Homebrew club to be at Elgin fest but not allowed to offer samples
By Mike Danahey email@example.com August 8, 2012 10:08AM
David Starr, left, of Wayne, and Richard Placko, right, of Elgin, share beer during a Silverado Homebrew Club meet-up at Tap House Grill in St. Charles, Ill., on Thursday, June 21, 2012. | Andrew A. Nelles~For Sun-Times Media |
Updated: September 10, 2012 1:31PM
ELGIN — The organizers of Elgin’s Beer and BBQ @ Bowes festival have decided to take the lemon the state has given them and make a weissbier, or at the very least, a late summer shandy.
The second-annual event will still take place Sept. 15 at Bowes Creek Country Club and its Porter’s Pub. But there will be revisions to the original plan of letting the Silverado Homebrew Club of St. Charles offer samples of members’ homemade beers.
That’s because the Illinois Liquor Control Commission has been cracking down on public festivities where homebrewers have been offering samples of their wares. The commission is enforcing rules that allow people to make their own beer and share it with friends, family and guests at their own homes, but which don’t allow such groups to offer their concoctions at public events.
“We want Silverado to be part of our event again. They added a lot to it last year,” Parks and Recreation Director Randy Reopelle said Tuesday night at a brainstorming session held at the city-owned country club.
The initial fundraiser last fall brought in about $6,500 for the Recreation Youth Scholarship Fund, Reopelle said, and it was a city-sponsored event for the entire community at the far-west-side venue.
Reopelle, Silverado spokesman Richard Placko, Porter’s overseer Charlie Carlucci and state Rep. Keith Farnham, D-Elgin, met Tuesday over appetizers to assess the situation.
The matter was brought to a head recently after Silverado had been invited to offer samples at last weekend’s Wheaton Ale Fest but then was told it would not be allowed to set up because the city of Wheaton was worried about running into legal problems due to legislation that limits the ability of homebrewers to pass out samples of their beers.
Reopelle said he learned that a recent outing for police officers at the city-owned Highlands of Elgin Golf Course also had to change the way wine was going to be given to guests after notification from the ILCC.
Carlucci said he has discussed the matter with his attorney, who is exploring options for holding the fall fundraiser with the homebrew club.
At the very least, Reopelle said, club members will be present to assist for the day, which will include a broader sample of craft beers from retailers than were offered last year. The club also might offer beer making demonstrations and brewing tips, if not samples of members’ brews.
Placko said the club also may set up a keg under lock and key to draw attention to the state’s draconian rules and ask people to sign a petition urging politicians to change the law.
To that end, Farnham said he has asked legislative researchers in Springfield to see what other states have done to accommodate homebrewers at public functions.
But any change would take time and, if made, would take effect long past the date for the September Beer and BBQ @ Bowes, Farnham said.
Among the reasons for the crackdown, the ILCC has cited the fact that homebrewing clubs are not licensed, taxed or subject to health regulations that for-profit brewers are.
Silverado’s Placko said his club has not sold its brews at events in which it has taken part and that safety concerns about beers may be a bit unfounded.
“If there was anything wrong with a beer, the alcohol would kill it,” Placko said. “And if it tastes bad, I suspect someone would stop drinking it.”
In the last couple years, Wisconsin and Oregon changed their laws for allowing homebrew clubs taking part in public events after similar brouhahas in those two states. Missouri legislators also are looking at changing state law after home brewers were banned from this summer’s St. Louis Brewers Heritage Festival, where they had been offering samples since 2008.
In April, Peoria International Beer Festival organizers were told by the state liquor commission that since the clubs’ brewing equipment is not regulated and their beer is not taxed, they could not share such brews at the festival. A dozen brew clubs had been a feature at the Peoria fest over the past 19 years. The event is a fundraiser for the local Jaycees and charities.