Our region is rich with prime crafters of beer, wine and spirits. We’ve found eight destinations serving up truly unique spirits, memorable wines and signature beers you can’t avoid visiting this season.
Our region is flourishing with unique breweries, exceptional distilleries and signature wineries. Their picturesque views, cozy tasting rooms and delicious beverages are everything you need to create a perfect outing.
Some places have gorgeous, picturesque views, while others have stunning architecture. Take a tour and get a firsthand look at what goes into making these signature craft beverages. Enjoy a tasting and fall in love with a delicious wine, beer or spirit that might be new to you.
While you’re taking in all of the fall colors that surround us this time of year, see if you can visit all eight of these establishments this season. Just don’t try to visit them all in one sitting.
Crystal Lake Brewing, Crystal Lake
This downtown attraction is a production brewery, meaning it’s all about the beer. There’s no restaurant in-house, so patrons are invited to bring their own food or order delivery from nearby establishments. Look for food trucks in the parking lot on Friday nights, and sign up for a brewery tour on the weekend.
“There’s no hostess and there’s no table service,” says John O’Fallon, co-founder. “People can come in, bring a sandwich if they want, and they can walk to the bar and order a beer. This place is more laid back than a typical bar or restaurant.”
So laid back that O’Fallon likens it to visiting a friend’s place. There are shelves of board games in the brewery and on Sunday afternoons, you’ll most likely see kids playing board games while their parents are drinking a cold one.
Hours: Mon.-Thurs. 4-10 p.m., Fri. 3 p.m.-midnight, Sat. noon-midnight, Sun. to 9 p.m.
Acquaviva Winery, Maple Park
The architectural beauty and pastoral feel of Acquaviva’s main complex convey the aura of an Italian winery, both inside and out. So do the award-winning wines.
The scenic vineyard, located on rolling hills between Geneva and DeKalb, creates a beautiful backdrop where you’ll see many a wedding on the weekends.
But inside the winery and its grand atrium, hand-painted murals by European artist Andre Zabela greet visitors; marble and mahogany finishes add to the rich decor all around.
A tasting bar, staffed by knowledgeable bartenders, introduces patrons to each of Acquaviva’s wines, with a little entertainment to boot. A Neapolitan-style pizza bistro serves up the perfect pairings with these elegant wines.
Hours: Wed.-Thurs. 11 a.m.-9 p.m., Fri.-Sat. 11 a.m.-10 p.m., Sun. noon-8 p.m.
Rush Creek Distilling, Harvard
Because this distillery is housed inside a former light industrial building, it sort of feels like you’re lounging in someone’s really cool garage. The look is completed with an industrial chic decor and several large, glass garage doors. A seasonal patio was recently completed, which creates a place to relax outside.
“Having that patio will allow us to open up all the doors in the building and expand the party to the outdoor area,” says Mark Stricker, co-owner.
Inside, working stills and aging barrels stand behind another glass garage door. One of Rush Creek’s four owners is always around during tasting room hours, so it’s not unusual to strike up a conversation with the same people who are making your drinks.
Live music and other entertainment light up the tasting room at least twice a month.
Hours: Thurs. 3-8 p.m., Fri. to 10 p.m., Sat. 11 a.m.-10 p.m., Sun. 11 a.m.-4 p.m.
Fox River Distilling Company, Geneva
Located in an industrial park, this popular distillery is one of the smallest in Chicagoland, but it’s become an appealing destination in part because of its unique spirits and its engaging distillery tour.
Customers are enlightened during the hour-long tour as they learn all about the spirits. A distiller explains the spirit-making process in a humorous way that’s also fun and easy to understand.
During the tour, guests can also sample Fox River’s award-winning spirits, including vodka, gin, bourbon and a variety of seasonal offerings.
Visit on any “First Friday” and enjoy an open house where area restaurants pair up tasty food choices with Fox River’s spirits – in some cases incorporating the actual spirits into their servings.
Hours: Fri. noon-6:30 p.m., tour at 6:30 p.m.; Sat. noon-5 p.m., tours at 2 and 4 p.m.
Galena Cellars Vineyard & Winery, Galena
People come from miles around to enjoy the hustle and bustle of Galena. But, if you want some time to relax in a peaceful environment, you can escape to this quiet and tranquil winery located a few miles away amidst the rolling hills.
The sunset is a sight worth seeing. Sit on the porch and sip on a glass of wine while you relax and enjoy the countryside.
“Being able to go out in the vineyards and enjoy the countryside, you kind of forget where you are while you’re here,” says Angi Bruun, general manager.
Explore the winemaking process with a vineyard tour, which concludes with some fantastic samples of wine.
Hours: May-Oct., Sun.-Thurs. 11 a.m.-6 p.m., Fri.-Sat. to 8 p.m.; Nov., Fri.-Sat. 11 a.m.-6 p.m., Sun. to 5 p.m.; Dec.-March, Sat. 11 a.m.-6 p.m.; April, Fri.-Sat. 11 a.m.-6 p.m., Sun. to 5 p.m.
Whiskey Acres Distilling Co., DeKalb
Sit down to enjoy your cocktail at this farm-to-bottle distillery and you’ll be looking at the same fields that bore the corn used to make the ice-cold drink in your hand.
Grab a charcuterie board or bring your own picnic as you enjoy a cocktail in the brand-new tasting room, equipped with a fireplace and bar. Or, head out to the serene cocktail patio for a change of scenery.
Whiskey Acres hosts regular tours, in which it shares the story of its spirits from seed to bottle. Be prepared to take home a bottle of bourbon, rye, vodka or the an Artisan Series release, available only in the distillery.
Hours: Fri.-Sat. 1:30-8:30 p.m., Sun. 1:30-5:30 p.m.
Kennay Farms Distilling, Rochelle
Located downtown in the historic Hub Theatre, this distillery and brewery is one of the newest and largest in Illinois.
“We wanted to take a historic building and make it purposeful again,” says Doris Kennay, owner. “To be in a historic building and to have a view like this is something that everyone enjoys.”
The tasting room is located in the balcony of the old theater. So, naturally, the former stage and main floor are now an active distillery – which you can see through large glass windows, as vodka, gin, whiskey and bourbon are produced below.
Upstairs, check out the large tasting bar and conference room, or enjoy a more intimate gathering around the fireplace.
An outdoor balcony reveals the sights of downtown Rochelle, which lights up at nighttime.
Hours: Wed.-Thurs. 5-9 p.m., Fri. 4-10 p.m., Sat. 1-10 p.m., Sun. 1-4 p.m.
Rocky Waters Vineyard and Winery, Hanover
On the rolling countryside near Galena sits one of the only estate wineries in northern Illinois.
Rocky Waters’ log cabin winery sits on bluffs overlooking the 25-acre vineyard, which produces every grape that makes its way into this award-winning wine.
During the warmer months, enjoy a glass while soothing music plays on the spacious patio overlooking the vineyard and nearby lake.
“The views are incredible,” says Kyle Spahn, winery president. “The vines are down below us, so when you look straight out, you can see the hills of Iowa.”
Some visitors choose to make a weekend getaway at the winery, renting out the adjacent log cabin. The so-called Fisherman’s Cabin is a comfortable, 2,300-square-foot guesthouse with views of a 5-acre stocked, man-made lake.
Hours: Mon.-Sat. 10 a.m.-5 p.m., Sun. noon-4 p.m.