Breweries, wineries, distilleries could boost DeKalb County's economy

DeKALB – Local breweries, wineries and distillers could be a tonic for DeKalb County's economy.

Representatives from Prairie State Winery in Genoa, Whiskey Acres Distilling Co. in DeKalb, Cademon Brewing Co. in Genoa and the soon-to-open Forge Brewhouse in Sycamore all agreed that businesses that buy local bring added value to the region's economy at Thursday's DeKalb County Economic Development Corp. Industrial Focus Reception.

Paul Borek, the DCEDC's executive director, said companies that manufacture products using locally grown ingredients can generate more money for other businesses.

"Food and beverage production, like manufacturing, generates significant income to other local industries for the purchase of supplies, ingredients and services," he said. "Agriculture processing and production industries are fast-growing and represent a significant growth opportunity in the U.S and DeKalb County economies."

Jamie Walter, co-founder of Whiskey Acres Distilling Co., said the number of craft distilleries alone in the United States has grown from 24 in 2000 to an estimated more than 1,000 by 2016.

Andrew Nordman, the owner of Cademon Brewing said using locally-grown crops in his beer was a priority.

“It’s that community spirit,” he said. “That is is what I think this area is great about. An opportunity for work that encourages smaller businesses to come together and to grow the entire area."

Rich Mamoser of Prairie State Winery said discoveries regarding new "hybrid" grapes that can be grown in Illinois' colder climates have led to a curiosity from consumers.

"The reason this is happening is because people really want to start enjoying what is being produced locally,” he said.

From an economic standpoint, Walter said the brewing and distilling businesses have been growing in recent years.

Walter and his wife, Kristen, knew they wanted break into the distilling industry.

Given DeKalb's rich farmland and readily-available crops, the Walters decided to use DeKalb to start their business.

"Bourbon has to be made out of 51 percent corn and where do we grow the best corn in the world? Right here," he said. "It seemed like a no-brainer.”

For some of these companies, the goal is not to grow large enough to relocate from DeKalb County. JD Heinrich of Forge Brewhouse said he hopes to stay in the area he grew up in for as long as possible.

"We’re not looking to become a Midwest Budweiser or Three Floyds or anything," he said. "We want a place for people to come and gather, have a good time, have fresh ingredient food and hopefully a good beer.”