Suburban brewers showcase their suds during Chicago Craft Beer Week

Jason Ebel, co-founder of Warrenville's Two Brothers Brewing Company, was one of the brewers on the Chicago Craft Beer Week committee, the group formed by the Illinois Craft Brewers Guild to develop an annual celebration of the area's beer culture.

“We just thought it was a great idea from the beginning,” he said. “Everyone can really focus on the growth of the beer industry in the Illinois area. When we started we were the only production brewery in the state of Illinois. Now we're up to 82.”

The event, which runs from Thursday, May 14, through Sunday, May 24, has grown along with the area's number of breweries. Now in its sixth year, it features events at 300 venues including more than 50 events run by Two Brothers.

“We just do an incredible number of events in the city and suburbs, everything from panel discussions about ingredients to total tap takeovers,” Ebel said. “We're big believers in this week, and that's why we do so many events.”

They'll be giving away their new glassware with a purchase of a pint at Winfield's John's Restaurant and Tavern, which was the brewery's first account when it started 18 years ago and has kept Two Brothers on tap ever since. Two Brothers will be participating in Pints Elmhurst's inaugural craft beer fest on Saturday, May 16, and will be joining seven other local breweries for a tasting from noon to 4 p.m. Sunday, May 17, at Funway, 1355 S. River St., Batavia.

The brewery is also bringing special kegs to bars throughout the area. SavWay Fine Wines & Spirits' St. Charles location will sample Two Brothers tallboys and Red Eye Coffee Porter on Friday, May 15, with the Geneva store doing the same on Friday, May 22. And from noon to 9 p.m. Saturday, May 23, at Westmont's Standard Market, 333 E. Ogden Ave., patrons can try some of Two Brothers' Sour Beer #2, which took a gold medal at the Great American Beer Festival and sold out the day it went on sale.

“By far the most requested beer for us to bring back on our specialty release side is Red Eye Coffee Porter. After a three-year break from releasing that beer, we're going to bring it back that week. We will be having quite a few of our archived beers, going back as far as nine years, for these tap takeovers around town.”

Newer area breweries are also using Chicago Craft Beer Week as an opportunity to show off and raise awareness of their brews. Itasca's Church Street Brewing Company, which opened in 2012, will host its first trivia night from 4 to 8 p.m. Thursday, May 21, in their tap room, 1480 Industrial Drive Unit C.

“Every year we do a little bit more,” said co-owner Lisa Gregor. “We'd just been going to the big festivals the Craft Brewers Guild organized downtown before, but not doing anything in the tap room.”

This year they're participating in the annual Beer Under Glass benefit for Chicago's Garfield Park Conservatory on Thursday, May 14, and also hosting a tasting and tour benefiting the Itasca Public School District on Saturday, May 16.

“A lot of the events we're doing are for charity,” Gregor said. “It's just to bring awareness to the Chicago craft beer scene. We're getting bigger and bigger and it's fun and useful for all of us if we get more people involved and aware of craft beer in Illinois.”

Aurora's Hopvine Brewing Company, at 4030 Fox Valley Center Drive, also has a full lineup of special events planned. Throughout Craft Beer Week, they'll be offering a daily $3 beer special, lower than the $4 price participants usually use. This is the brewery's second year participating, and they said being part of the event last year helped build their customer base.

“We do see a pick up of customers after we've been at events like this,” co-owner Jan Isley said.

“Because were a full restaurant as well as a brewery, we take our to-go menus. You always see new faces or faces you've seen at the events coming in to the brewery afterward.”

Hopvine is hosting plenty of events this year. On Friday, May 15, they'll release a new rye saison that's also debuting at Beer Under Glass. On Saturday, May 16, members of the PALE Homebrew Club will be sampling some of their works, and on Wednesday, May 20, Hopvine will screen the 2009 documentary “Beer Wars” in the brewery's private room.

“We want to expose more and more people to craft beers,” said co-owner Doug Isley, Jan's husband. “There are a lot people who've already jumped onto that bandwagon, but there are a lot of macro beer drinkers who haven't tried it yet. There are wine drinkers who don't know the variety of flavors that are out there. The best way to do it is with various events.”

  Hopvine Brewing Company in Aurora has a large selection of craft beers brewed on site, including drafts like the Urban Tumbleweed. Mark Black/, May 2014
  Aurora Amber leads the lineup of craft beers available at Hopvine Brewing Company in Aurora. Mark Black/, May 2014
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