It’s another big weekend for Portland events, but if you’re not into beer, inner tubes or fantastical whimsy, you might be out of luck.
It all starts with the ongoing Oregon Brewer’s Festival – known as “America’s Oktoberfest” – which started Wednesday and runs through Sunday. Neighboring the celebration of beer on Sunday will be a celebration of the Willamette River, as The Big Float puts thousands of inner tubers into the water to support aquatic recreation in the city.
It’s a celebration of something Portland loves – beer – and something Portland loves to be unsure about – the Willamette. And, as usual, Portland’s quirky folks have an event of their own: a game of croquet, with sledgehammers and bowling balls.
1. The Big Float: Believe it or not, the Willamette River is pretty clean! To drive the point home (again) the Human Access Project is throwing the fourth iteration of The Big Float, expecting thousands to show up to hit the river in inner tubes.
Sunday, from noon to 5 p.m. @ Waterfront Park; $9
2. Brew Fest: Beer festivals are rampant in Portland, but no festival is quite as big as the massive Oregon Brewer’s Festival, which started Wednesday and runs through Sunday. Known by some as “America’s Oktoberfest,” the event draws upwards of 85,000 people.
All weekend @ Waterfront Park; $7 for a glass, $1 per taste
3. Croquet with Sledgehammers: Mondo croquet is just like traditional croquet – only you play it with sledgehammers and bowling balls. The quirky Portland sport returns to the North Park blocks for the Mondo Croquet World Championships this weekend. Dress appropriately and bring your best hammer.
Sunday @ North Park blocks; Free
4. Kiteboarding Competition: Down the Columbia from Portland you’ll find some of the region’s best kiteboaders competing in the Bridge of the Gods Kite Festival, held in scenic Stevenson, Wash. Hood River may have windsurfers, but the kiteboarders flock to Stevenson.
All weekend @ Stevenson, Wash.; Free to watch, $30 to $80 to compete
5. Faerie Festival: Faerieworlds draws a large, friendly and dedicated crowd of fairy enthusiasts to Eugene every year, but due to some controversy surrounding another festival at the venue, this year might be Faerieworlds’ last in the area. See the shimmering spectacle before it disappears.
All weekend @ Emerald Meadows, Eugene; $35 to $125
real tasting glasses, bless ‘em…Foystonfoto The brewers parade to Tom McCall Waterfont Park to tap the first keg is the start of it all…this is from 2010, but if you made it to Lucky Lab Brewpub, 915 S.E. Hawthorne, by 11 a.m. today, you could be in this year’s parade…just an idea…FoystonFoto
noon- 9 p.m. Wednesday- Saturday; noon – 7 p.m. Sunday, Tom McCall Waterfront Park; free admission, $7 for required 2014 tasting glass, $1 per taste token. Photo ID required.
The Oregon Brewers Festival is one of the nation’s longest running and best loved craft beer festivals and the largest outdoor beer fest in the country. Its laid-back attitude and scores of award-winning beers make it the perfect jewel in the crown that is Beervana — and a major destination for beer tourists from around the country and the world, including a dozen Dutch brewers hosted by the OBF this year, whose beers will be pouring in the specialty tent. More than 85,000 people are expected over the festival’s five days, twice as many visitors as Denver’s Great American Beer Festival. The OBF also features live music, beer-related vendors, displays, homebrewing demonstrations and several food vendors.
Whether you are a beer expert or a beginner, there is no better way to sample a wide variety of beers than at a beer festival. In recent years, beer festivals have exploded across the country, and Hawaii has a number of great events each year. On Oahu the premier event is the Real Beer Festival, 2 to 6:30 p.m. Aug. 9 at Kakaako Makai Gateway Park.
The second annual Real Beer Festival will feature more than 65 beers from international breweries and food from 15 local restaurants. A ticket buys you 10 4-ounce tasting tickets and unlimited food, plus a commemorative mug. Login for more…
The best part of Saturday’s Microbrewers Festival was seeing Chris Gerard pouring Granger-based Bare Hands brews. Chris has made an amazing recovery from an injury that put him in the hospital for an extended stay followed by intensive therapy earlier this year. People statewide answered a call to help towards medical expenses and fellow brewers pitched in to keep the taps flowing.
