Glen Ellyn’s Craft Beer Evangelist, Dave Hawley

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As owner of The Beer Cellar, a bottle shop in Glen Ellyn, IL, Dave Hawley is providing west suburban drinkers a modest but well-curated selection or craft beers. His insights into the beer industry are marked by the enthusiasm of a beer geek and the smarts of an entrepreneur. His beard is mighty. His heady, shiny. Dave Hawley, everyone.


Chicago’s beer scene is blowing up. Thoughts on its development and direction?


It’s good and bad. In my opinion, the access to great beer has never been better. It’s not hard to find great taprooms, breweries, and bottle shops all over the city. Some great breweries in Chicago start out with very limited production capabilities, who are now growing and able to produce more beer and in more formats. It’s encouraging to see breweries like Pipeworks­, who started out small and won lots of awards, be able to channel that into sustained growth.


On the flip side, because beer is hot right now, some sub-par breweries and taprooms have opened up and will exist for a while. Some people have tried to take their love for homebrewing and parlay that into running a brewery, and those two things are very different.


Overall, I think the Chicago beer scene is heading in the right direction. It has been fun to watch friends create some of the best beer in the country!


The suburbs are getting wacky, too. Bring us up to speed on suburban craft beer and what Chicagoans should know about it.


There are plenty of good reasons for Chicagoans to come out to the burbs! We have awesome breweries like Penrose (Geneva), Solemn Oath (Naperville), and BuckleDown (Lyons), that not only make great beer, they have nice taprooms, too, where you can spend a few hours enjoying beer in a cool environment. Penrose has impressed me since the beginning, but the beers they’ve been brewing lately like Deminimus Mandarina are some of the most tasty I’ve had lately. We have some excellent craft beer bars, too, like Bigby’s Pour House (Addison) and Warren’s Ale House (Wheaton). Out here you are no longer forced to shop at big box stores for craft beer. The Beer Cellar (Glen Ellyn) was the first craft-beer-only bottle shop to open in the suburbs. The Beer Cellar is dedicated to providing the freshest selection of craft beer to the burbs.


Any advice for Chicago-area breweries looking to grow their brand?


Be outgoing and continually look for opportunities to participate in festivals and talk to people about your beer. Working in a retail environment, I’ve found that people love to try new things and support local brands. So many customers want to experience what Chicago and the suburbs have to offer, and will decide to buy a local brand simply because of its proximity to them. I often do tastings in the shop, and if an enthusiastic rep, brewer, or brand ambassador spends the evening pouring samples and talking to customers, they also walk away with new fans. Getting out there, meeting your customers, and telling your story is so important.


What about out-of-market breweries about to enter market?


To piggyback on the last question, having a face and a name attached to your brewery is so important. In today’s craft beer market, I am personally getting calls, emails, and visits from dozens of breweries every week, asking me to sell their products. There are so many breweries and it’s easy to get lost in the shuffle, so when a brewery makes an effort to send a rep to talk to me in person, it makes a huge difference. Again, the willingness to have face-to-face interactions and spend time building relationships is key. Remember that it’s your job to sell your beer – don’t just depend on the distributor.


You’re about to hop on the Metra from Glen Ellyn – in fact, there’s a stop located across from your shop. You grab three beers for the road. Which ones, and why?


First of all, this is a great question, because I do indeed stock single beers in the cooler for this very purpose. I would grab:

  1. Oskar Blues Mama’s Little Yella Pils. It’s 19.2 ounces, so it’s perfect for a train ride from Glen Ellyn to Lombard (I mean, Chicago).
  2. Half Acre Daisy Cutter Pale Ale. This 5.2% pale ale is the quintessential Chicago pale ale.
  3. Any Mikerphone or Slapshot beer that comes in a Big Ass Can. Seriously, these guys are making awesome beer, and their cans give you 24 ounces of liquid bliss.


October 2015
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