The Festival of Wood and Barrel Aged Beer (FoBAB), put on by the Illinois Craft Brewers Guild is among my favorite beer events of the year. Featuring a collection of some of the country’s rarest beers in existence, this fest full of fermentation feats conjures up a level of anticipation akin to Christmas morning. Traditionally, beer is made with four main ingredients: water, barley, hops, and yeast. FoBAB allows for the addition of wood as a fifth ingredient, which makes for some of the most unusual and creative combinations of flavor and ingredients.
I’ve written about this fest for the past couple of years. I attended for the first time in 2014, and again as a volunteer in 2015. This year I attended as a member of the press during the afternoon session of Saturday November 12th, and I noticed a number of changes to the event, all for the better.
2016’s festival weekend was marked by upper-60s weather and actual sunshine, in huge contrast to the mini-blizzard that rudely reminded us that winter was coming back in 2015. My feet and hands had all of their feeling and were not covered in icy slush this year! (How did I get slush on my hands?!) What a pleasant change!
FoBAB 2016 also featured some improvements from a marketing and brand perspective, including beautiful organization and signage. As an attendee, this renewed enthusiasm towards branding, design, and clear signage was THE BEST thing to happen to this fest this year, in my opinion. Bravo to the creative professionals who produced this experience, and truly put themselves in the fest-goer’s shoes. I never had a question about what category was where, or what beer I was drinking, and the overall brand experience felt modern and refreshed.
In the days leading up to the event, the festival’s official Instagram feed (@fobab) featured beautiful video clips that explained of each the 12 color-coded categories of beer that brewers could enter into the fest. Each day featured a new beer style mini-movie composed of slow-motion and close up pours of the style into its proper serving glassware. The comments explained the style in a simple and lighthearted way, complete with lots of emojis: 🍻 🍺
The old FoBAB logo remained unchanged, but was accompanied by a whimsical set of bright, fun colors and a hand-brushed font that looks as if a happy, maybe even a slighty-tipsy-on-barrel-aged-beer person wrote it with a beer in the opposite hand. (No judgement here – great decisions all around.) This font and color combo adorned an impressive set of new signage that was hung throughout the festival in such a way that one couldn’t help but know where they are and where they should go at all times.
Large, photographic ceiling banners floated above the fest as they hung from the hall’s rafters, and floor stickers reiterated each aisle’s category. Big signs labeled each aisle and each beer had its own brewery-branded and color-coded sign that clearly repeated the beer’s category and title.
The overhead lighting was dimmed this year too, an impactful change that somehow tipped the the mood of the hall towards classy and less frantic. Another small-but-big change involved swapping the men’s and women’s restrooms, which did create a little line for the females at the fest, but freed up the hallway that was packed last year with a constant gaggle of guys waiting to use two single bathrooms. Good call, FoBAB. Good call.
Finally, at the risk of stating the obvious, this post is so very late, almost to point of being irrelevant in today’s fast-moving world of minute-to-minute news. And while my lateness may suggest otherwise, I am truly thankful to the Illinois Craft Brewers’ Guild for the press pass and early entrance to the festival. I had an excellent time, and can’t wait to see what next year brings!