We chatted and sipped Chris’ refreshing thai.p.a, an American IPA brewed with citrus Thai spices and lemon grass along with Columbus and Cascade hops and a measure of rice in the crystal malt bill. At 7.1% ABV and 51 IBU’s it’s a drink-along with food companion. Chris’ enjoyment of Thai cuisine’s fragrant flavors inspired him to experiment. Thai-p.a. is available in 22 oz bottles. More about the South Bend suburb brewery Chris and Kim Gerard opened Dec. 2010 is at: http://www.barehandsbrewery.com
Per my usual routine for Indiana craft beer festivals I zero in on the brews not otherwise easily accessible since it’s not possible to make it to 62 in-state and 20 out-of-state breweries represented. I chose Indiana Cask Ales, starting with Broad Ripple Brewpub in homage to our first ‘modern-day’ craft brewpub. Then it’s a nod to the first brewpub allowed to open with one door for restaurant and brewery, Lafayette Brewing Co. that opened two years later in 1992. BRBP’s Cinnamon Roll Porter begins as a classic English Porter that takes on an attitude of a sticky bun with cinnamon nose and full-mouth layered taste of total yum to finish clean with a tinge of blackberry surprise. LBC’s Shagbark Indiana Mild starts as a traditional English Ale that gets its dark ruby glow and rich nose from Indiana Hickory syrup. Perfectly balanced between malt, hops and syrup it’s smooth, clean and inviting.
Michigan City scored with 9-year-old Shoreline’s light ruby-colored Imperial Raspberry with a cognac-like nose and not overly sweet clean taste from aging in red wine barrels. Just recently opened Burn ‘Em Brewery offered Vanilla Black Ale made with vanilla beans soaked in Old Crown Bourbon Ale for 24-hours, with organic pomegranate and cherry juice added. From Evansville’s Tin Man came a dark Porter aged in Makers Mark barrels. It’s so inviting and smooth you can easily forget 12% ABV.
Black Acre’s Maple Wood Rum Porter wafts a rum nose to go with the ruby rum hue and flavor. It beckoned because the Black Acre brew crew, which always vies with Flat 12 for dress-up, came in fetching pirate attire. You had to be there for full impact.
Even though there many more cask ales it was time to cross from the Opti Park Field to the Arts Center Lawn and Riverfront stations where I found old and new Indiana breweries carving out their specialties. Look for comments over the next weeks.
July 23: Sun King Beer Pairing w/ City BBQ Tickets at eventbrite.
July 24: The RAM Downtown, 7:00PM for the next “Brew View” tapping for Hansel light and hoppy American Wheat and showing Zoolander, starring Ben Stiller and Owen Wilson.
Kahn’s Fine Wines Spirits (North Keystone) Locals Only Craft Tasting, 6-8 p.m.
July 25: Rocketship Comedy at Flat 12 with DJ Dangler 8:30-10:30 p.m. July 26-27: Gnawbrew Beer, Arts, and Music Festival in Brown County. More at http://gnawbrew.net/
July 29: Scott Hoke, celebrating his 10th anniversary as the host of Marsh Symphony on the Prairie, every Tuesday plays electric and double bass in The StoreyTellers Jazz Quintet at Patrick’s Kitchen in Zionsville. IN craft on tap: Bier DFG DIPA, Daredevil Vacation Kolsch, Sun King Grapefruit Jungle, Taxman Belgian Style Wit and Belgian Black Ale.
Bloomington Brewing award-winning 10-Speed Hoppy Wheat in bottles
Flat 12 Pin of cinnamon chipotle 12 Penny Scottish Ale (12 Penny description) cask conditioned with cinnamon sticks and chipotles on tap.
