Oh, Chicago Craft Beer Week… I thought you might be the end of me. While a lot of fun, you did require a lot of drinking on my part. And a lot of staying out late. When I had to function at work the next day. You caused me a great deal of physical pain over the 11 days of your existence. The big question is whether or not I would do it again. And the answer is MOST DEFINITELY. I was not able to fully experience Chicago Craft Beer Week last year because I was on a work trip to San Diego, but from what I hear from my hubby, this year’s CCBW was much more fun with a lot more interesting events. I already provided a recap of my experience with the first half of CCBW as well as my interview with Finch’s Beer Co. Ben Finch, but here is my quick take on the remainder of the week’s festivities.
Firestone Walker Tap Takeover at Map Room
A few months ago, I attended another Firestone Walker event at this legendary beer geek’s heaven where I was able to meet and greet brewmaster Matt Bryndilson. This time around, co-owner David Walker was on hand to talk with patrons about the beers. Map Room had some fantastic brews on tap, I especially liked the Parabola, a barrel-aged oat stout, and the Wookie Jack, a double rye black IPA. Walker was exceptionally personable and talked with me for about 20 minutes! He had just finished an on-air interview with Women Enjoying Beer’s Ginger Johnson and he was excited to be talking to another proponent of women and beer. I told him that Ginger will be in Chicago this fall and that we are hoping to be able to meet up for a beer. Walker took out his Blackberry and emailed her right then and there telling her he was speaking to me! I hope she remembers who I am; that would be rather embarrassing if David Walker received an email back from her that said, “Jessica WHO???” Regardless, it was immensely fun to speak to both him and the local Firestone Walker Sales Manager, Rob Salitore.
Brewers and Bloggers: My Interview with Ben Finch at Jake Melnick’s
Check here for the transcript of this interview.
Grand Opening of the Revolution Production Brewery
I am going to go on the record as saying that the Grand Opening at the Revolution Production Brewery is going to go down in the record books as one of the best parties/beer festivals of the year. After you showed your tickets and received a wrist band, you walked up a long driveway and into a parking lot with approximately 10 food trucks awaiting to feed hungry (and possibly drunk) festival goers. There was a stage that showcased local talent, as well as a ticket line for patrons to purchase drink tickets. There was a stand with four taps outside where I received my first brew: an Anti-Hero IPA. This is one of my favorite IPAs, a well-balanced, not-too-crazy-hoppy-but-enough-hops-to-keep-it-interesting masterpiece. I was already having a great time and I had only been there for five minutes!
The hubby, some friends and I hung out outside for a bit as it was a gorgeous evening in Chicago but we eventually ventured inside to catch a glimpse of the newly established production brewery. I was given a tour of the facility a few months ago while it was still under construction so I was very excited to see the progress that was made. I am seriously impressed and cannot wait until I can start picking up Revolution beers at my local beer shop. Since I was at this party to have fun I did not take extensive notes like I normally do when at a beer event, my memories are a bit fuzzy. But there are a few instances that stood out:
- When the Revolution Brewing brewpub first opened, the hubby (then fiancée) and I were there once or twice a week, and we got to know some of the staff there, including head brewer Jim Cibak. Now, I’m not saying we were besties by any means, but he did recognize us once when we ran into him at Whole Foods and talked to us about brewing (we were about to embark on our first all grain brew). Since the production brewery has been announced I don’t get to see him as much as he (rightfully so) has been working on the production brewery rather than hanging out at the brewpub. So, when they called “last call” at the end of the night on Friday, I was sad I had not yet said ‘hi’ and congratulate him on his new brewery and recent gold medal win at the World Beer Cup. I was on a mission. Apparently as I was walking at power-walker speed through the brewery, various people were calling after me to say hi and I completely ignored them. Sorry about that. But in my determined gait, I almost walked right past Mr. Cibak. Who saw me and came up and gave me a big bear hug! He then noticed our sadly empty beer glasses and asked us if we wanted another. He led us to a secret area over a bag of grain and behind the fermentors where all of the brewers and brewery personnel were hanging out. And where there were two taps flowing where you could just pour yourself a beer. I met the brewer from Sun King, which I was very excited about. I will be in Indianapolis in July for the Beer Bloggers Conference and I am looking forward to stocking up on some Sun King beers. The night turned interesting when Revolution employees and friends started skate boarding around the brewery. This make-shift after party was a blast and I am so glad I had the thought to charge into the brewery to stalk, er, find Mr. Cibak.
- I had a serious rock star experience while standing in line to receive some of Revolution’s barrel aged beers. It requires a little bit of a back-story though. So, about five or six months ago, I was contacted by Justin Maynard (@illinoisbeer), the newly appointed Executive Director of the Illinois Craft Brewers Guild, to ask if I was interested in writing for their new in-the-works website. I was extremely honored and more than a little excited so I was disappointed as weeks turned into months and I still had not been able to start writing for them. It turns out that they are now on their fourth web developer who hopefully will be able to see the project to fruition. And allow me to actually start writing for the Guild. So, fast forward to the Revolution party and my hubby, four friends, and I are at the very end of the line to acquire some coveted Revolution barrel-aged goodness and we were devising our plans to send runners to pick up some Anti-Hero IPA for our 30+ minute wait. And like an angel from above comes Mr. Maynard. He approached me and said, “How many are in your party?” I laughed and then he said, in a much more serious, low tone, “How. Many. Are in your party?” I told him six, and he moved out ahead of us, turned around, and gave a little finger wave indicating for us to follow him. We went right up to the head of the line and he handed me some barrel aged Very Mad Cow, Revolution’s milk stout. Now, as cool as this was, I felt horrible about it. I kept apologizing to the gentleman that we essentially cut in front of. He didn’t really seem to mind though, although he was probably cursing me under his breath. Oh, well. The beer was delicious and I accepted it. And then, out of no where, Pete Crowley was there and I think I remember him feeding me some Barracus.
Couldn’t get tickets to the grand opening? Never fear. I spoke with Josh Deth who said he is hoping to have similar parties four times a year. Overall, Chicago Craft Beer Week was phenomenal and kudos to everyone that made it a reality. I explored neighborhoods and bars that I do not typically go to; I enjoyed some fantastic beers; and I got to meet well-known brewery owners and brewers and make connections with fellow beer aficionados. Chicago Craft Beer Week was a definite success in my book. I just hope I don’t die from alcohol poisoning. Cheers!
For additional photos from the Rev party and the second part of Chicago Craft Beer Week, click here for Christopher Murphy’s photostream.