Another stellar year for local craft beer. There were more events this year than probably ever before. Chicago’s craft beer landscape is constantly evolving, this gives us the opportunity to rediscover this amazing city and its surrounding suburbs one glass at a time. This year’s list has 5 new entries. Without further adieu here is our look at the most memorable Chicagoland events of 2013.
West Loop Craft Beer Festival
Sheffields and New Holland Present: Smoke The Goat (2013 Cubs Opening Day Party)
The Umpteenth Annual CBS Picnic
Fischmans Kegs For Kidneys
Bikes, Barbour and Booze featuring Goose Island and The Macallan.
The Beer, Bacon, Sports Extravaganza at Union Station
Goose Island 25 Block Party
A crude extravaganza that was one of the year’s wildest parties. Security was ordered to put up more steel barricades to control the chaos when Bourbon County Rare got tapped. If you attended this event and were able try one of the beers from the Goose Island vault, you got to experience the corner of Fulton and Wood in a way that we’ve never really seen before or since.
BeerFX Presents Beyond The Brews: From Home To Production
We met the our guy Kent Weber of BeerFX and the dimple in his chin shortly after our feature story on Chef Won Kim’s homebrew showcase. We proceeded to rock 2 documentaries together and threw a launch party for our FOBAB video. It was my buddy Steve Mastny (BeerDownload Podcast) That suggested that we get involved in Beyond The Brews. It was easily the most fun we had during Chicago Craft Beer Week this year. Cheers to CBG Yellowbird who heavily influenced the approach of the roundtable discussion. This was a conversation similar to something you would find at SXSW in Austin, Texas. The evening consisted of beautiful dialogue with some craft beer heavyweights. I really hope more events look like this going forward.
13.) Square Kegs Winter Brew
Square Kegs is the Lincoln Square homebrew collective. We stumbled upon this event when we ran into one of their members during Cider Fest at Navy Pier last winter. We proceeded to stay for both sessions at Dank Haus on Western Avenue and had a blast in the process. The guest list over 2 floors of the event space was limited to a chosen few – 5Rabbit, Half Acre, Dryhop, Begyle, Revolution and Metropolitan.
12.) Naperville Ale Fest
The Naper Settlement played host to its 1st ever craft beer festival – Naperville Ale Fest. 4000 people, 91 brewers and 210 craft beers! Lou Dog Events is the production company that this made this event happen. Looking forward to whats next from this crew.
11.) The Craft Beer Boat
This event hits a groove like nothing else on our countdown. The Craft Beer Boat isn’t a party you can buy a ticket to. The good folks over at Artisanal Imports and Sixpoint Brewing host a series of smaller events leading up to the boat. The only way to get on board is to enter a raffle at one of the pre-events around town. Winners then join industry professionals on a 3 hrs cruise at the height of the summer on fireworks night!…..brilliant!
10.) The Superbowl Bash
In The City TV is the crew that covers our city with video footage of events from every corner of town . On Sundays this year they partnered with Chicago Beer Geeks to celebrate drinking craft beer during Bears games, all while recording their TV show live. When the Bears got bounced from playoff contention (again) the idea for The Super Bowl Bash was born. Up to that point the Lagunitas Imperial Stout was only available in Wisconsin, it made its Illinois debut at this event. Chicago’s original craft beer -Baderbrau made an appearance along with one of our favorite beers of 2012 – Casmir from the Goose Island Fulton & Wood Series. This was one of the best values of the year. Your 30$ was all inclusive for beer and bistro cuisine and got you automatic entry in to a pretty fucking awesome Rare Beer Raffle. Bottles of FFF Baller Stout, the number one beer on the planet Westvleteren XII and much more were raffled off. The scene hit a fever pitch as the Bistro By The Pier quickly reached capacity. There was actually a point in the 3rd quarter where the building was forced to stop letting people in. Shoutout to the Lagunitas crew, they could have easily brought their Pils to this party, but opted not to when we included Baderbrau’s Chicago Pilsener. ” We want Baderbrau to be the official pilsner for the Superbowl Bash event.” That was certainly a move that we salute. Chicago is the number one market for the Lagunitas Pils. and Simone’s in Pilsen is their top on premise account in the country for that beer.
