The number of Illinois-brewed craft beers available at this year’s Illinois State Fair, which kicks off tonight and runs through August 17th, will grow fivefold. But you won’t find the beer where you’d expect to.
The craft beer will be in the Illinois Wine Experience tent run by the Illinois Grape Growers and Vintners Association. This isn’t the first time Illinois brewers and Illinois vintners have worked together at the fair. But this will be the first time the IGGVA will run the show.
For the last few years South of 80 favorite Rolling Meadows worked with the IGGVA to land a corner of the Twilight Ballroom — where the Illinois Wine Experience has been held — to sell their beer on tap. This year the Twilight Ballroom is gone and Rolling Meadows’ owners and brewers are too. The IGGVA is going through a distributor, Marketplace Selections in Peoria, to get beer from a half-dozen Illinois breweries for their tent — including Rolling Meadows.
This isn’t ideal for the Rolling Meadows crew who would prefer to be on-hand, talking with people trying their beer — especially those who would be trying their beer for the first time. Illinois Craft Brewers Guild Executive Director Justin Maynard underscored that in an email exchange with Guys Drinking Beer. “If they are serving Illinois craft beer and purchasing it from a distributor, I am not sure how that helps either one of us,” said Maynard. “To have a rep or three on-site to talk about our product would be ideal.”
IGGVA President Bruce Morgenstern tells Guys Drinking Beer they’re getting info from Marketplace Selections to provide what he calls cursory information about each beer; i.e. is it a light beer or a dark beer.
“Are we going to train someone to do what [Rolling Meadows Owner] Caren [Trudeau] does with her beer, absolutely not,” said Morgenstern. “But we’re going to do our best.”
The key, according to Morgenstern, is getting the bottle into the hands of the consumer so they can use the label as a form of self-education.
A source tells us State Fair Manager Amy Bliefnick made a push for the IGGVA to add beer to their Wine Experience tent. With a Bud Tent, Miller Tent and Coors/Corona Tent already at the Fair craft beer was a logical choice. A Fair spokesperson confirms Bliefnick had a hand in getting beer into the Wine Experience tent but wouldn’t say to what extent.
When asked if the IGGVA would work with the ICBG in advance of next year’s fair to get brewery reps or Guild reps involved, when the Wine Experience will be moved into a new building, Morgenstern would only say they’re open to ideas.
“We hope this opens up to better things to come,” said Morgenstern.
Politics aside, it is nice to see a diverse list of craft beer, from Illinois breweries, at the Fair.
Here’s the beer available, by the bottle or can, at the Illinois Wine Experience Tent:
- Rolling Meadows Lincoln’s Lager
- Rolling Meadows Springfield Wheat
- Metropolitan Krankshaft Kölsch
- Metropolitan Dynamo Copper Lager
- Two Brothers Domaine Dupage (Bière de Garde)
- Two Brothers Sidekick (American Pale Ale)
- 5 Rabbit Fabulosa Porter
- 5 Rabbit 5 Vulture (Chile Beer)
- Destihl Abbey Single (Belgian Pale Ale)
- Destihl Hoperation Overload (Double IPA)
- Flossmoor Station Pullman Brown
- Galena Brewing Annabelle’s IPA
And here’s where to find it: