On Saturday August 15th, I attended the 8th annual Oak Park Microbrew Review, held in beautiful and quaint downtown Oak Park. This is the 6th time I’ve attended this fest, and every year, with the addition of nearby breweries, it gets bigger and better.
This year’s highlights included:
1) Wild Weather
It was swelteringly humid one minute, then buckets of rain were dumping down on us the next. Thanks to the Metra/El bridge and the cramped but mostly covered beer sample tents, many festers managed to remain dry, but the rain came upon us so fast that I was drenched to the skin before I could take cover. However, this was only a minor setback and fest-goers quickly recovered. After all, there was beer to be drunk.
I always look forward to this aspect of the fest– a totally unique opportunity to try beers made specifically for Oak Park Microbrew Review. Brewers are given an assigned style ahead of time and have a few liberties to play with the recipe to make their entry unique. This year’s chosen style, a rye saison with any adjunct, was also something I was looking forward to trying because Matt and I have actually brewed this style ourselves at home. Standouts for me included Imperial Oak’s (brewed with cactus), Revolution’s (with candied ginger), and Flesk’s (with raspberry tea).
The only downside with ReplicAle is that, as much as still I enjoy it, it has now become incredibly difficult to sample all of the entries and coherently continue on to enjoy the rest of the fest. With 59 breweries participating this year, many of the saisons began to taste very similar to me.
I can’t help but wonder if ReplicAle could evolve into a judged contest for local breweries, where all who wish to enter their ReplicAle still do so, but only a select few beers (maybe 15-25) gain acceptance to the fest. But I digress … all of this being said, ReplicAle remains my favorite aspect of the Oak Park Microbrew Review – no other local fest besides FOBAB has anything like it (that I am aware of) – and I hope it continues to make the #OPMBR stand out as unique.
3) The Beer (I know, right?!)
As always, the attending breweries brought their A-game. Pipeworks was pouring Ninja vs.Unicorn, which was exciting to me as a suburbanite who doesn’t often see this delicious, crowd favorite on tap. I was also so psyched to have not one but two samples of Haymarket’s Clare’s Thirsty Ale (Yes, I went back for seconds. During the downpour. Ok, actually Matt did that for me.), which is one of my absolute favorite barrel-aged beers brimming with raspberry sweetness and a chocolatey, coconut backbone.
Two beers tied for my favorite of the day, and both were totally new to me.
You Don’t Win Friends with Sours by Tryptic Brewing (Savoy, IL)
This may have had something to do with the fact that I was stuck under their beer tent during the downpour, but I was truly impressed with what they had to offer. This dark sour was tart, chocolatey, oakey and complex. They’re officially my favorite new brewery that I’d never tried before, and will seek out in the future.
Phobophobia Patersbier by Alarmist Brewing (Chicago, IL)
Subtley tart, and delightfully bready in the finish, this beautiful blonde colored beer was a refreshingly effervescent joy to drink. I was excited to see Alarmist at the fest for the first time, and while I still wish I could have tasted their highly publicized Pantless Pale Ale, I was not disappointed by what I received.
Another personal highlight for me, and an education in self-promotion, was my attempted Beerfest Bingo handout. I got a lot of mixed reactions to this, including a) laughter and appreciation b) slightly condescending shoulder-pats from those who passed by, c) genuine excitement and enthusiasm to try to win, and d) many who just said “no thanks.”
Truth be told, this was about what I expected from a big, diverse crowd. Some people clearly got the cliche “beerfest jokes,” but for others, the message simply didn’t strike a chord. One common comment was that the integration of social media was “too much work.” I’ll be taking all of this feedback into consideration for next year, and thanks to everyone who interacted with me and my husband as we sweatily and shamelessly peddled my goofy game. Thanks also to the people who played, and won art prints (you know who you are)!
Always easily reached by Metra and the El, another one of my favorite parts of this fest is its accessibility by both suburban and city beer-lovers. When the 7pm Metra back to Lombard pulled up, Matt and I became aware of its pending arrival at the last minute, and sprinted up to the platform, barely catching our train home. We’ve never managed to miss this train, but maybe someday I’l find out what happens if we do.
Until next year, here’s to another successful and exciting year of #OPMBR 2015. I can’t wait to see what 2016 has in store. Cheers!