This article was originally published in the Northwest Quarterly on October 12, 2021
It’s easy to become immersed, surprised and deliciously satisfied with a visit to the Lone Buffalo by Tangled Roots Brewing Co., 808 LaSalle St., in downtown Ottawa. This traditional, yet innovative brewpub and tap room is near four state parks, including Starved Rock State Park and Buffalo Rock State Park, where three resident bison roam.
The theme continues in downtown Ottawa, where a buffalo mural prominently features at the top of the historic 1888 building’s facade. Inside, the walls are resplendent with buffalo-inspired artwork. Shiny copper kettles, synonymous with the company brand, stand out.
The Lone Buffalo was opened in February 2016 by owners Peter Limburger, a native of Germany, and his wife, Inga Carus.
“They are Ottawa residents and wanted to invest in the downtown area,” says Anna Wright, marketing and experience manager for Tangled Roots Brewing Co. “Peter and Inga enjoy bringing small towns to life by investing in the community. In fact, their motto is ‘Small Towns, Big Ideas.’”
Their commitment to America’s small towns and Ottawa, in particular, helped to set the pace for this thriving, bustling downtown area. The couple’s success there encouraged them to expand and establish Lock & Mule in Lockport, Hangar Two in Glenview, the new Beer Garden at Chicago’s Navy Pier, and the soon-to-open Keg & Kernel in DeKalb.
Ottawa’s The Lone Buffalo is home to the company’s first and main brewery. Its farm-to-foam beer is exclusively brewed using the company’s own hops and barley, which are farmed on nearly 11 acres outside Ottawa. Popular brews include the Devil’s Paintbox IPA, Kit Kupfer Amber Ale and the signature “straight from the farm to the glass” Forty 1 Eighty 8, Illinois’ 100% farm-to-foam ale.
It’s easy to untangle all of the delicious menu options, but it’s a challenge to make a choice from all of the starters, weekly specials, seasonal selections and entrees; many offer ale pairing suggestions to complement the meal.
“Our menu changes often, and so do our favorites,” says Wright. “Currently, a big hit has been the Beer Can Nachos, Brewmaster BBQ Burger, Halfway to Nashville chicken breast and our filet mignon. One thing that is always on our menu at each of our locations is a real fan favorite, the Bison Chili.”
The Bison Chili is made from a mixture of slow-simmered bison, beef and pork, and it’s combined with tomato sauce, white beans, lime crema, pickled red onions, jalapenos and cheddar cheese.
The Lone Buffalo offers brewery tours that include an overview of its modern brewery operations, a history of brewing in Ottawa, and extensive information on its 1888 building. This immersive experience includes a flight of beers.
Also a choice for private events, The Lone Buffalo accommodates occasions like weddings, receptions, baby showers, anniversaries and corporate gatherings. Spaces can seat up to 40 people in a private dining room, 60 in the Tap Room and 80 in The Lounge on the entire second floor. The entire restaurant may also be available for rent.
“We like to say, ‘Come for the beer, stay for the food and return for the experience,’” adds Wright, “but we also hope we will become your favorite contemporary brew spot, too.”