According to recent data from The Brewers Association — the trade organization for the American craft beer industry — there are now over 5,000 craft breweries in operation in the U.S. and more than 150 in Illinois alone. The appeal is obvious and the taste for a good brew is causing more and more aspiring brewers to leave their back yards and garages and take their craft to the next level by opening a commercial brewery or brewpub.
Winston Churchill is credited with saying, “some people dream of success while others wake up and work hard at it.” This is more than just a motivational quote to the proprietors of one of the newest craft breweries to open its doors in Southern Illinois. White Rooster Farmhouse Brewery in Sparta is the fruition of a dream shared by three friends who brewed together in a barn in rural Sparta.
“Mike (Deutschmann) and I got into home brewing almost eight years ago. Chris (Van Horn) got on board a few years after that. My cousin’s boyfriend started doing it and we thought it was pretty cool that this guy was making his own beer,” co-owner Eric Ogilvie explained.
Pretty cool, indeed. Fast forward just a few years and these brewing buddies are sharing their unique ales with an eager audience of beer-lovers throughout the region. White Rooster is a “farmhouse” brewery in the Franco-Belgian tradition.
Put simply, according to Ogilvie, “this is sort of traditional method of fermentation using barrels to age and ferment our beer. Over time the barrels will impart their own unique characteristics creating a nice complex tasting beer.”
The brewery is only about a 30 minute drive from another farmhouse brewery in rural Southern Illinois that is enjoying industry-wide acclaim; Scratch Brewing Company in Ava. Like White Rooster, the owners of Scratch began their dream as home brewers.
Expect an emphasis on spicy, fruit-forward ales if you visit White Rooster Farmhouse Brewery’s tasting room housed inside a building that was previously a Kroger grocery store. The 7,500 square foot facility features a rustic décor, 3BBL brew house and cellar. The brewery opened its doors in late March and the plan is to stick with beer styles that are true to the farmhouse tradition, such as sours (beers that are intentionally rendered tart or sour via the addition of wild yeast or bacteria), saisons and oak barrel-aged ales. The tasting room does not feature food, but light snacks may be offered in the future.
The White Rooster moniker is apropos. Three friends from Sparta listened to the rooster’s crow, woke up and realized that they could make their dream a reality by working hard at it. Dream of owning a brewery? For Ogilvie and friends it was a simply a matter of “listening to yourself and march to the beat of your own drum. Do what you want to do and not what you think others expect of you.” This is the kind of avant-garde thinking that is fueling the rapidly expanding craft beer industry nationwide. We are lucky to have our fair share of this entrepreneurial spirit right here in our own back yard (or farm).