ABV: 3.4%, IBU: 17
Triton 500 Sour Monks spent more than two years in a 7-year old Heaven Hill Bourbon Barrel aging on lactobacillus acidophilus. And the return of French Toast Saison. Both on tap
It’s the most wonderful time of the year — no, not Christmas. St. Louis Craft Beer Week begins this Saturday, July 26, and is sponsoring events all over town until August 3. It can be hard to whittle it down to something manageable (more power to you if you’re trying to hit every single one), so we’ve picked the ones we think are can’t-miss.
Saturday: B33R and Brats at 33 Wine Bar(1913 Park Avenue; 314-231-9463)
The week kicks off, as usual, at 33 Wine Bar from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. It’s got a great beer list, but this year there will be a special cask of Katy Barrel 15 from 2nd Shift Brewery, which was barrel-aged for two years instead of the normal three months. Enjoy brats from 33 and Mac’s Local Buys. It’s free, but you’ve got to buy your own beer and brats.
Midwest Belgian Beer Festival at the MOTO Museum(3441 Olive Street; 314-533-3091)
Perennial Artisan Ales takes the lead in this celebration of Belgian beer. More than 40 breweries will be serving America’s finest Belgian-style brews. Completely Sauced and chef Brian Moxley will provide food available for purchase. Tickets were rumored to be sold out, but it looks like you can still get them here for $50. Check out the full list of beers here. From 1 to 5 p.m.
Sunday: Huevos con Cerveza Beer Brunch at Milagro Modern Mexican(20 Allen Avenue, Webster Groves; 314-962-4300)
Just when we thought brunch couldn’t get any better, Milagro goes and adds beer. Beermosas start 10 a.m., followed by a four-course Mexican-inspired brunch with pairings from local breweries. Tickets are $50 each, available here.
Get funky at iTap with unusual and sour beers set to funky jams. This week it’ll be the 4 Hands Pomegranate Prussia, Perennial Anniversari, 2013 Perennial Beersal, Gueze Tilquin, bottles of Love Child, Jolly Pumpkin La Roja, HaandBryggeriet Haandbakk and an as-yet-unannounced Schlafly pick. From 1 to 7 p.m. Admission is free and beer is available for purchase.
Monday: Herbst Memorial Symposium at Schlafly Bottleworks(7260 Southwest Avenue, Maplewood; 314-241-2337)
This year’s discussion will be about women and craft beer. The panel and moderators haven’t been announced yet, but as Femme Ferment taught us, ladies love beer, too. From 6 to 8 p.m. Admission is free, but there’s food and drink for purchase.
Loser Live Action Game Show at the Heavy Anchor(5226 Gravois Avenue; 314-352-5226)
The Heavy Anchor hosts the live action game show every month, but this time it’s a special craft-beer edition. It starts off with trivia and a round of “Don’t Forget the Lyrics,” followed by the video game portion, complete with pizza rolls. Then contestants must demonstrate their ability to “draw superheroes into real-life scenarios” and a local sketch group performs a fanfic version of a popular sitcom. Did you get all that? The show starts at 8 p.m. Admission is $5 at the door.
Beer-geek favorite Perennial is tapping some popular brews plus some new releases, including three from brewer Cory King’s Side Project. Look for the 2013 Perennial Anniversaria, Perennial Barrel-aged Sump Kyoto and the 2014 barrel-aged Abraxas, Side Project Blueberry Flanders, plus three new barrel-aged Perennial beers and two more Side Project beers. Tickets for individual pours go on sale at 3 p.m. (there’s a per-person limit this year) and tap times are at 5, 7 and 9 p.m.
Tacos, Beer and Craft Cocktails at Mission Taco Joint(6235 Delmar Boulevard; 314-932-5430)
Femme Ferment and the Tilfords are hosting a night of beer and tacos in the Loop. Enjoy special craft cocktails, 2nd Shift beers and special “pink” tacos. Part of the proceeds from the pink tacos will go to breast cancer research. From 6 p.m. to 10 p.m. Admission is free, with food and drink for purchase.
