Published on Thursday, April 27, 2017

Sampling cider, ale and coffee in the home town of Abraham Lincoln

Graham McKenzie heads to Springfield, not the home of Bart and Homer but the home of Abraham Lincoln, and discovers some rather good cider.

From Union Station in Chicago to the Illinois state capital Springfield it's about three and half hours of comfortable Amtrak train travel. Along the way, you can see how the state, through a combination of manufacturing and agriculture, pays its way in the world. Another way it earns income is through tourism and Springfield is no stranger to visitors from both the domestic and international market as it is the home town of America's most famous son Abraham Lincoln. It is also on the infamous Route 66 and is often used as the first - or last depending on your East to West, West to East routing - overnight resting place.

Most tourists are drawn to the city to invest in Abraham time. Although he wasn't born here, he lived here for 24 years and there is a museum dedicated to him. As museums go it's very cool, with lots of interactive areas and lesser known facts about the man. The house he lived in, prior to inauguration in DC, is open to the public seven days a week and it's free. So, no problem in immersing yourself in the life and times of America's 16th President and probably the most famous of them all.

Two more, somewhat quirky, facts about Springfield: First, it is the home of the Corn Dog, or Cozy Dog as it is known locally. It's a sausage on a stick that is covered in cornmeal batter, then fried. Some people swear by them. I did, although not in the manner that the chef had wished for! Second datum is that the very first drive-thru window to serve people in cars anywhere in North America is in Springfield and is still in operation today.

I was, however, in search of local and found it at Obed and Isaacs local brewhouse. Craft beer is brewed on the premises and very tasty it was. Especially nice was Stiffys (strapline: Just Hard enough) and, as is common with many ciders brewed in the US, was one of the few long drinks without excess CO2. Craft breweries are, however, not that rare in 21st century US and seemingly every state and town has them. What's unique about Obed and Isaacs is the buildings in which the ale is served. The Springfield house, originally close to the Abraham and Mary Lincoln house, was transported brick by brick across town to a site that better suited modern day arrangements. The original house was owned by a chap called Obed and the new house was owned by somebody called Issacs, hence the name. At least I think that's the story, because the thing I failed to mention was the strength of Stiffys cider and quite frankly I got a bit confused. The key thing is that these Springfieldians serve jolly good ale in an historic building and do an excellent job doing it.

And so to bed.

The next morning, a strong dose of caffeine was required and where better to go in Springfield at 6.30am than Custom Cup. Here, I learned the remarkable story of one man and one woman who wanted to give their friends something unique as a Christmas gift and so decided on freshly roasted coffee. What does modern man and woman do if they don't know how to produce such a product? Watch a You Tube video, of course! The gifts were extremely successful and now Brent and Kendra Boesdorfer have developed a micro-roastery to deliver the freshest coffee possible. They will deliver to your home and, of course, will sell you some at the crack of dawn. Passion, pride, entrepreneurial, quality, service, local and Illinois made.

Find out more information about Springfield here.

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  • Great story!

    You know more about the US than those of us who live here. Now I want to go to Springfield, see Abe's house and sample that cider. Thanks for discovering this for me!

    By gay myers, Thursday, April 27, 2017

  • Thanks for touring Illinois!

    Native Illinoisan, here. Thanks for touring Illinois! It is a charming state, smack in the middle of the "fly over zone". There is so much to do and see here, it has great lift from cities all over the world. We have world class architecture, restaurants, museums, theater, shopping, sports, and corporate headquarters, not only in Chicago, but all over the state. Make sure to make it to Galena (NW corner of the state); Oak Park (just west of Chicago); and Starved Rock State Park in Oglesby, IL. I look forward to reading your future blog posts!

    By Beth Cooper-Zobott, Wednesday, April 26, 2017

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