CHICAGO – There’s something brewing in Illinois this week, and if you’re a fan of beer, you’ll have plenty of reasons to say “Cheers!”

Illinois Craft Beer Week is back for the first time in two years after being put on hold due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The annual celebrations of suds is a way to introduce drinkers to new craft beers plus a fundraiser for local breweries.

Ray Stout, Executive Director of the Illinois Craft Brewers Guild, told WGN News Now there are around 300 craft breweries across Illinois that contribute more than $3.3 billion to the economy.

Stout said craft brewers across the state have had a tough couple of years and this week’s event is really about shining a light on the need for recovery. “Many brewers across the state relied on a robust dine-in, drink-in experience to make ends meet. In fact, about 70% of their profits were made off of folks sitting in taprooms and drinking beer, and so they had to pivot pretty quickly away from that.” said Stout. “So, this whole week is really geared towards supporting these small businesses across the state.”

One of the ways craft beer lovers can help support their favorite brewery is through the ICBG’s Keep the Glass fundraiser. “We designed a custom glass for ‘Drink Illinois’ which is a brand of the Illinois Craft Brewers Guild. ” said Stout. “So, at breweries across the state you can buy a beer and keep the pint glass. It’s a great opportunity to support your local breweries and the non-profit guild.”

Craft beer fans and enthusiasts can also support Illinois beer statewide by joining their Summer passport program. Fans need to go to illinoisbeer.org and download an Illinois Summer Passport or pick one up at a local taproom. When they sample a beer at a participating brewery, snap a picture, and tag the guild, they’ll be entered for a chance to win a gift card to some of their favorite breweries.

Stout believes craft beer is about exploration, and he encourages beer drinkers to seek out new venues and beers this week and throughout the summer in order to expand their horizons while also helping brewers.
“Each individual brewery is going to have their own individual experience and they’re so unique. So, you can go to four breweries in one day and have a completely different experience in each one of them,” said Stout. “And on top of it, with craft brewery, a lot of times the folks that you’re ordering those beers from are the folks that brewed them.”

You can see more on Illinois Craft Beer Week in the video above.