One of many special releases this week, 4 Hands is release the second in its Wood Series. The Wood Series focuses on high-gravity ales aged in American spirit barrels. This one, Volume #2, is a bourbon barrel-aged Old Ale. Volume #2 will be available starting at 3 p.m. on draft and in bottles. Admission is free.
Sour beers are hard to find, so Hair of the Dog will have ‘em all lined up for your pleasure. Unfortunately neither Hair of the Dog nor St. Louis Craft Beer Week have announced what beers will be making an appearance, but it’ll be worth a trip downtown regardless. The takeover starts at 6 p.m. Admission is free.
Things are getting crazy at Perennial for the annual tap remix. Enjoy your favorite Perennial brews with a twist. There will be the Woodside with blueberries, lemon zest and brettanomyces, Saison de Radler, the World-Famous Tommel (Double Dry-hopped Hommel), Pecan Pie Imperial Stout, IPA #9 with mango, plus two cocktails made with Perennial. Try the Kyoto White Russian (BA Sump Kyoto, vodka and cream) or the Goserita on the Rocks (Goserita, Triple Sec and tequila). The remix starts at 9 p.m. Admission is free, with food and drink available for purchase.
Chef Rick Lewis is back for the fourth edition of Kegs and Eggs, the breakfast where each entree comes with a craft beer. Choose from breakfast poutine with house-made fries, cheese curds, crumbled sausage and stout gravy topped with a sunny-side-up egg; a chicken and biscuit sandwich with a fried egg, Creole mayo and watermelon pickles; a sourdough pancake with smoked peach compote, powdered sugar, whipped cream and a sunny-side-up egg or heirloom tomato bread pudding with a poached egg, herbed hollandaise sauce and a fried green tomato. Breakfast starts at 9 a.m. Admission is free, and entrees start at $12.
The fourth annual festival is always a highlight of Craft Beer Week. Local, national and maybe even international cask-aged beers will be tapped every hour beginning at noon. Firkin is the word used to describe a cask, for you neophytes. Admission is free, with food and drink for purchase.
Goose Island Tap Takeover at Three Kings Public House(TK)
Three Kings is hosting several tap takeovers throughout the week, but we recommend this one from our Chicago brethren. Goose Island will feature special brews as well as offering four-ounce samples of Gillian, Halia, Lolita, and Juilet. The takeover starts at 6 p.m. Admission is free, with food and drink for purchase.
Sunday: Schurcipefones Festival at Rooster South Grand (3150 South Grand; 314-447-2247)
This is the craft beer festival to end all craft beer festivals. Close out Craft Beer Week with Schlafly, Charleville, Urban Chestnut, Civil Life, Perennial, 4 Hands, New Belgium, 2nd Shift, Deschutes and Tallgrass. Everybody will be bringing special brews, and your ticket gets you unlimited samples. There will also be games and prizes, a silent auction, food from the Fifth Wheel and more. Proceeds benefit Circus Flora Clowns on Call. From noon to 6 p.m. Tickets are $25 here or $35 at the door.
Gut Check is always hungry for tips and feedback. E-mail the author at Nancy.Stiles@RiverfrontTimes.com.
In a town full of burgeoning breweries, Sacramento’s Hoppy Brewing Co. is celebrating its 20-year anniversary.
Hoppy’s owner, Troy Paski, has had a front-row seat to the Capital City’s evolving (and now exploding) beer scene, and while the competition has increased, Paski sees the rising tide of craft beer as lifting all breweries.
It also helps that Hoppy – as its name indicates – was ahead of the curve when it came to celebrating the ingredient that’s become inseparable from the now-famous “West Coast IPA” style.
The company’s logo, a smiley-face sun with rays shining below it, also has helped define the brewery.
“We try to be fun, we try to be friendly,” Paski said. “We try to ensure that you have a good time when you’re drinking our beer.”
Paski said he’s received some negative feedback on the logo at beer festivals, but “the only thing I can tell these people is almost everyone who sees our logo will remember it.
“You’ll either like it or you’ll hate it, but you’ll remember it,” he said. “I think that’s one thing that separates us from other people.”
