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Illinois Craft Beer Week celebrates community in brewing

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OAK PARK – Their story is as unique as the building.

At the corner of Lake Street and Austin Boulevard is a place that was built as a bank and still looks like one nearly a century after it was built. It also served as a funeral home for Oak Park, but found new life in this century as the catalyst for a dream.

Jason Alfonsi and Shawn Stevens decided to leave their careers to start a new one in the beer industry in 2015, taking over the building and beginning construction of what would become their brewery. Four years later, “One Lake Brewing” was opened, taking its own unique twist in a crowded beer industry.

At the same time, they wanted to be a gathering place for their community while giving what they could to Oak Park and the surrounding area.

“We are integrated and committed to our community,” Stevens said. “We partner with many local businesses, schools, charities and constantly try to provide a fundraising outlet and gathering place.”

In many ways, that’s the essence of what One Lake Brewing and the entire industry in the state are doing right now as they participate in Illinois Craft Beer Week. It’s a celebration that’s been on hiatus for the past two years due to the COVID-19 pandemic, but has returned as a way to raise awareness of Chicago’s many different brewers as well as the “Land of Lincoln.”

The idea of ​​“community” meant so much during the COVID-19 pandemic that indoor restaurants closed statewide. One Lake was one of the places that needed to pivot its beer and food sales to delivery, and when restrictions remained in place through the winter, and to have a few people on a third-floor patio in freezing temperatures. .

Still, those in and around Oak Park have done enough to keep One Lake in business, which has also happened with a number of other breweries.

“As soon as COVID hit we had to pivot, and without the support of the community I wouldn’t be talking to you right now,” Alfonsi said.

It’s not just customers that make up this community of support, but also other breweries in the area who have continued to lend a hand in hopes of keeping others running. Stevens noted that this is a unique part of the industry not only during the pandemic, but at other times when another business is in need.

“People really listen to you. They appreciate the differences,” Stevens said. “Competition doesn’t seem like something we even have to think about because we all have our own niche, we all have our own style. “

With their own sense of community, whether in any direction in Illinois, from Chicago or around the corner from Lake and Austin to Oak Park.

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You can learn more about One Lake Brewing by visiting their website here or checking out their Instagram here.

Learn more about the events happening during Illinois Craft Beer Week here.