9.) The Great Sumerian Beer Dinner
An event 1000 years in the making. University of Chicago alum / Great Lakes Brewing Founder Patrick Conway created the most unique look at the history of beer that we have ever seen. Fountainhead exec chef Cleetus Friedman led the culinary experience and the rooftop of one of Chicago’s best bars made this a night we won’t soon forget.
8.) Oak Park Microbrew Review
This is the Illinois Craft Brewers Guild largest annual event. It’s located in Oak Park, the suburb geographically closest to Downtown Chicago. The event begins at the sound of the bagpipes. It’s also home to the Replicale project. This is where different Illinois breweries all make the same beer style on their respective systems to showcase the nuances of that style. Did we mention it’s located in downtown Oak Park? The fairgrounds are open to the public-at-large. What ends up happening is this playful mix of curious Oak Park residents and beer nerds from every corner of Chicagoland.
7.) Kegs For Kids
There is only day a year that the Chicago Brew Bus completely shuts down. That’s the day that GI Belgian Fest and Kegs for Kids dominate our Sunday. This the 4th year of the annual fundraiser for Helen C. Peirce Elementary School . It looks like after rotating locations for the first 3 years that this event has found a permanent home at the legendary Hopleaf in Andersonville. While speaking with Louise Roper she shared that her location was always scheduled to be the host. The recent renovations prevented them from making that happen. It was a win for us as we got to visit Loyola University and The Metropolis Coffee Roasting House in previous years for this event. Hopleaf literally feels like 5 bars in 1. Its a traditional pour house, no TVs and rarely ever any music. Just beer and conversation…that’s really all you need.
6.) Chicago Beer Geeks Tap Takeover Experience
Armed with the sickest taplist this side of FOBAB, the notorious Chicago Beer Geeks held their coming out party during Chicago Craft Beer Week at a rock venue of all places! The Volcano Room at Bottom Lounge was the backdrop for an event they simply dubbed ‘The Experience’. DJ Eternal (CBG Dan) was on the 1s and 2s high above the crowd, burlesque performances from Cyn Cat & Shotglass Sally captivated everyone in attendance. The Experience also included a C5 Beer Pong exhibition, a rare beer raffle and the debut their collaboration ale – Deception. But then there was the tap list! ..and it was balls deep. Sofie Paradisi, Fistcall Cliff, Permanent Funeral, Bitches Brew, Doom, Revolution’s 3 year beer just to name a few. The Chicago Beer Geeks are the only beer website in the history of Chicago to have a beer bottled and distributed statewide.
5.) Beer Hoptacular
Chicago’s favorite traveling craft beer festival landed at the Lacuna Loft Art Stuidios in Pilsen this year. A tent the size of a football field was built outside for the event. On the inside breweries were scattered perfectly throughout the art gallery. Lagunitas held a full blown circus in the rear space known as The Bakery. Complete with dancers, cirus performers, a live band and boxcar derby races. Wild Monk, Pipeworks and Small Town Brewery won Best In Show honors. 4 Roses Bourbon and Dark Matter’s Barrel Aged Coffee made appearances at the 2 day, 3 session festival.
