Before heading to Lincoln Avenue’s Delilah’s on this day, the grand decisions to make don’t entail attire—as they may on nights of metal, mod, punk or any other genre of rock the bar usually caters to—but rather in what beers from oversea you’ll be partaking in. For today, twenty dollars gains entry to the bar’s Vintage Strong Beer Fest 2007 and twenty tickets, each rewarding you with an ounce of well-built beer.
TVs beam English Premier League soccer matches, framed art leans crooked and loose from the walls of the bar and the seasoned hardwood floors support patrons of all ages, races and genders, each cradling their list of liquids including Belgian, Italian and English brews, amongst others.
“This is my fourth year in attendance,” says Matt Gumbaragis, an avid beer-fest attendee. “We’ve been to beer fests from Boston to Vegas… we try to make it to all the majors.” The “we” Gumbaragis refers to is his comrades, “The Horsemen,” of the “Horsemen Society,” a cigar club whose members appreciate fine cigars, good beer and, of course, great conversation.
So, what makes this fest particularly special for the Horsemen? “I just had a 10-year-old porter,” Eric “Rick” Ferguson says. Many beers found at the Vintage fest are “bottle conditioned,” which means filtering takes place inside the bottle, or filtered and then reseeded with yeast so further fermentation can take place.
“Other Chicago beer fests may have a few worldly beers, but nothing like this,” Gumbaragis adds.
The Horsemen also raise the fact that most beer fests across the country are in large halls, while here at Delilah’s, the setting is more personal and intimate.
“It’s gonna be shoulder to shoulder in here,” Ferguson promises.
And as packed as the quaint establishment becomes, the help doesn’t flinch a bit. “I like working here—everyone has a great time,” professes bartender Wes Nile. “This is the ninth year in a row we’ve had this fest, and my third working it. These people here, they’re absolute enthusiasts.”
But you don’t need to be an enthusiast to enjoy one of these unyielding broths, because no matter who or what you are, you’re going to leave with, well, a smile on your face. “With over a hundred beers to taste if you want, with each ranging eight-to-thirteen percent alcohol content,” Nile adds, “you’re gonna leave here feeling pretty good.” (Kevin Baum)