The Illinois Craft Brewers Guild only hosts a handful of big events annually. However when they do put on a party, you can bet it will be one of the best. The Festival Of Barrel Aged Beers is the premier craft beer event in Chicago. A great time can also be had at Beer Under Glass. Spring comes alive when the Opening Ceremony of Chi Beer Week invades one of the most beautiful venues in town – Garfield Park Conservatory. This past Saturday the Guild Co-Hosted the 5 Annual Microbrew Review with Seven Generations Ahead. Named after the Great Law of the Iroquois their mission the last ten years has been to promote the development of sustainable communities.
On a personal note I was excited that there was finally a craft beer festival accessible by CTA train. The cobblestone streets of Downtown Oak Park and the surrounding small businesses make for a wonderful setting. Beer taps started flowing at the sound of the bagpipes. Downtown is still open for business while the party is in full swing. What ends up happening is this blend of curious residents and craft beer enthusiasts enjoying the summer air together. It really is quite the groove. Some highlights included Über Mathias from Haymarket. This is the triple dry hopped version of one of the best local Imperial IPAs around. SheWolf (the Half Acre/ 3 Floyds collaboration) was tapped much to the delight of this west suburban crowd. I was a little bummed that I missed the Peach Berliner Weiss from Perennial Ales. The keg blew before we made down to the other end of Marion Street for a sample. Begyle Brewing from the Irving Park Neighborhood was in full effect in Oak Park. I got a chance to try all their offerings. Also really excited to see them making a splash on the festival circuit. The Goose Island Nectarine IPA was a winning situation. So was the brilliance that is Juliet from their Barrel Program Director- John Laffler. It was a VIP tapping late in the afternoon. A Rye beer aged in French oak with blackberries…exceptional stuff.
Oak Park Microbrew Review is the only festival to feature the Replicale Project. 15+ breweries each brew their interpretations of a particular style. This year’s style was the Belgian Abbey Single. Destihl Brew Works had a memorable offering in that category. Desthil is a pretty badass brewery overall actually. Hoperation Overload is always a favorite at events like this. Their Saint Dekkara Barrel Reserve program has yielded some very impressive beers. Sour Apricot was the feature offering on Saturday. Solemn Oath Brewery from Naperville is continuing to make a name for themselves at a rapid pace on the local beer scene. Reports are their tap takeover afterparty at the Kinderhook Tap in Oak Park was all sorts of awesome. I had flashbacks the next day about the dry hopped Hefeweizen with coffee beans that I encountered. It was really, really ridiculously good.
After hitting the Great Taste Of The Midwest, if I could change one thing about this party it would be the VIP experience. At GTMW the ‘Brewers Hour’ comes complete with a Bloody Mary truck. It dishes out high octane drinks with olives, cheese cubes, celery and all the trimmings. More importantly, as an early attendee you were able to sample every booth in the fest before the crowd arrives. In Oak Park we couldn’t find any of the 50+ booths that were pouring before the general admission start time
It was hard to get hung up on details like that when it was a perfect 78 degree day. There was also seemingly a DJ or a band at every intersection. The DJ in the VIP booth was spinning some serious soul and funk classics. 7 different restaurants including the legendary Marion Street Cheese Market provided the cuisine. I also got to chill with all the friends I’ve made in craft beer over the last year. Fall is my favorite season, but I’m really gonna miss the summer. Days like this are a big reason why.
(Half Acre Shewolf photo courtesy of Darien Kruss)