White picket fence. Tire swing swaying from the tree. Two-car garage with a basketball hoop in the driveway. Following the recent Illinois Suburban Brewers Summit in Plainfield, I can add “up-close and personal festival with my favorite local breweries” to the list of suburban Chicagoland clichés.
Organized by Ale to the Burbs, my five-headed troupe of craft beer evangelists, this first-time event jammed host Nevin’s Brewing Company’s banquet room to its maximum capacity with potent beers, eclectic noshables and a crowd thirsty not only for 4-ounce pours but the inside scoop on what goes on in the minds of the men and women behind the breweries they love.
Sandwiched in the middle of a tasting event that brought together 25 of the suburbs’ most well- and least-known breweries, a moderated open forum put a panel of a dozen or so brewers on the spot to touch on some of the burning issues of Chicagoland’s craft beer scene.
It’s rare in any industry to get the opportunity to not only meet the creators of some of your favorite wares but also pick their brains and witness them do the same to each other. Chances are you’ll never get to shake hands and shoot the breeze with the workers who make your beloved smart phone or the car you spend countless hours detailing. You can’t ask them what went into making their products or what ideas they have for their next innovations.
This Summit further convinced me that the Chicago suburbs’ “craft beer community” wholeheartedly lives up to the term, while conveying the notion to attendees that “we’re all in this together.” Ultimately, when lines of communication keep being opened, brewers can keep making the beers we love.
Images courtesy of Amanda Hein Photography