Illinois Craft Brewers Flourish with Help of Strong State Guild

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I recently attended the Illinois Craft Brewers Guild’s (ICBG) third quarter meeting, held in the far west corn field-covered suburbs of Plainfield, Ill. at Nevin’s Brewing.  The ICBG, founded in 1997, is a not-for-profit organization dedicated to promoting and supporting Illinois craft breweries. The guild is led by Executive Director Justin Maynard, President John Barley, owner of Solemn Oath Brewing Co, and a nine member board.

Maynard opened the meeting by welcoming the voting members for an early session of ICBG business and educational seminars. After lunch, the ICBG general meeting commenced with a warm welcome to the associate members, updates from the ICBG’s lobbying firm, and a visit from Illinois State Senators Pat McGuire and Jennifer Bertino-Tarrant.Illinois Craft Brewers Guild

Membership

The ICBG has been growing exponentially over the last couple years with Maynard at the helm and backed by a team of talented support staff on board as well. The Brewers Association (BA) counts 103+ breweries in Illinois now, and ICBG holds 92% brewery membership within the state. The guild has added 58 new voting brewery members since 2013, and has boosted the Allied Trade tier to 117 members. ICBG also offers a robust enthusiast member program, IMBIBE (acronym for “I’M A Big Illinois Beer Enthusiast!”) with over 550 members.

Events

The ICBG hosts four major fundraising events through the year. Chicago Craft Beer Week (CCBW) in May is a primary fundraiser. This year’s 11-day CCBW included hundreds of events spanning over 300 venues. The week opens each year with Beer Under Glass (BUG), held in the Garfield Park Observatory as a fundraiser for the venue, and features over 90 ICBG member breweries. Complete with a comprehensive CCBW mobile app, the guild successfully enticed thousands of craft beer enthusiasts to explore Chicago’s booming brewing industry.

Upcoming ICBG events include:

  • Oak Park Micro Brew and Food Review, Saturday, August 15, 2015, held downtown Oak Park. Features over 200 brews, from more than 70 breweries from Illinois and beyond.  The event also raises vital funds for Seven Generations Ahead.
  • 12th Anniversary of the ICBG Festival of Barrel Aged Beers, Nov 14 & 15, 2015, held in the UIC Forum, downtown Chicago. This is the guild’s largest fundraiser to date and one of the country’s largest celebrations of wood and barrel-aged beers. Tickets sell out in minutes to sample some of the rarest beers in the world. The festival grew from one to two days after experiencing insanely popular demand. Please visit fobab.com for more information on the event!

The ICBG is starting a new “Drink Illinois” campaign to increase brand awareness with consumers. The guild contracted a marketing firm to produce a paper trail map of local breweries as the first project. Check out more at DrinkIllinois.com.

Government Affairs

In conjunction with the Illinois distributors association, Associated Beer Distributors of Illinois (ABDI), the guild helped orchestrate a compromise on multiple pieces of legislation in 2014. Passing both legislative chambers and now awaiting the Governor’s signature, House Bill 3237 allows a manufacturer, distributor, or importing distributor to furnish free social media advertising to a person having a retail license if the social media advertisement does not contain the retail price of any alcoholic liquor.

The bill also establishes a new system of Class 1 and Class 2 brewers. Class 1 brewers can produce up to 30,000 barrels and self-distribute up to 7,500 barrels, but they’re barred from having a brewpub. Class 2 brewers, on the other hand, can hit 120,000 barrels and have up to three brewpubs or taprooms, with a 5,000-barrel cap at any of their brewpubs.

Unless otherwise changed, many small brewery business would have needed to sell off their brewery or brewpub businesses, causing undo economic harm and stifling growth to these main street businesses.

An additional bill, referred to as the “Happy Hour Bill”, SB 398 was signed by Governor Bruce Rauner in mid-July, brings drink specials back to Illinois. The discounted drink specials have been banned in Illinois since the late 80s over concerns about excessive drinking and impaired driving. The bill allows drink specials up to four hours each day and up to 15 hours a week.

Coming in 32nd in the nation with 1.1 Breweries per Capita (per BA stats), Illinois certainly appears to have plenty of room to grow. The ICBG stands strong as the front line of protection and promotion of the beer brewed by small and independent brewers.