People drive from miles away to choose from the more than 40 craft beers on tap and more than 40 bottled varieties in Mokena’s own backyard at Tribes Alehouse.
“We had one guy drive a half hour for just one beer,” owner Niall Freyne said.
That was just last week, when Tribes received a cask of Bell's Hopslam.
Only four barrels of the brew were distributed in Illinois, and Tribes got one. Cask beer means the beer is sent directly from the brewery, non-pasteurized and non-carbonated. It’s served at room temperature and must be drunk within three days.
This is what gets people driving miles to check this place out.
If you haven’t checked out Tribes, this week is jam-packed with opportunities for fun, thanks to the Ides of March and St. Patrick’s Day celebrations. Tonight, to pay tribute to the Ides of March, a late-night tapping of the elusive Founders Kentucky Breakfast Stout will take place at 10 p.m., along with Founders Devil Dancer, Founders Endurance Ale and Founders Imperial Stout.
Thursday, Tribes will celebrate St. Paddy's Day with a corned beef and cabbage food special, decorations, Irish music and of course “the holy trinity of beer, Guinness, Harp and Smithwicks,” Freyne said.
However, don’t expect to find any cheap clichés of Ireland here. “We will never serve green beer,” Freyne proclaimed.
Freyne was born in Ireland and came here with his family when he was young. After working in the hotel food and beverage business for 20 years, he decided he wanted his own restaurant.
Freyne opened Galway Tribes Irish Pub & Restaurant in Frankfort, which had to close in May 2009 because of the economy, according to Freyne. After a few months of unemployment, Freyne opened Tribes Alehouse in November 2009.
“We’d do this one differently, a beer bar specializing in craft beer,” Freyne said. “Supporting the craft beer industry is like supporting independent businesses.”
Freyne hired most of his original staff back on from Galway Tribes.
In February, the restaurant's food menu changed to include fewer options but better quality, according to Freyne.
“We decided to grow up a little from basic bar food,” Freyne explained. On the menu, you will find not only half-pound certified Angus burgers, but also grass-fed bison burgers, and organic beef, chicken and cheese options.
“This type of food is what’s popular right now,” Freyne said. He made sure to point out that it’s not all healthy. Case in point: classic poutine, an appetizer that boasts hand-cut fries topped with cheddar cheese curds and veal gravy, which Freyne deemed one of the most popular menu items. The lamb "lollichops," the garlic-seared scallops and the escargots are also popularly ordered appetizers, Freyne said.
Then there’s the beer menu. Oh, the beer.
Two rows of beer handles line the wall behind the bar, totaling 43. Currently, Tribes also has 46 elusive bottled beers and only one beer in a can. Growlers are available to be purchased and taken home too.
Freyne explained that craft beer is the highest-growing trend in the food and beverage industry right now. “People are drinking less, but better,” Freyne stated.
Gluten-free beers are also available.
To help Tribes customers keep up with the ever-changing variety, Freyne is all about using current technology. Not only does he update the Tribes Facebook and Twitter pages on a regular basis: he’s also creating a smartphone application, which will be available in a couple weeks. The menu already has a barcode which you can scan with your smartphone to receive updates.
Weekends tend to get very crowded, and every Monday night, Tribes hosts an open bluegrass jam, with anywhere from seven to 20 musicians sitting together and jamming out. Tuesday nights are open mic night.
Tribes also hosts a slew of weekday specials. Monday through Thursday, from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m., everything on the menu is 25 percent off with the purchase of a beverage. Beer specials are available each weekday, and Wednesday is half price wine day.
George Thomas, a regular Tribes customer, said he tried sneaking in before Tribes even opened its doors.
A resident of New Lenox, Thomas regularly visited Galway Tribes and now regularly visits Tribes.
“I made a lot of friendships over at Galway, and now we all get together here,” Thomas explained.
Thomas said he visits Tribes about three times a week for the food and beer.
“I always change it up because there’s almost always something new,” he said.