When Carolyn and Dean Armstrong bought the old Illinois Central Railroad depot building in downtown Flossmoor and opened a brewpub 20 years ago, they hoped it would be successful.
“It turned out to be incredibly rewarding,” Dean Armstrong said. “The community has supported us tremendously.”
Community support has been one of the keys to success for Flossmoor Station Restaurant & Brewery, which is celebrating its 20-year anniversary. To mark the date, the popular brewery and restaurant is hosting a series of events starting with its Anniversary Ale tapping on Friday, July 8.
The band Saturday Night Lights will perform on Saturday from 7 to 10 p.m. A cigar and beer pairing event is set for July 15 from 7 to 9 p.m., and the Beer Olympics Cookout will be July 16 starting at 4 p.m.
The Armstrongs have much to celebrate. The business they opened in 1996 was a new way of making and selling beer.
“It truly was a better way to do business,” Armstrong said. “If you wanted fresh beer, brewpubs were making it on the premises. It was a quantum leap better than beer that was canned, bottled or even offered on tap by mass production.”
He and his wife put $3.5 million into the historic station — a style called “bungaloid” for its combination of train depot, Tudor elements, and Spanish roof tiles — and hired a brewmaster.
“I had friends in Hinsdale and Barrington who said the community would never support it, but they were wrong,” he said.
Flossmoor Station was embraced by south suburban residents and has become a community gathering place over the years. Real estate agents bring clients there to close the deal, he said.
“People have supported Flossmoor Station, and they now take pride in it as well,” he said. “It’s a good fit.”
Armstrong also credited his wife, Carolyn, for “putting her heart and soul into the place. You have to have someone who really cares about the food and the beer, and that’s her. I just help.”
And, he added, “we’ve had so many great employees over the years. It’s been wonderful.”
Among them is Matt Van Wyk, who served as brewmaster years ago and created a special barley wine called Wooden Hell.
“All the stars aligned and it was superb,” Armstrong said. “It won several awards at the Great American Beer Festival, which is like the Oscars for beer.”
Wooden Hell also became a collector’s item. Recently, it has been offered for sale online for about $300 a bottle. On Aug. 4 and 5, Van Wyk will return to Flossmoor Station to brew up another batch, Armstrong said.
‘It’s the best beer in the world – or the underworld.”
Patty Houlihan is the Chronicle’s public outreach manager.