draw a wide variety of customers.
“It’s been exciting and overwhelming. The support we’ve gotten from the local community and surrounding areas has been amazing,” Kirk said of the business since the grand opening, which occurred the week after wheat harvest and planting of double-crop soybeans.
“Red Bud is a unique and growing town. About 20 to 25 years ago, a lot of resources were put into downtown to revitalize it,” Kirk noted. “Red Bud has kind of become a destination spot. It’s crazy how it happened.”
Lieferbrau features 12 beers on tap, including Double Crop Cream Ale (named after the family’s farming practices), Split Nail Pale Ale (which recognizes the renovation effort of the building), Cedar Hill Stout (named after the farm), Blossom City Brown (in honor of Red Bud, also known as “Blossom City”) and Gold Grain Hefeweizen (their father used to sell Golden Grain bins and the name also pays homage to the golden grain that fills the bins).
Check out a video of Lieferbrau below: