Vintage Brewing Company deluges devotees with bountiful beers born out of Belgian, German, and American traditions. These refreshing hop-laden selections rest beside a slew of creative culinary concoctions, many of which comprise locally sourced ingredients. A plate of AJ's pretzels ($6) saunters in at the beginning of a feeding frenzy, with house-made pretzels perched on a pedestal and set to dive into a sea of VBC beer mustard and cheese dip. Vintage Brewing Company ups the burger ante with bratwurst burgers ($10.50) that explore what happens when two 4-ounce grilled brats are picked to live inside a beer-bread pretzel roll with oatmeal stout bacon sauerkraut, swiss cheese, and beer-cheese sauce. Throughout the visit, diners can pair plates with an array of bottles and cans, beers on tap, and wine.
The Old Sugar Distillery produces small-batch liquors made from Midwestern ingredients. Its cornerstone concoction, the Old Sugar Factory Honey Liqueur, is distilled from dark-brown beet sugar and then aged in a wooden womb of American oak before being subtly sweetened with pure Wisconsin honey. The Cane and Abe Freshwater Rum, named in honor of President Lincoln and his favorite criminal-scaring stick, is made with cane sugar lovingly beamed up from the saccharine states of Hawaii and Louisiana and then aged in charred American oak barrels. These luscious liquids can be sampled either by sipping a freshly made cocktail ($6) at the distillery's long wooden bar, or by buying a bottle ($30) for midnight sips in the dead chill of winter. The Old Sugar Distillery also offers free tours and tastings with up-close views of the large copper pot still.
Travelers follow Jo Daviess County's sprawling fields and undulating hills toward Massbach Ridge Winery?s 18+ acre estate. Founded by the Harmston family in 2003, the winery?s proprietors grow the grapes to concoct their batches of reds and whites. Members of the winery family escort guests on impromptu tours before rendezvousing in the tasting room or on the patio for samplings. The outdoor patio grants a heightened view of the vineyards below, which visitors can wander through on quests for vine-ripe copies of The Grapes of Wrath. In addition to its frequent tastings and tour sessions, Massbach Ridge Winery hosts a number of wine-related events each year.
Acquaviva Winery's 40 acre estate contains more than picturesque rows of vines and trellises, though those can be found in spades, as well. The winery includes a tasting room, pizza bistro, and marketplace within a elegant edifice custom-built for the winemakers' purposes. The architecture and decor, created by artist Andrew Zabela, boasts the rich color palette and complexity associated with the high Renaissance, a brand of opulence seldom seen i the New World. Domed ceilings feature elaborate, gold-painted plaster filigrees, which, in turn, frame Zabela's hand-painted murals.
The elaborateness of the decor actually stands in stark contrast to the simplicity of the wines. "We have a minimal intervention approach to our process, creating soulful wines that express the true nature of every part of our vineyard," says wine maker Sergio Benavides, "permitting our terrior, grapes, and vines to speak for themselves." He manages every acre of the vineyards, coaxing flavor from 23 different varieties of grapes. His care and tending pay off; virtually every bottle of wine the vineyard produces, from the Bianco Bello to the Frontenac, boasts multiple awards and notes of extremely robust self esteem.
Flatlander's pampers malt-pining palates by balancing a seasonal lineup of more than seven house-made brews with a diverse menu ranging from classic pub fare to gourmet entrees. Beer flights guide diners through five distillations and the on-site brewmaster ensures appetizers highlight each brews best qualities, matching seared asian ahi to the crispness of the Jackson Wit and spicy jumbo wings to the Flatlander IPA's training as a firefighter. Thick cuts of homestyle meatloaf and crispy morsels of fish and chips embody the roles of classic pub fare, subtly supported by gourmet-inspired castmates such as linguine pomodoro and USDA-prime center-cut filet mignon. An arsenal of 13 hearty burgers accessorized with toppings such as pulled pork, guacamole, or fried onions gratify any diet while bookended around a choice of USDA-prime chuck, ground turkey, veggie, or peppermint patties.
Visitors have an unusual transportation option for getting to Summer Solstice: if they get an early enough start, they can float up to the day of craft beer and concerts by canoe. As the Fox River ambles past the historic buildings of downtown Yorkville, it deposits a flotilla of revelers in Riverfront Park. Those who don’t want to paddle in are also allowed to arrive on foot or palanquin to enjoy the rootsy music and frosty brews of the fest, a collaboration between Rogue Barrister Records, Three Angels Brewing, and the Yorkville Area Chamber of Commerce.