Beer Here: The Midwestern Brewery Tour
Learn about our inspiration for this trip
What is the Midwest?
It depends on who you ask, but according to the "official" definition, it's a clump of 12 states in the middle of the United States. Its places range from Chicago (the third most populous city in the U.S.) to vast acres of unincorporated lands with no people at all.
A true Midwesterner wouldn't brag, but the region is known for its strong work ethic, safe communities, good schools, and perhaps most of all, its friendly and welcoming people. This niceness was parodied in a viral video (warning: some strong language) that's a bit crude but pretty spot-on.
The Midwest includes varied geography, including wide-open plains, rolling fields of crops, massive and plentiful lakes, vibrant cities and towns, deep quarries of limestone, and a whole lot of wind turbines. Some call the region the Corn Belt or America's breadbasket - much of the area is farmed to take advantage of its rich soil and provide the country and world with a huge amount of food, including crops like corn, soybeans, wheat, and oats and livestock like cows and hogs.
A lot of people consider this place to be "flyover country" - the part of the United States that you fly over on your way to go somewhere else because there's nothing to see or do. We'd like to convince you otherwise.
Midwestern craft brewing: a modern movement with historical roots
Many of the most famous beer brands on the world have roots in the Midwest, including Miller (originally from Milwaukee, Wisconsin) and Budweiser and Busch (St. Louis, Missouri). Americans still love us some mainstream beer: the biggest companies still make up about 80 percent of beer sales in the U.S. However, over the past 25 years or so, a new wave of inspired breweries have popped up all over the country, with a big concentration of them in the Midwest.
What is a craft brewery or microbrewery, anyway? If you ask 5 brewmasters, you'll probably get 5 different answers. Some "craft" breweries now sell hundreds of thousands of barrels per year, so small-scale production isn't necessarily a defining characteristic anymore. However, something that the ties together most of these breweries is the intent: to make high-quality, tasty beer.
Our tour will take us to at least 5 craft breweries around the Midwest, including New Glarus Brewery, whose award-winning brews are only sold in the state of Wisconsin, inspiring folks to drive there from all over the country to get their fix. From bigger productions like New Glarus to small shops just getting off the ground, we'll learn a lot about the brewing process and how the innovation is this industry is helping to revitalize communities all over America. Cheers!
Blast from the past - and part of the present
The Amish are a group of traditional Christians with roots in Switzerland. The image on the right might look like it was taken a long time ago, but members of the Amish community still dress like this and generally don't use electricity, the Internet, and other modern amenities that we take for granted.
Today, there are over 4,000 Amish people living in southern Illinois; across North America, there are hundreds of thousands. Our tour will stop in Arthur, Illinois, where we'll meet some Amish folks, do some shopping (the Amish are known for high-quality handicrafts), and learn more about the history and culture of this religious group.
Bike, baby, bike
To cap off our tour, we'll cheer on students and community members at the Little 500, a bike race that draw 25,000 fans from around the world to Bloomington, Indiana, one of America's most picturesque small towns and home to over 40,000 university students.
The weekend is fill with music, parties, and of course the bike race itself, which then-Senator Barack Obama attended during his presidential run in 2008. This race, which has run since 1951, was a major inspiration for the movie Breaking Away - we recommend watching it before you come.