Beer here! Not just any beer—no Budweiser, Sam Adams or PBR—but rare beer, brewed in tiny batches by meticulous brewers with fidelity to old wooden barrels. More than 100 breweries will participate in the Eighth Annual Festival of Wood and Barrel Aged Beer on Saturday, November 6, hosted by the Illinois Craft Brewers Guild.
“It’s the only event of its kind,” says Pete Crowley, president of the ICBG (and head brewer at the new Haymarket Pub and Brewery in the West Loop, expected to open early this December). “Only 10 percent of beer in the United States is craft-brewed, and this event is an opportunity for the public to taste them all under one roof.”
What’s with the barrels? Craft brewers pride themselves in their attention to detail, to subtly mixing exotic flavors with topnotch hops, and most of all, preparing a limited amount to maintain the high quality of flavor and complexity.
“Some of these beers are so rare,” Crowley says, “there’s only so much of it. We can’t ask brewers for more than five gallons. Sometimes they only brew one barrel.”
Every beer showcased at Saturday’s event was aged up to six months in a wooden barrel previously containing wine, whiskey, or bourbon. This brewing process, pioneered and perfected here in the Midwest, boosts the beer with resident and wild yeast, infusing a sometimes fruity, sometimes tart flavor.
Tickets for the ICBG’s signature event at the Chicago Journeyman Plumbers’ Local Union 130, Stephen M. Bailey Auditorium, 1340 West Washington, are still available for the evening session, 6pm to 10pm ($40 advance, $50 at the door). The rarity of these beers and the elongated aging process limits the quantity of beer, and therefore the number of tickets. But the festival remains quaint and fun, Crowley says, with short lines and lots of elbow room.
“We want to keep the event diverse and alive,” says Crowley. “We want to promote craft beer and get folks to try something new.” (Kristine Sherred)