4.) Chicago Festiv-Ale
The charm of Chicago Festiv-ale goes beyond the abundance of women dressed for a Friday night on the town, the silent auction and the ridiculous beer and food pairings. Festiv-ale is Chicago’s largest craft beer fundraiser. An affair for beer lovers by beer lovers that supports the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation of Illinois. The 7th annual Festival drew 700+ fans to Carmichael Steakhouse in West Loop. You probably won’t find a more awesome Friday night craft beer experience in Chicago. This year’s standout dishes included treats from Three Aces in Little Italy. Their Duck Meatballs dish (topped w fried kale, a golden beet sauce and croutons made from poundcake) was a 5 star situation. The Chicago Nano-Booth was introduced this year as well. Every hour a different local brewery occupied the booth. 18th Street, Pipeworks, Lake Effect, Spiteful Brewing and others were showcased. Forbidden Root made its presence felt as the hidden gem of this event. Sublimely Ginger- a beer that feature baby ginger and honey bush is magical ..you really need to try it. Ale Sydicate ran one of summer’s best beers- Sunday Session through a randall filled w berries and tea. Haymarket definitely made a statement in their neighborhood bringing fleet of one-off beers to the party. Mathias Double IPA, Oktoberfest and a barrel aged Russian Imperial Stout (Indignant) from the man who started the Festival of Wood and Barrel Aged Beers – Mr. Pete Crowley, Haymarket Brewmaster. Festiv-ale embodies what a craft beer fest should be about. Showcasing beers that aren’t normally accessible, but doing so in a way that makes the affair attractive to the casual beer drinker.
3.) The 11th Annual Festival of Wood and Barrel Aged Beers
Even though there were more people at FOBAB this year, the event seemed to run just as smooth as any of the previous years we’ve attended.
This party is consistently the standard by which all Chicago events are measured. It’s just timeless, man! No over the top theatrics, just the largest competition of barrel aged beers in the country and maybe even the world. This year the space usually reserved for judges was converted in to the home for sour/ wild ales. It made for an oasis where nerds spend time away from the beers aged in bourbon and whiskey barrels. For the 1st time in as far as we can remember a smaller beer. (6% abv and under) took home top honors. La Bretteur from Bells Brewery. But the more things change, the more they stay the same. Goose Island took home 5 medals including Best In Show Runner Up for Backyard Rye Bourbon County Stout. That beer along with Sam Adams Utopias (2012) and Abraxas from the unstoppable Perennial Brewing Company in St. Louis caused a complete frenzy in during the 1st session. Many people don’t know that Perennial Brewmaster – Phil Wymore earned his stripes locally at GI and Half Acre. he’s the man responsible for the recipes for Big Hugs and Madame Rose!
2.) Beer Under Glass
Despite the fact that someone at the Garfield Conservatory tried to stick all of the local media with paper soup cups because they were running low on proper glassware, this party was still one of this year’s best. Cheers to Chicago’s oldest craft brewery Goose Island. Their Activation Team ensured that everyone who needed an appropriate drinking vessel was supplied one. ( We rarely rant, but that was needed..now back to the event.) It seemed like literally every brewery in Illinois was in attendance. Quite frankly BUG is arguably the most scenic backdrop on the entire festival circuit. There are 6 different climates making for this wonderful indoor/ outdoor garden experience. This year CBG Oscar led the charge for the after party at Haymarket. Just 4 stops away on the CTA Green Line.
1.) Dark Lord Day
The revamped DLD was definitely the spectacle of the year. Typically the party is reserved to the brewery grounds, this year it occupied the whole damn block!
The festival has grown from 500 people in the early days to 9000 people this year. 55 guests drafts, 5 Metal Bands, 4 months of planning and 3 days to setup the event space that included a massive stage for concerts all night long. This year’s Dark Lord Day was twice the size of the previous year. “We are brewers, we never set out to plan an event of this magnitude.” – Barnaby Struve VP of Three Floyds Brewing. We’re sure as hell glad that they pull this off. The monsters of Munster create the quintessential beer geek experience that has come to symbolize many of the things we love about craft beer. Dark Lord Russian Imperial Stout itself has always been secondary to the event. It’s the ultimate bottle share, one where total strangers share beers from their cellar that mean the most to them. This year Chicago Brew Bus ran shuttles non stop every hour from The Beer Temple in Avondale. Treats like Napa County Bourbon County Stout along with beers from everyone from Cigar City to Stone on flowed guest drafts. This year’s variants of Dark Lord included Port Barrel Aged, Moscatel Barrel Aged, Bourbon Barrel w Chilles (Muerte) and Bourbon Vanilla.