This content was originally published by The Hop Review, a digital magazine that joined the Hop Culture family in March 2020.
This piece was written by a Guest Hop Reviewer.
A RECAP OF THE ILLINOIS FESTIVAL & THE BEST BEERS WE SAMPLED
BY THR CONTRIBUTOR MICHAEL A. HUBATCH
In the western suburbs of Chicago, the city of Naperville consistently makes the lists of best places to live in the U.S., which we tend to think is more than likely due to a thriving brewing community. Stay with me, it makes perfect sense… With the likes of Penrose to the west, Noon Whistle to the North, Alter to the east, Werk Force to the south, and Solemn Oath smack in the middle of it all, Naperville is an axis of some of Chicagoland’s best beer. A good brew is no farther than a short ride away and yet the Naperville Ale Fest makes it even easier to try these local favorites with over 100 more waiting to sampled.
In its fifth year, the fest continues its strong showing of brews and bites to accommodate beer drinkers and foodies from miles around. Its five-year anniversary was spotlighted by an American pale ale with guava, created by hometown brewery Solemn Oath. The specialty bomber was included with each VIP ticket and can still be picked up in their local taproom if you hurried…
The fest, put on by Lou Dog Events (partners behind our very own “Ultra Fresh II”), has two sessions – one winter and one summer – but I still continue to opt for shorts and sunglasses over winter hats and gloves. My third experience at the historic Naper Settlement site continues to provide a mainly shaded space that allows for ample room for the large attendance. The settlement is typically known for its history museum and 19th century replica housing that is populated with part-time actors. Though I’ve never had a chance to drink with President Lincoln, my best chance would likely be here.
Attendees had four hours and 18 tickets for tastings – which as we all know, is plenty. If you want to be in the middle of the action you can meander through the sea of buzzed folks down the main corridor of tents, or you can easily grab a sample and move on out to an area under a tree or picnic table. My only advice would be to grab food early…as the trucks and vendors will run out of their best sellers. This year I fueled myself with the Roaming Hog’s pork on naan, and it was fantastic, FYI.
Since this particular fest is the largest and closest to my work/home, my time is usually spent chatting with beer buddies and random run-ins with work associates. But I still managed to remember 10 beers that struck a note. Take a look through the following for beers to pique your interest in attending the next session of the ‘Ale Fest’, or just to keep an eye out for on your next bar crawl:
Ale Smith IPA
San Diego, CA – American IPA, 7.2%
A solid IPA with a good balance of sweetness and hops. Tried and true.
B. Nektar Meadery Zombie Killer
Ferndale, MI – Cider, 5.5%
Slight tartness, but loads of creamy honey sweetness make this a very well balanced cherry cider out of Metro Detroit.
Goose Island Brasserie Blanc
Chicago, IL – Golden Ale, 8.3%
A Belgian style ale that spent 14 months in Orange Muscat barrels defines this new release from Goose. The result is a beer that soaked up all those white grape attributes that finishes with a tinge of sourness.
Lake Brothers Lager
Detroit, MI – Lager 5.0%
This is a no-nonsense lager that doesn’t even waste the time to bother for a witty name. It’s what some might call a ‘crushable’ beer that’s good for any tailgate, BBQ or waterside imbibing.
Left Hand Braveheart (nitro)
Longmont, CO – Scottish Ale, 5.5%
The mouthfeel here is…heavy. It’s got lots of malt, toffee and bread notes and finishes easy.
Prairie Artisian Ales Birthday Bomb
Tulsa, OK – Imperial Stout, 13.0%
This is always a fan favorite – a full-bodied stout with vanilla, coffee, and chocolate tones.
Prairie Krafts Paper Wings
Buffalo Grove, IL – NEIPA, 5.8%
A hazy, slightly fruity NEIPA with plenty of funk on the backend gives a welcome twist on the trendy style.
Right Bee Cider
Chicago, IL – Cider, 6.0%
A clean, dry cider with a hint of honey from Chicago’s West Side hidden gem.
Tighthead Brewery Chilly Water
Mundelein, IL Pale Ale, 4.8%
This is a beer that seems to grab our attention at every fest – a solid, flavorful pale ale that’s bright and crisp with a slight bite to its finish.
Werk Force – Big Bad Red
Plainfield, IL – Amber Ale 6.2 %
Deep red in color with plenty of hops and piney flavors, this amber is a fresh take on the classic style. It presents hints of toffee, with a hefty malt backbone.
Authored & photographed by Michael A. Hubatch, contributor for The Hop Review. Hubatch is a writer and photographer based in Chicago. This is his third piece in collaboration with The Hop Review, following his DETOUR to Nashville’s Yazoo Brewing and recap of Sierra Nevada’s Beer Camp.