Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Why We Created the Illinois Suburban Brewers Summit, and Why You Should Attend

Ever have one of those ideas that’s trapped in the back of your mind and just sits back there tickling your brain until you finally just have to act on it? For me, that idea was the Illinois Suburban Brewers Summit.

Last year, while traveling around the Chicago suburbs talking to brewers, bar owners, distributors, and beer geeks of all varieties, I noticed something; I kept hearing some of the same comments, questions, and stories from many of them. Chief among these was loud and clear: there seems to be a lot more focus and attention on craft breweries and events in the city than in the suburbs.

Something hit me while I was hearing and processing all of this feedback. Suburban breweries and beer drinkers alike face many common issues, and there’s a huge opportunity for brewers to learn from each other, including their city-based brethren, as far as what’s working, what’s not, and ways to work together to keep the Chicagoland beer scene moving in the right direction.

So, I went to work on what has become the Illinois Suburban Brewers Summit, an event organized by Nevin's Brewing Company in Plainfield and our Ale to the ‘Burbs group. For the uninitiated, we started as five individual beer websites based in the suburbs who collaborated on a monthly series about breweries and beer destinations, but have since expanded to more of a grassroots movement to help share news about beer events and even organize some of our own. Beyond Subbeerbia, our members include Kevin Bastian of Pour Man, Eric Woodruff of Blah Blah Beer, Ryan Williams of Suburban Brew, and Don DiBrita and his Beer Dogging clan. This summit never would have happened without each of their help.

I’ve Heard Enough. Take Me to the Tickets:

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Image: Ale to the Burbs logo

Our hope is that the Summit will be equal parts social and educational in nature. We had three main goals for this event at its inception, and they explain pretty well why you should be attending on March 8th.

1. We’re bringing over 20 breweries together in one location to pour their beer and connect with a suburban audience.

It was never my intention to create a huge event with every single Chicagoland brewer in attendance. That would be too much flannel and facial hair in one place. Rather, I wanted to bring a group together that held a vast wealth of experiences and who were at different stages of their breweries’ development. That’s why you’ll find Chicago staples like Goose Island and Two Brothers at this event alongside breweries who are just getting ready to launch this year like Penrose Brewing and Pollyanna Brewing. Larger, more established brewers like Revolution Brewing will stand side-by-side with nano breweries like Flesk Brewing. We wanted a wide swath cut from our diverse beer scene, and we got it.

As a start-up brewery, we can't thank some of the other suburban breweries enough for their willingness to share all sorts of knowledge with us as we continue to progress towards opening. This event will be a great way to learn even more and pay it forward by sharing our experience with everyone else. 
- Brian Pawola, Pollyanna Brewing

2. We’re creating a social and learning experience for both brewers and beer fans.

One of the things I knew right away while thinking about this event was I didn’t want it to be just another beer fest. I wanted it to be a summit. In my mind, that entailed a trading component of some kind, in this case the trading of information. I wanted brewers to walk out with ideas on how to face issues in new ways, and to be on the lookout for things they hadn’t even thought about yet. At the same time, I wanted the public to walk out with a greater understanding of the environment around them and to get an inside look at what our local brewers face on a daily basis in order to create the beverages we consume.

The ISBS is going to be a great educational experience for anyone in the suburbs who is a craft beer fanatic or brewer. There will be an awesome discussion on the state of brewing in the suburbs, the explosive growth our industry is experiencing, and where we’re headed. Best yet, attendees get the chance to sample the libations of our area’s craft brewers and take an active part in the summit first hand. 
- Brandon Wright, Chicago Brew Werks

3. We’re offering a great value while keeping the ticket price low.

One of our biggest challenges was creating a new event with several breweries and beers on tap while keeping ticket prices as low as possible. We wanted to give our attendees incredible value for their buck. That’s why we worked with Nevin's to partner with several sponsors to make sure we could keep the ticket price at $25 dollars. Attendees will receive 15 sample tickets for 4 ounce pours at that price, similar to what they would receive at an average festival in our area, and they also receive their tasting glass as a souvenir and a chance to sit in on an insider’s open forum, ask questions, snack on appetizers, and stick around afterwards for live music without paying a cover charge. That’s a Saturday evening’s worth of beer socialization, education, and entertainment at what we feel is a damn good price.

The Illinois Suburban Brewers Summit is an opportunity to be in an intimate setting with all the incredible new and established suburban Chicago breweries.  We will have an amazing lineup of beers, as well as light appetizers and a thoughtful discussion forum with your suburban brewers.  For beer lovers, it will be $25 well spent. 
- Marc Wilson, Nevin’s Brewing Company

While one of the focuses of the evening is certainly the state of brewing in the suburbs, we also want to shed light on the relationship between city breweries and suburban consumers. Often, getting beer into suburban locations is just as tough for city brewers as the inverse is for suburban brewers.

We learned early on that the craft beer fans in the suburbs are just as passionate and knowledgeable as those in the city - but being more spread out, it’s hard to connect with all of them. The Illinois Suburban Brewers Summit is a unique way to bring beer lovers from all across Chicagoland together to celebrate and learn more about the amazing growth in the industry in Illinois. 
- Jesse Evans, Ale Syndicate

Join us on March 8th from 6:30pm to 9:30pm at Nevin’s Brewing Company in Plainfield for the first of what we hope becomes an annual event that’s about more than drinking beer. It’s about finding ways to make brewing and drinking beer in the ‘burbs better for everyone.

All Images: Kevin Bastian

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