The Illinois craft beer scene is still up-and-coming, but this is the best place in the country for it to grow.
That’s according to Pete Crowley, President of the Illinois Craft Brewers Guild. With 18 years of professional beer experience under his belt — most of it at Chicago’s Rock Bottom Brewery — and plenty of it involving quality tasting, he’d know. He says variety is what puts our city on the beer map.
“We are able to get craft beers from both coasts, and the midwest itself is home to a ton of amazing breweries,” Crowley explained. We met up with him recently at Goose Island to chat about Chicago Craft Beer Week and the goodness of brews in general. “All of those beers are available in Chicago. You can’t say that all of the midwest beers are available in California.”
Craft beer is not about slamming a six-pack while sitting in front of the tube. Instead, it’s about opening a bottle for an occasion, savoring the flavor, and pairing it with food much like wine. One of the best things about it? Well, it’s not wine.
“Beer is easier to pair with anything — cheese, chocolate,” said Crowley. “The alcohol content doesn’t overwhelm, you’ve got more styles and flavors, more manufacturers, and more historic regional types of beer than wine or distilled spirits.”
Local brews tend to be unique too, not modeled after what is being done in other countries or regions, Crowley said. Craft beer branches out in new directions.
With the economic downturn, the number of breweries in the midwest has actually grown. Crawley says that’s because folks are starting to appreciate craft beers. It’s also because the cost of materials and construction has gone down, making it more feasible to open a brew pub. Crowley himself looks forward to opening Haymarket Pub and Brewery this summer, which will feature an open kitchen and the Drinking and Writing theater in addition to the brewery. At the heart of his new venture though is the simple goal of serving a quality product.
“Craft beer is pretty bad ass, and we want you to try it.”