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.
When he wasn’t piloting a plane, Toby Beall spent time with his bare feet in the Caribbean sand and a cocktail mellowing in his hand. Looking to share that laid-back lifestyle, Beall, his wife Jillian and brother Jamey founded Tailwinds Distilling Company. Today, the Plainfield-based specialists blend premium ingredients such as organic molasses and 100% blue agave, and carefully age them in french-oak barrels to create their tropically-inspired amber rum. After the signature, small-batch distilling process—which avoids the use of carbon filters so as to leave the flavors intact—each bottle is individually signed. That attention to detail hasn’t gone unnoticed: their Taildragger white rum earned a silver medal at the 2012 Ministry of Rum Tasting Competition, and their 100% blue agave spirit was featured in Chicago Magazine's Holiday 2012 Gift Guide: For Imbibers.
Visitors can take a jetlag-free trip to the tropics during tours of the facility, learning about distillation and sampling sips in a tiki-bar-themed tasting room. Merchandise such as T-shirts, snifters, and flasks provide more lasting souvenirs than the imaginary tan the island vibe might inspire.
Surrounded by yellow walls and gleaming bottles of fine wines and craft beers, patrons test new additions to the store's inventory during tasting classes. At sessions accompanied by light appetizers, knowledgeable staff members pour samples of six select wines and explain what makes each wine unique and how its flavor profile will pair with entrees or desserts. In addition to libations, the store's wooden racks hold wine accessories such as aerators and bottle decorations and gift baskets filled with chocolates. Custom label creations are also available to personalize bottles for weddings, anniversary celebrations, or protection inside the office refrigerator.
When you think of Illinois, you might not think of a vineyard capable of yielding award-winning wine, but that’s exactly what you get with the Faltz Family Vineyard, which supplies Fox Valley Winery. The vineyard produces the grapes for wines that have won various awards in national and international competitions.
The vineyard, located about 20 miles away in Sheridan, supplies grapes through its more than 25 acres of vines draped across the rock-ribbed ledges of the Fox River Valley. This is where the Faltz family, their friends, and their employees spend many days coaxing the crop through the long growing season, checking for proper chemistry, and harvesting the grapes before they turn into talking raisins.
Today, Waterman Winery and Vineyards, Inc. is a 12-acre vineyard, lush with 40 varieties of primarily French-American grapes. However, in 1998, the winery began as something else entirely—a fanciful idea in the minds of three middle school teachers nearing retirement. After spending years specializing in agriculture, chemistry, and social sciences, they banded together to found the winery, outfitting it with eco-friendly production techniques that have earned them various sustainability awards. Nowadays, the team produces a wide variety of wines, from cherry wine and spiced reds to crisp whites. Visitors can sample the eco-friendly wines during on-site tastings, or purchase bottles to take home and sip on their own time.
WineStyles’ inspiration for its wine-tasting parties began, of all places, at a backyard barbecue. Some friends at the barbecue found themselves with too many bottles of wine. As an experiment, they decided to taste the wines blindly, so as not to be influenced by price or packaging. This impromptu tasting became the template for WineStyles, a boutique designed to help you choose a wine simply by taste. That is, wines here aren’t categorized by varietal or region, but instead by one of eight taste profiles: crisp, silky, rich, and bubbly for whites; fruity, mellow, bold, and nectar for reds. However, patrons interested in knowing more about their selected bottle can still do so—each bottle comes with a description of its characteristics and suggested food pairings.
Those looking to learn even more about wines can attend one of WineStyles’ weekly tastings or discovery classes. During these events, certified specialists explore everything from the history of different varietals to current trends in wine drinking, such as which wine goes best with texting. Different levels of wine-club membership give participants two to three bottles a month (each selected by a Masters Wine Panel, invitations to private tastings, and discounts toward additional purchases.
Unsurprisingly, beer plays a big role at Nevin's Brewing Company. Their brewmeisters craft a panoply of suds that range from an IPA to a rich, hearty stout. When they finish a batch of ale, they could easily throw their spent grains away–unceremoniously in the garbage or ceremoniously on their 3,000th customer. Instead, they take their used barley and hops to local farmers, who use the nutrient-rich grains as compost for their fields and feed for their livestock. Later on, Nevin's chefs return to the very farms they nourished to buy beef and vegetables to make sustainably-crafted burgers, ribs, and salads that can be washed down with cool, refreshing beer.