JACKSON COUNTY, IL (KFVS) - Farmers in southern Illinois are jumping on the microbrewing bandwagon.
On Thursday, June 23, some harvested wheat and barley for area brewers to use as part of an experiment to bring more exotic flavors to the Heartland.
The brewing industry in southern Illinois has exploded over the last 10 years.
"Over half of our business when we open up the taproom on the weekends are tourists from all over the country, and even international people who are just passing through and want to try the beers while they're here," land owner Roger Twenhafel said.
There are six more breweries in Jackson County than there were in 2009, making it more facilities per capita than any other area in the state.
"Now that all of the breweries are here, there's kind of a need for these unique types of wheats and malts to be grown in the area here," he said.
Twenhafel started experimenting with different species of wheat and barley three years ago.
"Now it's gone into testing wheat and barley, from not just the U.S., but all over the world," he said. "These are not something you grow with like 1,000 acres, this is something you grow within 5 or 15 acres."
On Thursday, Twenhafel harvested 530 plots of land containing a variety of grains, some of which were destined for a canning machine.
"Incorporate into our beers and perhaps come out with new beers and new recipes," Big Muddy Brewery owner, Chuck Stuhrenberg, said.
Stuhrenberg said having more locally grown options to work with could help make southern Illinois a major player in the national brewing industry.
"Local wheat and grain that we incorporate into the beer will give our beer a very unique flavor they can only get here," he said.
Some of the grains from Thursday's harvest will also be sold to area bread makers and restaurants.