Friday, July 4, 2014

BuckleDown Brewing & Hop Head Farms Public Hop Rub

Chicago Craft Beer Week may have come and gone back in May, but some events linger in the mind longer than others. Perhaps it was the educational aspect of BuckleDown Brewing's public hop rub on  Friday, May 23rd that made it stand out from hundreds of other events around the city throughout the week. Or maybe it was the unique sensory experience of seeing, feeling, smelling, and tasting a variety of hops straight from Michigan that elevated the event.

Whatever the case, attendees got a nose-full of knowledge from Hop Head Farms owner Nunzino (Nunz) Pizza as he explained the process of evaluating hops based on all of one's senses, from color, size, and shape, to dryness and moisture, and, finally, to the scent released during the act of rubbing the hops. Nunz patiently guided the attendees through the process, explaining the need to fully embrace the subjective nature of scent, much like taste.

While certain characteristics may stand out to more than one person, each person picks up on subtle nuances others may miss. And while there are no right and wrong evaluations, there are certainly some that are "more right" than others. Several attending homebrewers were able to identify specific hops by scent, as well as the type of hops used in a special beer being sampled out during the event.

The public hop rub added an educational element to CCBW that too often gets overlooked. And in the expert hands of Nunz, whose "teaching style" was purely conversational and experiential, learning how to properly evaluate hops couldn't have been more enjoyable.

For more photos from the event, visit the photo album on Facebook.

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Why We Created the Illinois Suburban Brewers Summit, and Why You Should Attend

Ever have one of those ideas that’s trapped in the back of your mind and just sits back there tickling your brain until you finally just have to act on it? For me, that idea was the Illinois Suburban Brewers Summit.

Last year, while traveling around the Chicago suburbs talking to brewers, bar owners, distributors, and beer geeks of all varieties, I noticed something; I kept hearing some of the same comments, questions, and stories from many of them. Chief among these was loud and clear: there seems to be a lot more focus and attention on craft breweries and events in the city than in the suburbs.

Something hit me while I was hearing and processing all of this feedback. Suburban breweries and beer drinkers alike face many common issues, and there’s a huge opportunity for brewers to learn from each other, including their city-based brethren, as far as what’s working, what’s not, and ways to work together to keep the Chicagoland beer scene moving in the right direction.

So, I went to work on what has become the Illinois Suburban Brewers Summit, an event organized by Nevin's Brewing Company in Plainfield and our Ale to the ‘Burbs group. For the uninitiated, we started as five individual beer websites based in the suburbs who collaborated on a monthly series about breweries and beer destinations, but have since expanded to more of a grassroots movement to help share news about beer events and even organize some of our own. Beyond Subbeerbia, our members include Kevin Bastian of Pour Man, Eric Woodruff of Blah Blah Beer, Ryan Williams of Suburban Brew, and Don DiBrita and his Beer Dogging clan. This summit never would have happened without each of their help.

I’ve Heard Enough. Take Me to the Tickets:

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Monday, February 17, 2014

Naperville Winter Ale Fest's Man with the Plan, Joshua Seago

Of the four seasons, winter seems to be the most divisive. You either love it or hate it. And after this exceptionally bitter and snowy winter, it's safe to say more than a few people have switched over to the "hate it" category. But even before he knew what kind of season lay ahead, Joshua Seago, founder and president of Lou Dog Events, knew that it was time to bring an outdoor winter beer festival to Chicago's suburbs.

Naperville Winter Ale Fest and Lou Dog Events founder Joshua Seago stands in the parking area where the festival will be held on February 22nd.
Lou Dog Events founder and president Joshua Seago stands in the middle of the empty Frontier Park parking area that will host the first Naperville Winter Ale Fest on February 22nd.

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Beer House - Come for the Beer, Stay for the Music

Sometimes when you’re tracking down beer bars in the Chicago suburbs, you find them in some pretty unlikely places. Such is the case of Beer House, tucked into the courtyard of Lombard’s Yorktown Center. While at first glance you might be skeptical of a bar found in a retail shopping area, it’s clear that the owners and staff at Beer House are committed to not only serving quality beer to their patrons, but also contributing to the Chicago and suburban beer community in big ways.

Image: Solemn Oath Brewing Kidnapped by Vikings, Beer House, Lombard, Illinois.
Goblet of Fire. Solemn Oath's Kidnapped by Vikings at Beer House.

Monday, November 18, 2013

Festival of Wood and Barrel-Aged Beer (FoBAB) 2013 - Worth the Wait

Its tickets sell out in mere minutes. 95 breweries gather to pour 213 barrel-aged beers, meads, and ciders. And hundreds of craft beer enthusiasts line up in the rain to get in. It's the Festival of Wood and Barrel-Aged Beer, FoBAB, and now in its eleventh year, this event has secured its claim as the nation's most-anticipated beer festival that focuses solely on the barrel-aging process. FoBAB showcases the results of a time-extensive process that infuses the unique qualities of used wooden barrels into each brewer's beverage of choice. Whether they originally contained bourbon, whiskey, wine, tequila, or another spirit, these barrels and varying lengths of time are all that are needed to enhance and morph an already tasty beer into something truly special.

Organized by the Illinois Craft Brewers Guild and a dedicated committee of craft beer industry experts, the festival called the Bridgeport Art Center home for a second year. Surrounding attendees with beautiful wood and brick with light seeping in from skylights overhead, the Skyline Loft of the art center feels like it was built specifically for the festival, as though the beers could have been aged right in the hall where they are served.