Alter Fest 2018: A Recap


Our last visit to suburban Chicago’s Alter Brewing was in January of 2017, when we interviewed co-founder and brewer Mark Hedrick and operations manager James Bigler. During that interview Mark had no fear knowing Alter was entering a popular industry as well as a crowded suburban landscape.

People aren’t going to stop liking craft beer. That’s not going to happen.

— Mark Hedrick, 2017

Over a year and half later and three years from when Alter opened, I can confirm Mark’s statement. 

People have not stopped liking craft beer.

No surprise there. Every time I’ve visited Alter they seem to be more popular, but I feel that they’ve really started to make waves in Chicagoland. I’ve noticed more friends from the city making it out to the to the far flung west suburban brewery and more varieties on store shelves. So I felt it was a good time to check back in with the brewery at Alter Fest 2018.

The fest’s turnout put to rest any questions about Alter’s reach and popularity. Luckily, there was a max capacity, otherwise fans would have been lined-up all night, no doubt.

During its entirety, I never saw their main taproom have available seating, but at least their beer line was staffed by three and moved rather quickly as it snaked around the room. A fancy steel pint was the give away, but even those couldn’t keep up with how many fans showed up; late comers (me) received a glass version. It still held beer so I didn’t complain.

The backroom used for aging was now the concert hall supplied with two beer stands for their past barreled aged beers, and another for a few coffee varietals. The room allowed for only a single line of folks to travel from the back to front. With music, beer, and a restroom I could’ve stayed back there all night, but as usual I needed food.

Out front I was lucky enough to snag some mac and cheese from Terrell, owner of Dark Horse Grill, before the masses turned to the food vendors. Once Terrell’s mac and cheese and Cubano sandwiches were gone, negotiations were started by hungry beer drinkers. I cringe to say I heard a man order sliced turkey, collards, and cheese sauce. At least he saved on the carbs.

Alter staff did notice the large amount of parched fans forming long lines and opened up two garage doors and started hooking up kegs of Next Stop Wet Hop IPA and Center Line Golden Ale. The far door was doling out cans of Festbier and C.B.D.B. Eventually, the kegs kicked and Alterior Motive held out the night.

With the weather holding out, everyone seemed to have a great time with friends, food and beer. 

The get together was a definite success for Alter as it showed how a once humble suburban brewery is maybe not so humble anymore.

What We Drank

Next Stop Wet Hop IPA – 7.5% ABV

‘Tis the season for this style of beer, so get them while you can. It’s Alter’s first attempt at the style. There’s a hint of grapefruit that works well with the piney resin flavor and finishes with a medium level of bitterness. I missed out on the stated apricot notes.

King Balaton Wheat Ale – 5.1% ABV

It’s a tart cherry wheat beer that is a good starter beer if you want to try sours. The large amount of cherry juice used is a highlight that helps create a complex flavor profile. It’s a good autumn sipper.



Authored & photographed by Michael A. Hubatch, contributor for The Hop Review. Hubatch is a writer and photographer based in Chicago. This is his ninth piece in collaboration with The Hop Review. Check out a previous festival recap of his, Naperville, IL’s ‘Ale Fest’, here.