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AVA -- Ken Rhude has brewed one of the best beers in the United States and he has a gold medal to prove it.

Rhude, majority owner of Little Egypt Beer in Ava, claimed a gold medal at the 2014 Great American Beer Festival competition Saturday in Denver.

Little Egypt Hefeweizen is the beer recognized as having the best commercial example of South German-Style in the United States. Rhude said the Hefeweizen is an unfiltered wheat beer with a fruity banana aroma and flavor. He said it is the flagship beer of Little Egypt Beer.

“We are ecstatic to be recognized as having the best commercial example of a South German-Style Hefeweizen,” he said. “We are humbled and gracious to accept this award four our brewery and consider it a win for Southern Illinois and its brewing community.”

Gold medal-winning beers are defined as a world-class beer that accurately exemplifies the specific style, displaying the property balance of taste, aroma and appearance.

Leading up to winning a gold medal in what Rhude calls the national championship of beer something he has been working toward since he began brewing in 1991.

Rhude, a Belleville native and SIU graduate, said brewing beers has always been something he was passionate about in his life.

He said the obsession of brewing beer once drove him to ask for time off as an insurance adjuster in California so he could take a class on it.

“When my boss said no, I turned in a letter of resignation,” Rhude said.

After working for a brewery in California and attempting to open his own for eight years, he and his wife decided to move back to Southern Illinois. Rhude's passion for owning a brewery never subsided.

He said a few family members and friends built up some capital, received a loan from SIU Credit Union in Carbondale and in September 2012, Little Egypt Brewery was born.

Rhude said future plans involve the brewery trying to expand and hopefully break into a national market.

Little Egypt Beer is available at Brew’s Brothers Taproom in Murphysboro and several liquor stores in Southern Illinois.

The brewery is open from 4 to 7 p.m., Friday and from noon to 7 p.m., Saturday and Sunday. The brewery will make arrangements for special occasions on other days as well.

Rhude said when he heard his brewery’s name called for the gold medal it was a sense of accomplishment he couldn’t fully describe.

“The validation from actually getting the best South German Hefeweizen in the United States is definitely a warm-fuzzy feeling I am carrying around right now,” he said. “When they announced our gold medal, we just exploded with screams of joy.”

The brewery is located at 140 Buttermilk Hill Road in Ava. For more information, visit or call Rhude at 618-521-3815.

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Dustin Duncan is a reporter for The Southern Illinoisan covering Carbondale.

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