Your company was a front-runner in the IPA scene.
We were making hoppy beer before people knew what hoppy beer was. Our beer was a precursor to the West Coast IPA, which is now not-so-much of an IPA style. The IPA category now is a huge canvas, and you just throw a dart at it and pick wherever it lands and call it an IPA. IPA is just a good buzz word right now. People don’t care who’s making it, they just want to think it’s an IPA.
Has the emergence of so many new breweries over the past few years changed how your company does business?
No, not at all. We get people who are looking for new beer, so our bartenders have to be more aware of where the new breweries are located so they can tell people where to try new beer. People are looking for new and different, and we have two brewer specials that are new and different, but our customers, our regulars, like coming in a knowing they can get their burgers, their ribs and their pint of Hoppy Face (Amber Ale). That’s important to them.
So loyalty is pretty important for you?
It’s incredibly important. Having regular, loyal customers is bread and butter. They’re your foot soldiers out in the field telling their friends and business partners about us. Getting somebody across the threshold and through the door is a big challenge for not just us, but for all bars and restaurants.
What are some emerging trends in the Sacramento beer scene?
Well, there’s a lot of people getting into canning beer. It’s a big trend for craft beer all over and we’ve toyed with the idea off and on. We haven’t ruled out going into cans, but right now I’m comfortable with our production. Other trends, there’s just a lot of people opening breweries, and just like with the real estate boom-and-bust cycle that California has, there are definitely people around now who won’t be around in five years.
So do you have any advice for new brewers?
If you were brewing as a hobby and now you’re doing this as a job, you’re going to have to find a new hobby. You have to find something else to do with your time when you’re not working, because if you take your hobby and make it your job, what are you going to do in your free time?
What do you do with your free time instead of making beer?
I play a lot more chess than I used to. I read all the time, not just books, but news. I see a lot more sports than I ever did. I’m kind of a baseball junkie, not just for the game itself but for going to different parks.
When people talk about old-school Sacramento craft beer, they usually mention Rubicon. Why do you think Hoppy doesn’t get as much recognition, even though it’s been around for decades?
That’s true, and Rubicon is awesome. I think they get a lot because they get a lot of influence with the hipster midtown people. We get more starter families that moved from midtown to Tahoe Park, Elmhurst, east Sacramento and River Park. It’s a more established customer base. We’re not a starter bar. There are other bars that are training people to drink, but we get more experienced beer drinkers.
“I’ve been practicing for this my entire life,” Sierra Nevada founder Ken Grossman told me on Friday night — minutes before a marching band and stilt walkers took the stage, on the eve of his brewery’s dizzyingly ambitious Beer Camp Across America tour. Over 14 days, Grossman and a merry band of revered brewers, including Russian River‘s Vinnie Cilurzo and Cigar City’s Wayne Wambles, will barnstorm the country by bus and train, pit-stopping to host beer festivals at cities that culminate in Mills River, North Carolina, where Sierra is opening a massive new brewery.
Fittingly, the liver-wrecking gauntlet is kicking off in Chico, California, where Grossman founded the brewery in 1979. Back then, Chico, which is perched about 90 miles north of Sacramento and within spitting distance of the Sierra Nevada mountain range, was best known as the home to Chico State (Playboy’s No. 1 party school in 1987!). But as Grossman’s hoppy Pale Ale slowly conquered, and in many ways created, the world of craft beer, Sierra Nevada has grown into a national powerhouse and a must-stop on any beer geek’s bucket list. (Yesterday, sales and marketing director Joe Whitney said wrestler “Stone Cold” Steve Austin popped by for a tour. “He told us that Torpedo IPA is his favorite beer,” Whitney says.)
Following the path blazed by Sierra Nevada, many of Northern California’s finest beer merchants specialize in aromatic pale ales and dry, intensely hop-forward IPAs, such as Firestone Walker‘s Union Jack, Bear Republic Racer 5, and Drake’s Aroma Coma. That’s to be expected, given that a day’s drive will bring most brewers to America’s premiere hop-growing regions in Oregon and Washington.
