Monarch Brewing Company – permanently closed

Pete Bergstrom, in his own words, admits he is “failing retirement.” Already the owner of Bergie’s Place, a brunch and event venue on the square in Monticello, he was approached by Monarch Brewing Co.’s then owner, Matt Miller, in October 2018. In November, Bergstrom took over the restaurant and brewery.

Miller still owns the building. That building, also on the square, was formerly the United Methodist Church of Monticello from 1911 to 2016. Extensive renovations were made prior to Monarch’s opening in 2017, but its spirit remains. Sunlight streams in through beautiful stained-glass windows, the hostess stand is the church’s original pulpit, and pews line the back wall. Bergstrom says the project received a Preservation and Conservation Association Restoration Award (secondary use), and he feels lucky to be the building’s caretaker.

The business itself came about largely due to local investors who participated in a Kickstarter campaign. Plaques with their names adorn the tables in the restaurant, which were made from the church’s original floor joists.

Miller, an engineer by trade, had been a home brewer. Bergstrom says the restaurant business is totally different, and as a result, Monarch had a bit of an identity crisis in the beginning. “It was a brewery that served food,” he says. “My goal is a great restaurant that happens to brew beer.”

Bergstrom made a lot of changes, including the service, how the food was prepared and the speed it was served. “We’re in the service business,” he says.

The brewery was new to him. He says the three-barrel system they use is manageable for the single brewer on staff. Monarch has 14 microbrews on tap, seven of which are consistent and seven that change. His personal favorite is the Allerton Amber. He says False Alarm is a hoppy pale ale, and Frequency IPA is a coffee IPA that’s smooth and not heavy. There’s also a new blueberry Hefeweizen on tap for summer.

The house-made pretzel twists, served with an IPA beer cheese and an ale mustard, is a favorite on the menu. Other signature dishes include the Monarch Cuban (black forest ham, pulled pork, dill pickles, swiss cheese, ale mustard, served on sourdough), the house-smoked pulled pork (slow smoked pork, beer battered onion rings, stout BBQ sauce), bison bacon BBQ (ground bison, cheddar, double smoked bacon, beer battered onion rings, stout BBQ sauce), and the Clydesdale (classic horseshoe plus two slices of cheddar, house smoked pulled pork, double smoked bacon, beer battered onion rings, stout BBQ sauce, topped with more bacon). He supports Illinois producers, like Lieb Farms, supplier of Monarch’s bison.

He says the building has been feeding people for 70 years—as a church, it also served as a cafeteria for local elementary schools.

The kitchen and brewery are in the basement. Bergstrom jokes that with the number of stairs they climb every night, employees don’t need a gym membership to lose weight.

He’s excited to work with the larger staff and believes restaurants offer great mentoring opportunities. He says his employees are most important. “Take care of them, and they take care of guests. They’re happy at work.”

“It’s a good career for a people person,” he adds.

Bergstrom moved to Monticello in 2002. Before that, he lived in Boston, Seattle, California and Detroit. His first restaurant experience took place in a Jewish deli in Boston, followed by a stint at a pancake house. He later became an Army pilot, which led to his love of radio-controlled planes. That, in turn, led him to a position in product development with Horizon Hobby in Champaign. Strangely enough, it was that move that would bring him back to the food industry.

His job involved being on the road and attending corporate events. Bergstrom says he got tired of dried out hamburgers and hot dogs. He and his wife decided they could do better, so they began catering local events on a volunteer basis. Eventually he realized he ought to charge for his services.

He started doing pop-up dinners in town and catered on the side. He noticed the town needed a small event space and bought the kitchen he’d been using for catering, which, for the last three years, has been known as Bergie’s Place.

All of this led to Monarch. He says they are working on new beer and food pairings and have music (on the church’s original stage) every Friday, trivia on Thursdays and up-and-coming acoustic acts on Wednesdays, including locals and some acts from Nashville.

Bergstrom says patrons come all the way from Champaign, Rantoul, Tuscola and Decatur, but his desire is to be a great local restaurant, where it takes people 10 minutes to say goodbye to all the people they know. He says they get all ages—young couples with kids to a class of ‘58 reunion—and have hosted two weddings in the past three weeks, flipping the restaurant back to the church for the ceremony and back again for the reception.

Bergstrom would love to see the Monarch become Monticello’s gathering spot. As for him? “I love doing it. I plan on doing it for a while,” he says.



Monarch Brewing Company
212 S. Independence St., Monticello, IL 61856
(217) 631-1141

General hours
Closed Monday
11 a.m.-2 p.m. / 5-9 p.m. Tuesday-Thursday
11 a.m.-2 p.m. / 5-10 p.m. Friday
11 a.m.-10 p.m. Saturday
10 a.m.-2 p.m. Sunday

Happiest Hours
7-9 p.m. Tuesday-Wednesday
7-10 p.m. Friday-Saturday
10 a.m.-2 p.m. Sunday

Lunch & Dinner
Closed Monday
11 a.m.-2 p.m. / 5 p.m.-9 p.m. Tuesday-Thursday
11 a.m.-2 p.m. / 5 p.m.-9 p.m. Friday
11 a.m.-9 p.m. Saturday

10 a.m.-2 p.m. Sunday