Illinois Craft Beer Week returns honoring local brewers, aims for industry fully reopening

Updated: May. 13, 2021 at 6:14 PM CDT
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ROCKFORD, Ill. (WIFR) - Craft Beer Week in Illinois returns after a year hiatus because of COVID-19. But this time the focus is on recovery and working together to rebuild the industry. This is why the Illinois Craft Brewers Guild is bringing it back, to honor the people who kept the suds flowing in Illinois over the past year with optimism for the future bubbling over.

Chris Langguth, Head Brewer at Pig Minds says working during the COVID-19 pandemic wasn’t easy as lots of maneuvering had to take place. He says, “We tried our best to sort of pivot our distribution model, focus more on getting cans, growlers and every format imaginable just out the door to support those who have been loyal to Pig Minds for the last nine years.”

The brewery has a big presence in the Stateline and is now coming up on their 9th anniversary. Smaller breweries like Urban Forest Craft Brewing faced even bigger challenges during the pandemic, as they held their grand opening nearly one year ago.

Alex Cando, Co-Founder and Head Brewer at Urban Forest says, “There were some tough times. I must admit, having our grand opening be curbside sales was a little disheartening. We couldn’t not open and we’re still here a year later, the lights are on.”

While both breweries are coming up on anniversaries and struggled over the last year, what makes Rockford different is that the breweries around here realize they have competition. However, that’s not what they’re all about.

“We have our own little Northern Illinois Brewers Guild between us so as we open up more, we hope to be able to more events with those guys to show the community spirit and get together behind one another,” Alex says.

In 2010, there were more than 1,700 breweries were operating in the United States. In 2020, that number rose to more than 8,700. While COVID-19 did slow things down a bit, brewers say events like Illinois Craft Beer Week will help speed that up and keep the trend going.

Chris says, “It was just from the outside seeing a sense of community, collaboration and innovation and that’s something I wanted to belong to. People have talked about there being a bubble in this market, we’ve grown so much. I think what we’ll start seeing is that we’re eating away at the market share, at some of the bigger guys. That’s the goal of craft beer. We’re seeing that.

Craft Beer Week begins Friday, May 14 and continues through Friday, May 21 throughout the state. The ICBW week of action includes:

  • PAY IT FORWARD: IIn recognition of craft beer staff, owners and operators who have given so much this year, brewery fans and patrons are encouraged to show their appreciation throughout the week. Leave an extra tip. Try a new Illinois beer. Buy a four-pack for a friend. Post a positive review. Each act of kindness makes a difference for Illinois breweries and their teams.
  • A SHOT + A BEER: Help Illinois move closer to full reopening (and avoid any further restrictions) by getting a COVID-19 vaccine! During ICBW, craft beer fans who snap a photo of their vaccination record with an Illinois beer and post to social with #ShotAndBeerIL will be entered to win two tickets to our next ticketed event. Two winners will be announced at the culmination of ICBW.
  • DAY OF ACTION: THE BEER ACT: Illinois craft breweries are fighting for a bill in Springfield that would make craft beer delivery permanent and enable breweries to ship directly to consumers. On Wednesday May 19, all supporters are encouraged to reach out to their local representatives and ask them to pass The BEER Act. Sending an email takes just one minute.
  • SMALL BREWERY SUNDAY: During Illinois Craft Beer Week (and every week), we’re challenging consumers to skip the beer section at the grocery store and opt to pick up from a small brewery instead. Direct orders via taproom pickup or delivery are more profitable and valuable to breweries and help protect local jobs.
  • PASSPORT PLUS: Illinois craft breweries are taking the Summer Passport to a new level with PassportPlus, rewarding craft beer drinkers for choosing Illinois beer at home PLUS in the taproom. More details on the PassportPlus program are below.
    • Starting May 14, craft beer fans who purchase Illinois beer from one of 135+ participating locations receive a Passport Frame with their orders, (while supplies last). Using the frame, participants are encouraged to show off how they Drink Illinois, snapping photos of their Illinois beer in craft-friendly places such as a taproom patio or outdoor barbecue.
    • Framed photos posted to social media that tag the brewery and include #ILPassportPlus will be entered into a weekly drawing for a $25 gift card to the participating brewery of choice.

PassportPlus runs Friday May 14 through Thursday June 10. Winners are announced every Friday.

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