Fittingly, today’s festival is held alongside Sierra Nevada’s lush hop fields, which make good use of the Sacramento Valley’s fabulously fertile soil. There are 112 breweries assembled here with excellent representation from the Northwest including Portland, Oregon’s Gigantic Brewing; Vancouver, Washington’s Loowit Brewing Company; Oakland’s Linden Street Brewery; 21st Amendment from San Francisco; Justing Brewing from Everett, Washington; and Dust Bowl Brewing in Turlock, California to name a few. Needless to say, we have a lot of beers to taste.
Check back in to MensJournal.com for picks of our favorite (rare, unknown, and outstanding) beers from the Chico festival and reports on the state of brewing in America from the best small local brewers in Northern California. Our coverage continues tomorrow in San Diego – giving us just enough time to sleep off today’s festival in the bus.
Sierra Nevada’s party bus will escort Ken Grossman and a handful of brewers and guests to festivals in Chico; San Diego; Denver; Chicago; Portland, Maine; Philadelphia; and finally Mills River, North Carolina.
It’s been a good week for burgers . White Castle has two new express locations in Coney Island’s Luna Park — one at the corner of West 10th St. and Surf Ave.; and the other on Stillwell Ave. at the entrance to Wonder Wheel Way. Also, Canadian chain Big Smoke Burger, along with its gourmet toppings, has arrived in New York, at 70 Seventh Ave in Chelsea. Favorites here include the signature Big Smoke Burger ($8.95) with horseradish mayo, caramelized onions and smoked cheddar; and the Crazy Burger ($7.95) with jalapeño jack, coleslaw and chipotle mayo. The eatery will stay open late (until 3 a.m. on Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays), perfect for stopping in after the bar for some late-night poutine — a Canadian favorite of french fries smothered in beef gravy and cheese curds ($4.95 for small).
When it comes to cappuccino-flavored potato chips — don’t do us any flavors! That’s one of the four finalists in Lay’s second “Do Us a Flavor” contest , which asked fans to create new flavor combinations. The Daily News sampled all the finalists — which also include Wasabi Ginger, Cheddar Bacon Mac Cheese and Mango Salsa — before they officially hit store shelves later this month. The flavor that’s garnered the most buzz, Cappuccino, failed to deliver. Open the bag and it smells like churros, but testers found it neither salty, nor sweet, enough. Our money is on the Kettle Cooked Wasabi Ginger to win the competition, which was dubbed by News tasters as the “sleeper hit.” “It’s spicy but has ginger sweetness,” said one taster. “Who needs a salmon roll when I can have these?” Fans can vote for their favorite online at Dousaflavor.com, and the winner will remain on store shelves after the contest is over.
Five eateries in one are coming to midtown. Urbo , a combo of the words “urban” and “bohemian,” is slated to open in a sprawling 26,000-square-foot complex at the corner of 42nd St. and Eighth Ave. Tuesday. A restaurant, Urbo Kitchens, is on the first floor, and has three separate areas: Fire, offering grilled foods; Water, serving poached and steamed dishes; and Raw, where sushi will be made to order. Also on the first floor, there will also be a coffee house serving Blue Bottle Coffee, pastries and sandwiches, and a retail store with gourmet goods and hot and cold to-go food. The second floor, which will house Urbo Loft, a high-end restaurant, and Bar URBO, will open later this summer.
Lower East Side restaurant Louie and Chan (303 Broome St.) has welcomed new chef Kevin Chun, formerly of Yunnan Kitchen and Macao Trading Co. Chun will cook up Italian specialties at the restaurant, with an emphasis on seasonal produce, serving dishes like tagliatelle ricci ($36), an entree of house-made pasta, fresh sea urchin, spicy cucumber and caviar.
Obicà in Flatiron is set to officially open Thursday, after smoke from the kitchen set off the restaurant’s sprinkler system during a “friends and family” preview. Obicà, at 928 Broadway, i s related to the more casual mozzarella bar of the same name in Midtown east, which imports fr esh mozzarella from Italy twice a week, but the new spot will offer a more expansive menu of pastas, entrees and salads.
