Craft beer industry alive and thriving in Illinois

SPRINGFIELD, Illinois (Illinois News Network) — The Illinois craft brewery industry expects to see continued growth for locally brewed libations.

Nationally, the Brewers Association said in 2017 there were more than 6,300 breweries in the U.S. Small and independent craft brewers represent 12.7 percent of market share by volume. While there was a 1 percent drop in total beer production, the association said craft beer production increased 5 percent.

“The number of craft breweries in Illinois has skyrocketed more than 350 percent” in five years, Illinois Craft Brewers Guild Executive Director Danielle D’Alessandro said in a statement.

In 2016, the guild said Illinois craft brewers had an estimated $2.6 billion economic impact, supporting 16,000 jobs in manufacturing, agriculture, hospitality and tourism. The guild also said craft brewers drive traffic to local businesses and restaurants.

While some might think the craft industry is close to a saturation point, D’Alessandro said it continues to grow in Illinois.

“What we’re going to continue to see is a lot of these small breweries that are opening up that are focused on their taproom, on bringing people into the taproom, sharing their story, getting out to some of the local bars and retail stores and really being a part of the communities,” D’Alessandro said.

She estimates Illinois will see two-dozen new craft breweries open in the next year.

As to the challenges for Illinois’ craft brewery industry, the guild doesn’t see that coming from the big brewers, distributors or retailers looking to protect their turf.

D’Alessandro said the guild does what it can to work with big brewers, distributors and retailers to bring balance in the industry. She said the guild is constantly monitoring legislation in Illinois that could curb the rights of craft brewers.

“It’s imperative on us then to try and work together and find a compromise that we’re all happy with,” D’Alessandro said.

Last year, a measure supported by the guild to allow 170 craft breweries to apply for special use permits so they could set up at farmers markets, street festivals or other special events stalled in committee after opposition from distributors and retailers associations.

Despite that, D’Alessandro said the major challenge is the changing taste of consumers.

“One, you just have to have good beer,” she said. “Then, two, to be able to tell a story and three to really be able to share that story through good marketing and good advertising.”