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Cheers to Illinois: Beer tourism booms as travelers sip their way through the Land of Lincoln

If you brew it, they will come.

In tonight’s special report, Dane Placko taps into a new travel trend that has tourists “pouring” into the Land of Lincoln.

“People like Beer, and they’ll drive far places to get beer,” said Brandon Wright, owner of Werk Force Brewing. “We’re lucky enough to be one of those places.”

Wright knows that for a fact. He’s the owner of Werk Force Brewing, a craft beer brewery in Plainfield.

Not only does he see customers come from near and far during their annual Oktoberfest but also during a special release of one of his craft brews. 

“They drove all the way up from Paducah, Kentucky,” said Wright. “There was a limit. It’s one bottle per person. So they drove all the way to get a single bottle of Sleepy Bear. It was worth it to them.”

Ed Dimler is another beer tourist who likes to hit the road for a good brew.

He is from Iowa, but we caught up with him on a bike trail in St. Charles. 

“I like Illinois beer,” said Dimler. “Boy, these local breweries do it. They make some delicious beer here in Illinois, for sure.”

When you are in a city like St. Charles, it’s not hard to find some delicious beer.

“We’ve seen a huge growth in beer tourism in St. Charles here locally. We are so lucky to have six local breweries here in St. Charles,” said Jenna Sawicki, Executive Director of the St. Charles Business Alliance. “Our breweries are always trying new experimental stuff. There’s always something new to try, so we feel like it’s brought in a ton of tourism.”

Alter Brewing and Kitchen is one of them. 

“In St. Charles, we see about 15 percent of our reservations come from folks from out of town,” said Ken Henricks, co-owner of Alter Brewing. “In Oak Brook, it’s closer to 30 percent. Oak Brook has more of a business traveling community.”

Known for its “Hopular Kid” pale ale, Alter Brewing has a third location in Downers Grove.

“When we talk to our out-of-town guests, craft beer and visiting breweries in other locations is one of their favorite things to do,” said Henricks. 

The Illinois Craft Brewers Guild says more people are traveling to Illinois and exploring the state because of the breweries. When they do, beer tourists like to combine one favorite pastime with another.

“We are gonna hit some breweries and stuff like that too,” said Dimler. “We like to do that when we are out biking, they go really good together.”

Chris Curren, a well-known Chicago chef, and his wife, Megan, run the Graceful Ordinary Restaurant in St. Charles.

“I think the demographic we get here is from all over the Chicago area and I think the breweries are part of the reason why people would come to this area,” said Chris Curren. “You can hop from brewery to brewery and then go out and have a decent meal.”

Will County is also seeing some of that tourist traffic pour in. 

“We have two major crossroads not too far from us,” said Jamie Albert, owner of Will County Brewing Company. “A mile away, we have I-55 and we have I-80, so we do get people that are traveling through the area.”

Whether they are on their way to Starved Rock in Ottawa, a Frisbee golf tournament in Channahon or the DuPage River for some tubing, award-winning Illinois beer is also a big draw. 

“I think the water source probably has a lot to do with it,” said Albert. “Lake Michigan has some of the best brewing water for beer. 

If you head back toward DuPage and Cook counties, craft brewers there are seeing similar tourist traffic.

Ryan Weidner is the CEO of Pollyanna Brewing and Distilling. 

With brewers who have trained in Germany or Belgium, he says beer drinkers are drawn to all three of their locations and nearby adventure experiences only add to the trip.

“Lemont has been kind of growing since we set foot down there in the last 10 years. Now that the Forge, the Lemont Quarry is there, we’re seeing a lot of outdoors folks come in,” said Weidner.

When we asked the state’s office of tourism about “beer tourism” here, we found out the appeal of Illinois beer growing across the globe. 

“The one thing we are doing to put a spotlight on that is we have an Illinois-made makers program, so we have over 236 makers, and we call these artisans, craftsmen, distillers, beer makers,” said Daniel Thomas, Deputy Director of the Illinois Office of Tourism.

Thomas says this program is big with beer drinkers in Germany and other countries.

“We’re seeing a really important global uptick with our airlift and visitors from those countries leaning into beer tourism,” said Thomas. 

The post Cheers to Illinois: Beer Tourism Booms as travelers sip their way through the Land of Lincoln appeared first on CNN World Today.

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Cheers to Illinois: Beer tourism booms as travelers sip their way through the Land of Lincoln


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