MADE IN ILLINOIS: From a snack shop basement to a national sensation

Each night, sports fans around the nation grab a barstool and settle in at their favorite watering hole to watch the game. Right there with good friends and a cold drink will be a bowl of well-known snacks from a Bloomington family business: Beer Nuts.

Beer Nuts got their start back in 1953 when Russell Shirk, whose family owned the Caramel Crisp Shop in Bloomington, partnered with local businessman Eldridge Brewster to sell bags of redskin peanuts which Russell had been selling for years under the name “Shirk’s Glazed Peanuts” at National Liquor Stores in Bloomington. The delicious, re-branded snack caught on and could soon be found throughout the Midwest, and before long, the entire nation.

“Beer Nuts Brand is a real American success story,” said Rep. Keith Sommer (R-Morton) who represents a portion of the Bloomington area. “Here’s an entrepreneur who had a good idea and who, with a lot of hard work, turned it into a very successful business that has endured for decades.”

At first, Russell Shirk made the nuts himself in the basement of the Caramel Crisp Shop, but as demand soared, the company expanded to its current facility, a 100,000 square foot facility in Bloomington, where the Shirk family continues to make its product. In recent years, the Beer Nuts brand has expanded to include almonds, party mix and other snacks to go along with the original peanuts.

From the basement of a small, family snack shop to bars and store shelves in all 50 states and throughout the world, Bloomington’s Beer Nuts produces one of the most popular and well-known snacks around. And they are all Made in Illinois.