Wheaton Ale Fest logo
Wheaton Ale Fest logo

Yes, you read that right. Well-known for its conservative, Christian population, the Chicago suburb boasts the title of having the most churches per capita in the nation and is home to a top Christian Liberal Arts College. Quaint little Wheaton, Illinois, will host its second annual Ale Fest, August 4.

Now you’re thinking, “What’s the big deal? I know a ton of Christians who like beer.” But the most interesting part of this story is the fact that (mainly because of its religious history) only 27 years ago the town was dry. That means a significant portion of the population has known Wheaton as a dry town longer than they are used to alcohol being sold and served there.

In a WheatonPatch article, the Downtown Wheaton Association Manager, Max Williams was quoted saying, “People have this perception that Wheaton is still a dry town, even people who live here still think it’s dry.”

Another quote in the same article from a local business owner read, “People still think you can’t drink here… they don’t know how many restaurants we have and the night life… I think it’s important that the word gets out, not as a drinking town, but that alcohol is available here. People on the south side of Wheaton will go to Naperville maybe because it’s closer or more convenient, but they need to know that downtown Wheaton is another great place to go.”

As you can see, many residents, regardless of their age, still think of Wheaton as a dry town — so an Ale Fest — particularly one they are allowing for a second year is a fairly big deal to locals.

And media attention is pretty hilarious.

“Wheaton Ale Fest is returning for its second go-round on August 4th. Yes, you can drink beer outside in Wheaton,” said a post on Chitown On Tap.

When Chicagoist put the fest on their list of 11 Can’t-Miss Beer Festivals, they added this gem “Yes, Wheaton allows this to happen.”

For a town where alcohol sales were prohibited for nearly 100 years (from 1887 to 1985), and for being outside of the city of Chicago, the fest is actually pretty awesome. Confirmed participating breweries include:

10th and Blake Milwaukee WI
5 Rabbit Cerveceria Chicago IL
Abita Brewing Company Abita Springs LA
Allagash Brewing Company Portland ME
Arcadia Brewing Company Battle Creek MI
Argus Brewery Chicago IL
Avery Brewing Company Boulder CO
Bell’s Brewery Galesburg MI
Big Muddy Brewing Murphysboro IL
Blue Moon Brewing Company Golden CO
Boston Brewing Company Boston MA
Brewery Ommegang Cooperstown NY
Central Waters Amherst WI
Chicago Beer Company Chicago IL
Crispin Cider Company Minneapolis MN
Emmett’s Brewing Company West Dundee IL
Finch’s Beer Company, LLC Chicago IL
Firestone Walker Brewing Co. Paso Robles CA
Goose Island Beer Co. Chicago IL
Hinterland Brewing Green Bay WI
Jacob Leinenkugel Brewing Company Chippewa Falls WI
Julian Hard Cider Julian CA
Kentucky Ales Lexington KY
Lagunitas Brewing Co. Petaluma CA
Lakefront Brewery Milwaukee WI
Left Hand Brewing Co. Longmont CO
Lost Coast Brewery Eureka CA
Magic Hat Brewing Company Burlington VT
Magners Irish Cider Ireland
Metropolitan Brewing Chicago IL
Milwaukee Brewing Co. Milwaukee WI
New Belgium Brewing Fort Collins CO
Revolution Brewing Chicago IL
Rockbottom Restaurant Brewery Warrenville IL
Shmaltz Brewing Company New York NY
Sierra Nevada Brewing Chico CA
Six point Brewery Brooklyn NY
Ska Brewing Durango CO
Solemn Oath Brewery Naperville IL
Southern Tier Brewing Company Lakewood NY
Stockholm’s Geneva IL
Stone Brewing Co Chicago IL
The Bruery Placentia CA
The Grumpy Troll Brewpub Mount Horeb WI
Tighthead Brewing Co Mundelein IL
Two Brothers Brewing Company Warrenville IL
Tyranena Brewing Company Lake Mills WI
Uinta Brewing Salt Lake City UT
Victory Brewing Company Downingtown PA
Woodchuck Cider Middlebury VT

There are three kinds of tickets available: General Admission, VIP, and DD.

According to a press release, General Admission tickets are $40 and include a commemorative pint glass for unlimited sampling. VIP tickets sold out very quickly and were limited to 250 attendees. The $70 VIP tickets include access to the private VIP seating area, a sampling pint glass, fest t-shirt, appetizers, special sampling of six rare beers, VIP access lanyards, and a meet-and-greet on Wisconsin Craft Beers with brewers and reps from Lakefront Brewery, MKE Brewing, Central Waters and Hinterland. For those who don’t drink or just want to provide safe transportation for their friends, Designated Driver tickets are only $15. DD tickets include a sampling glass for complimentary soda and water.

I went to last year’s fest which took place downtown along several blocked-off streets and thoroughly enjoyed it. This year it’s in one of the downtown parks. People (including me) are pretty pumped and I’m going VIP this time so look forward to my next post — an account of my experience this year.

If you’re interested in more info, here you go:


      1. Yes, but it was dry for 100 years. That’s a long time. And many residents are stuck in the past. The number of people who walked by the fest last year and were like “I can’t believe this is in Wheaton” was crazy. It’s because the town still has that dry reputation. Though that reputation is slowly starting to change, and I think it’s fair to attribute some of that to this festival.

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