Another Italian restaurant is also bouncing back from a kitchen fire. A Voce Columbus , at the Time Warner Center, has reopened for dinner service after a May fire, and brunch resumes Sunday.
Summer camp is all about bonding, and Sierra Nevada Beer Camp Across America is no exception. The craft brewer is holding seven different beer festivals across the country this summer, but if you can’t make it out of town (none are in NYC) — you can try Sierra Nevada’s new 12-pack of collaborations with 12 different breweries, including Bell’s, Allagash and Victory. It’s for sale at Whole Foods ($27.99) and other shops and expected to go quickly.
Happening this week …
Do you become a poet once you drink a little whisky? Jim Beam is giving fans a chance to have their lyrics written on its Single Barrel bottles sold in stores across the nation. Whether its a toast, or just your idea of how one best can drink bourbon, submit it at JimBeamSingleStatement.com. Six winners will have their words printed on bottles. Two grand prize winners will score a private bourbon tasting in their hometowns with friends, and seventh generation distiller Fred Noe.
Lay down a base: I know that when you’re at home, you’re subsisting on a diet entirely comprised of superfoods. You practically invented the avocado-acai-kale wrap. At a beer festival, that’s not going to cut it. Salad doesn’t soak up beer the way meat-on-a-stick does. Go for the gusto, but try not to eat anything bigger than your head.
The Highwood Craft Beer Festival returns for a second year to Everts Park on Aug. 2, featuring more than 80 craft beers.
The brews will come from more than 40 craft and microbreweries throughout the Midwest and Chicagoland.
Consumer demand for craft beer has soared in the past decade, yet there were no major brew events on the North Shore, said Ted Widen, the festival’s founder and event coordinator.
“Over the last handful of years, craft beer has become unbelievably popular in the Chicago area,” Widen said. “There are a few other beer events in the Northern parts of Chicago – Mundelein and Grayslake held theirs in June – but there were none in the North Shore.”
Highwood’s reputation for niche festivals led Widen to pursue the location last year. The City Council immediately welcomed the idea, and the fest drew around 1,200 people, he said.
Widen hopes to double that this year with twice as many tickets already sold.
There are VIP and general admission tickets, with VIP providing 25, 3-oz. samples and entrance into the festival an hour before everyone else. They are $90 in advance and $100 at the door. General admission provides 20 samples and cost $55 in advance and $60 at the event. Everyone receives a 5-oz. souvenir glass. Designated driver tickets are available..
A portion of the proceeds will go to Arts of Life, an artistic community for those with developmental disabilities. Ben Finch, of Finch’s Beer Co., brought in the charity and some breweries.
“Ben is involved with the charity, which produces art and sells it to raise money. We’ll have folks from the organization with a booth so people can purchase the work,” Widen said. “Ben’s brewery, a co-sponsor of the festival, also happens to be the fourth largest in Chicago. He lives in Highland Park and thought the North Shore was a little behind when it came to craft beer. He helped to bring in some of the top brewers in the area.”
There will be food vendors and performances of the bands Snafu and Almost Joe.
“People will be able to walk around the park and eat and drink at the same time,” Widen said. “I’ve been to a lot of beer festivals, and most of them are held in parking lots. But with Everts Park, it’s a more warm, relaxing atmosphere.”
As for the recent surge in the craft beer craze, Widen believes the public has simply grown tired of the average brew.
“People’s eyes have opened. It used to be a two-horse race, with Budweiser and Miller,” Widen said. “In the early 1900s, there were around 2,000 brewers in the country. That number when down to less than a hundred in the early 70s. Now we’re back to 2,000. Craft beer has really taken off in the last 10 years. It’s the difference between Minute Maid and fresh-squeezed orange juice. It’s like night and day.”
Brew fest hours are noon to 5 p.m. Aug. 2 for VIP, and 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. for other tickets. For more details, visit highwoodcraftbeerfest.com.