On Saturday, August 19th, the familiar buzz of bagpipes began to blare promptly at 3pm, and the jockey box taps began to flow – another Oak Park Micro Brew Review was officially underway!
As former residents of Oak Park, Matt and I used to live within walking distance of this beer fest which meant A) we looked very much forward to it, oh so much each year, oh yes oh boy oh boy, and B) we could run home and use our bathroom instead of the port-a-potties. Score! Since moving away to Lombard, we always make a point to attend this, one of our favorite fests in the area. I love that it’s held outdoors – even though torrential rain downpours have been known to plague this event – and it’s super easy to access by Metra and the El. This fest also claims the title of “largest zero waste craft beer festival in the world, ” which is a unique draw for many people who don’t hate the Earth. Double score!
Above photos taken by Gosia Matuszewska
This year marked the 10th Annual Oak Park Micro Brew Review. Over 200 craft beers were poured at this event by 85 breweries, and for the first time in a few years in a row … that’s right people … it DID. NOT. RAIN! Over 3,500 beer-filled humans flooded the sunshiney cobblestone streets of downtown “OP” for the occasion and yet strangely, the fest felt noticeably less congested this year. Perhaps some of the minor layout changes were to credit for this – the entrance areas were all moved west of Marion Street, the main north to south dividing line of the fest – but whatever the cause, the increase in room for activities (i.e. elbow-dancing, flailing of limbs, accidentally spitting beer on the faces of friends whilst laughing loudly) was noticeable.
One of my favorite aspects of the fest, because it’s completely unique to the event, is the Hop Challenge (formerly the Illinois Craft Brewer’s Guild “Replicale” project). While I missed the chance to taste most of the entries, the winner of the challenge was pouring their creation at their proper booth as well, and it was really delicious. Old Irving Brewing’s The Polite Dingo was a bright, hoppy, thirst-quenching mango juice, and such a lovely expression of the Australian hop, Vic Secret in this 5% American Pale Ale.
As usual, a multitude of cute dogs were everywhere, and also as usual, when I am in a fest-state, I took pictures of many of them. Behold my handiwork:
But back to the beer … there were a lot of typical players in terms of beer styles at this fest. Being crowd favorites, IPAs and hazy NEIPAs dominated the offerings, so for me, the more inventive, experimental, and unique beers stood out as refreshing and worth mentioning. My most memorable beers of the fest included:
A bit on the style: This was classified as a Bière de Champagne/Bière Brut, and according to Beer Advocate this is a fairly new, crossover style of beer originating from Belgium, where the beer is often cave-aged to maturity. I’m not sure if any existing styles attempt to mimic the flavor of a Rosé wine like Forbidden Root has done, but Im certainly curious to try more of these. This one really was like sipping a rosé that had a sweet, pils malt finish.
Forbidden Root’s own Untappd description characterizes the “beer” perfectly saying, “This finely bubbled ale brewed with Niagara Grapes and a hint of hibiscus beautifully walks the line between beer and wine.” I thought this beer fit nicely among the brewery’s growing family of experimental beers that taste like other beverages, like their Negroni beer (mimicking a Negroni cocktail), Cherrytree Amaro beer, and their Frenetic beer that is meant as an interpretation of the popular digestif, Frenet-Branca.
Haymarket Brewing‘s Hitched Lime Saison (5.5% ABV)
For some reason, I was pretty skeptical about this one before sampling it. Lemon + saison made perfect sense to me, but lime + saison did NOT add up in my festbrain until I tasted this beer. The bolder, more boisterous citrus zest made this beer bright and alive like no other saison I’ve tried. The fruity saison yeast esters really popped with this creative addition to this refreshing, unique brew. I thought Haymarket did an amazing job of making the lime just potent enough to not overpower the base style personality, but to give it a cool kick at the finish.
Thanks to Oak Park and Seven Generations for putting on another successful and fun event. Can’t wait till next year, and here’s hoping we can get a good streak of sunshine-filled fests going.