Chicago is known for their fantastic craft beer scene and thus, we planned a trip to visit during their 5th annual craft beer week May 15 – 25. How can you go wrong with over 515 events at 327 venues, most of which were non-ticketed functions, that include a beer circus, beer fest, tap takeovers, dinners, meet the brewers, a hop rub event, festival of wood and barrel aged beers (oh yes please) and many, many more enticing events.
The craft beer week is sponsored by the Illinois Craft Brewers’ Guild and is run by volunteers within the craft beer community. For a bar, restaurant, pub or liquor store that serves craft beer to participate in the festivities, the criteria is:
- $4 craft beer available throughout the week
- Craft on tap for at least a year prior to the start of CCBW
- Clean draft lines
Did I mention they have their own App? All 515 events are listed for you to plan your schedule or hit the I’m Thirsty! tab to find out what events/beer specials are taking place near you (GSP enabled).
For the events that are ticketed, the Guild doesn’t take a cut of the ticket sales thus, it allows the events to remain reasonably priced and for venues to offer casual, drop-in events. This format is enticing to the seasoned craft beer drinker as well as someone new to craft beer. Without a ticket/cost commitment, anyone can participate in the craft beer week festivities and not worry about breaking the bank. One such event that we dropped into was at the Map Room where the Barrelmeisters from Firestone Walker were in attendance and beauties such as Parabola and Sucaba were on tap.
Twenty-five new breweries have opened in the Chicago area in the past year and the support in and around Chicago is amazing. We heard from one patron that people are finding that as the event numbers have quadrupled in the past five years, there too many events to choose from. Ah, what a good problem to have – my little violin cries for you, hop heads.
We decided to limit the ticketed events we attended as we wanted the ability to be spontaneous and drop in at various bars. The ticketed events we did choose were the Lagunitas Beer Circus at their brand new brewery, the mini Festival of Wood and Barrel Aged Beers and the Hop Rub event.
The new Lagunitas facility is huge and was ample space to have two bands, a stage for acrobats, bendy people in a large bubble and a moving apparatus where people were drumming. Lagunitas beer, as well as a few guest taps, were pouring and the crowd enjoyed the entertainment. $40 for admission and four beers.
The mini Festival of Wood and Barrel Aged Beers was held at Haymarket and twenty-one delicious beers along with a generous charcuterie platter were provided. I was surprised this event wasn’t sold out as $55 for unlimited wood and barrel aged beers and food, is a well-priced event. Vancouver would kill for this type of beer selection in our fair city.
The balance of the week was consumed with a Cubs game, a blues bar, too much food (I should have declared the 2.5 lbs I gained at Canada Customs) and more breweries (Goose Island, Atlas, Dry Hop, Revolution) and bar investigating (Beer Bistro, Paddy Long’s, Jake Melnick’s, Local Option, Headquarters Beercade, Hopleaf, Monks Pub, Rocking Horse). Chicago is a great city to visit with a mature transit system ($28 for a 7-day pass), a beautiful beach on Lake Michigan and friendly craft beer-loving people. I highly recommend adding Chicago to your beer travel list and if you can do it during craft beer week, all the better.
The last ticketed event ($50) we attended was the Hop Rub at Buckledown Brewery, who recently opened in December 2013. Their beers were served during this informative session as we learned how brewers analyze hops before they buy them. Size, colour, dryness, in the hand smell, rub/smell again, drop/smell hands – with impeccably clean hands and detailed notes taken. Buckledown is creating some great beers and even though they’re off the beaten path in Lyons, IL, we’re glad we make the trek out to this unique event.