Preserving History Through Bikes and Beer at the St. Nicholas Brewing Co

A bike-friendly brewpub keeps tradition alive in a small midwestern town.

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The restored dining hall at the St Nick, photo by Colby Craig of See Through Photography.

About a two hour’s drive southeast of St. Louis, Missouri sits Du Quoin, Illinois, an unassuming town of around 6,000 people, most famous for its state fair and historic downtown. The St. Nicholas Hotel, built in 1879, was a landmark and a social hub in the midwestern town, providing boarding, food, and entertainment for travellers passing through on the nearby rail line. But by 2005, the old hotel had fallen into disrepair. Years of neglect and eventual abandonment put the building at risk for demolition, but residents of Du Quoin agreed its history was worth preserving.

So in 2009, work began to repair the old hotel. Not by real estate developers or a historical society, but by a group of friends who bike together, and who like to drink beer. After years of renovation on the crumbling building, the St. Nick opened its doors once more in 2014 as the St. Nicholas Brewing Co, a bicycle-friendly brewpub and restaurant.

The walls of the St. Nick are adorned with bicycles and cycling paraphernalia, and the owners sponsor brewery bike rides to to other breweries, as well as sanctioned rides in the local area. They’re located along the Shawnee National Forest Bike Trail, and this year they also hope to sponsor a large race. They serve up a selection of 12 in-house brewed beers on taps, and an upscale pub menu ranging from burgers and mac n’ cheese to thin crust pizzas and po’boys, even a pint of bacon!

A family-run affair, the St. Nicholas Brewing Co. was founded on the understanding that beer, food, and bicycles bring people together. Nearly 150 years after it first opened its doors, the old St. Nick is once more a landmark social hub for the Du Quoin community and those passing through.

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