Beer Incubator: Prairie Schooners Home Brew Club of Springfield, Illinois

The Central Illinois homebrewing community is alive and well. With more than 300 online members and nearly 80 registered members who attend regularly scheduled meeting and functions, the Prairie Schrooners Home Brew Club of Springfield is bringing together brewing enthusiasts from all walks of life. spoke with club president, Mike Bauer, to find out how this growing club began and why so many successful brewers are emerging.


What is the Prairie Schooners Home Brew Club of Springfield?

Prairie Schooners Home Brew Club of Springfield is a club for home brewing enthusiasts in and around Springfield, Illinois. We meet on the second Wednesday of each month to discuss and share home brew.  Our officers consist of myself (president and treasurer), Joe Day (vice president), Brent Barnett (secretary), Bill Tubs (Facebook coordinator/past president), and Otis Tober (our unofficial events coordinator/past vice president).


Who started the Club?

The current Prairie Schooners Home Brew Club was established when four people (Kevin Brown, Mike Bauer, Brian Phillips, and Mark Jenkins) got together at Celtic Mist to discuss how to get the word out to come together as a home brew club. It was decided to use the name Prairie Schooners hoping to draw previous members to help the movement (we have three current members; Dave (JD) Erickson, Bill Tubbs, and Stanley Korza that were part of the first Prairie Schooners).    


When was the Prairie Schooners Home Brew Club of Springfield formed?

The first Prairie Schooners Home Brew Club came about in 1992 then disbanded sometime around 2002. The current Prairie Schooners (next generation) came together in January of 2009.

Our first meeting at the Brew Haus in mid-February 2009 brought about a dozen interested people to share their beer and speak the language of brewing. The next meeting in March we had about 30 people show and it has grown since. The first Prairie Schooners had newsletters that were sent out to usually a group of about 10 to 20 people. The (next generation) Prairie Schooners started out with a website for its first couple of years and since then moved to Facebook as a private group, which has worked great for discussions, sharing ideas, showing events, and even places visited by so many. 


What is your mission statement?

The mission of the club is to promote social interaction and activities centered on the foundation of home brewing: education about fermentation and the processes of brewing, brewing techniques, and expanding brewing horizons. The Prairie Schooners Homebrewers affirms and supports the responsible use of consumption of alcoholic beverages while promoting the hobby of home brewing in, and around the Springfield, Illinois area.


How often do you meet and where?

We meet monthly for our regular meeting on the 2nd Wednesday of each month. This meeting takes place in the meeting/banquet room at Engrained Brewing. We have a second meeting the Tuesday following our regular meeting. This get-together is our style meeting where someone presents on a particular beer style. Generally, we find out about the history of the style of beer, location of brewery, and any special brewing processes. Along with this we have commercial and home brewed tasting samples of the beer style presented. When we don’t have someone to present a style, we either have a bottle share of beer not available in the area (generally outside a 50-mile radius). Occasionally we’ll also have a ‘clean out the cellar’ gathering. This is when you bring in brew that may have been forgotten about, or something you found you had aging and it’s time to break it out and share with others.


What is the biggest challenge that the club faces?

Generally, in the past the club’s biggest challenge has been a place to gather for meetings. Issues grew based on our member growth and/or the place we met either closed or moved location. The last few years have worked well with the meeting/banquet room at Engrained Brewing. With the support of Brent (owner/brewer) it is a great place to have our meetings.  

It also provides a great venue for craft beer and meals along with appetizers during our meetings. Aside from meeting location, having to watch our procedures on how we gather and the events we partake in while abiding to the Illinois law on home brewing and the procedures within. We keep abreast and abide to these laws.


Why do you feel that members have been successful in breaking out beyond home brewing?

I believe the members that broke out into the brewing profession such as Court, Casey and Adam Conn (Obed & Isaac’s Micrbrewery), Brent Schwoerer (Engrained Brewing Company), Jay and Scott Timm (Timotheus Brothers Brewery), Mike and Brie Allison (Hand of Fate Brewing Company), Josh Flanders and Bill Larson (Buzz Bomb Brewing Co.), John and Mike Zerkle (Anvil & Forge), and Chris Trudeau (Rolling Meadows Brewery), to name a few, have done so based on their drive and desire to do something they enjoy. Their desire to step beyond what they were doing, to go into the brewing market, presents risks and challenges they have all faced, but I am sure none would want to change the path they have taken. It helped, I’m sure, that the market for central Illinois was void of craft brewers. Yet people with the taste were hoping that someone would step up and put the Springfield area on the craft beer map (route). They have and it continues to grow.


Are there any events that the Prairie Schooners Home Brew Club of Springfield is working on?

We have two annual events that are open to the masses. “Big Brew Day” (May 6th) and LTHBD (Learn to Home Brew Day-Nov 4th). They always fall on the first Saturdays of May and November. Both these events show anyone interested in brewing the actual process involved in home brewing beer (and maybe even cider and mead). Generally, we setup outside of Friar Tuck Beverage on Mercantile Dr. here in Springfield.  We also have several club only social functions/events throughout the year.


What can Springfield do to help make the Prairie Schooners Home Brew Club of Springfield more successful?

A better education of home brew. If the people of Springfield and the surrounding area realized the home brew of today is not the same as their grandparents of past, or the concoctions during prohibition, it would be better understood and appreciated. Home brewing today is not just a growing hobby, but big business across the board. The quality of products and equipment available are far beyond what we used to acquire. 

Another way Springfield may help (being the Capital City) is ways or means to change the existing state home brewing laws to make it more user-friendly for clubs, during special events or festivals, similar to our neighboring states.


How can those interested get involved?

Just show up at one of our meetings.


Anything else that the members would like to share or that you feel we should know?

We love to brew beer (also cider, mead and wine). Our demographics are wide spread.  Our typical home brewer falls in the age bracket somewhere between their mid-20s to about 70 years old (male and female). Our median age in the club is in the early to mid-40. People work in all aspects of occupations. We have a lot to share even beyond home brew. The biggest benefits, besides new friendships, are the shared ideas and camaraderie with the club itself.  We also provide time, materials, travel, etc. to festivals and events locally and outside the area that provide funds/profits to various in-need organizations – giving back is very important to us.  With that being said, we enjoy a home brew or two and enjoy brewing it at home too.     

Photo Credit: Prairie Schrooners Home Brew Club of Springfield

Prairie Schooners Home Brew Club of Springfield (Illinois)