Drinking Regionally is a mantra I have tried to live by. It is the mantra that really got me started down the path of loving craft beer. Though it didn't actually start with beer for me. It started with wine when I decided (liking sweeter wines) that I'd much rather support my Illinois wineries (Alto Vineyards and its kin) by buying their quality locally produced wines over imported Muscats, Rieslings and their analogs. The Illinois State Fair provided a useful venue in its tasting tent where I could try before buying and determine my needs fairly easily.
I realized that liking beer as much as I did that I could do the same with it. Why stick with mass-marketed beers like Michelob Amber Bock or imports like Smithwicks, Bass and Harp? Certainly some suitable Illinois brewery was produucing beers in-state that I could enjoy just as well. Some simple searching had me purchase one of my first regional beers:
Goose Island Honkers Ale
Goose Island describes Honkers Ale as 'a smooth, drinkable English Bitter for those looking for more from their beer'. I really found this to be true when compared to the Bass & Harp I had been drinking. What I had been missing was 'more', just more of everything: malt, hops, taste and body.
Honkers Ale and Goose Island provided me a taste of the better life and I will always appreciate them for that. Goose Island does a more than acceptable job with its beers and its close proximity to Springfield and partial ownership under Anheuser-Busch has helped to ensure Honkers Ale, 312 Wheat and its IPA are often availale at your local eateries and drinkeries.
I have mostly moved on to more favored Pales, IPAs and, if i am in the mood, Wheats. I do however to pick up Goose Islands seasonals and am very happy with the knowledge that Honkers is a taste I like and can find often.
If you haven't tried a Honkers out in the wild but can enjoy a Pale Ale then I suggest you pick one up. If you like a Blue Moon or Shock Top Wheat then give 312 a try. It is quite good even with the abominable fruit garnish. If you have a bit more breadth of taste or sense of adventure then their Winter seasonal Mild Winter Ale is quite good and their Kilgubbin Irish Ale which is due soon is quite tasty.
Just remember Goose Island is an Illinois brewery and is worth a try to see what your fellow citizen produces. Goose Island isn't your only option either. Two Brothers and Walter Paytons Roundhouse also have beer available in Springfield for purchase.