Despite the spectacular jet-watching weather, I skipped out on the Air & Water Show crowd for a better buzz. Namely, the fifth annual Micro Brew & Food Review in Oak Park. It has officially become my favorite BEvERage event. Let me tell you why.
Everyone who matters to the Chicago-area Craft Brew scene is there: Three Floyds, Half Acre, Revolution, Haymarket, 5 Rabbit, and Finch. While there were a few bigger places (Goose Island) and out of state breweries (Milwaukee Brewing, Left Hand, etc) represented, the event has stayed focused on highlighting local outfits and throwing a spotlight on new, tasty talents. It would be so easy for Seven Generations and the Illinois Craft Brewers Guild to say yes to a Miller Coors, Sam Adams or Anheuser Busch, but they haven’t. It’s refreshing and appreciated.
Speaking of refreshing…I also like that the festival also uses restaurants in the area. The Food Review could easily be called a “Taste of Oak Park,” it’s that hyper-local. I decided not to eat while juggling a brew, and stopped off midfestival at Poor Phil’s (139 South Marion St.) for a shrimp po’boy. The folks at Phil’s were cool enough to let me keep my pour of Hopothesis IPA while I had lunch. It was a great sandwich with an even better beer.
I do wish I had saved room for the ceviche tacos from Marion Street Cheese Market (100 S. Marion) because they looked amazing. I settled for some bandaged cheddar, blue cheese, and local honey from their shop instead. The samosas from Khyber Pass and tacos from The Perfect Dinner rounded out the temptations for me. I nearly caved and bought a cupcake from Sugar Fixe too, but decided it didn’t go with the Flossmoor Pale Ale.
The event is billed as “micro waste,” and encourages recycling with provided receptacles. All the street trash cans were covered to force people to the sorting stations for waste, which wasn’t 100% effective. People poured their unfinished beers into provided buckets, but the majority of un-used beer made its way into shrubberies and storm drains. Environmentalism is hard when there’s that much beer to try. Just sayin’. It’s a good effort though, and they seemed far more successful than other street festivals at keeping the garbage to a minimum.
I mentioned the spotlight on new talent, and I want to give a few shout-outs to new-to-me breweries that are now on my list. Atlas Brewing Company (2747 N. Lincoln) served up Naiad Summer Belgian IPA, a moderately hoppy brew with citrus notes, and light, refreshing Golden Ale. I will be seeking out bottles of Hopothesis IPA, so my local liquor store had better start getting it in stock unless they want to see me plop down and cry (I kid…sort of). Speaking of crying, 5 Rabbit Brewery has a Grassy Hoppy Ale that is my new addiction. However, it isn’t bottled yet. I was ready to start blubbering until I learned it’s on tap at Bad Apple (4300 North Lincoln Ave). Now I have a valid excuse for going there with frequency — intense beer research. Anyways…
My only complaint about the event is that even though the pours are larger and you get in a little earlier, I’m not sure it was worth it to spring for the advanced entry. I had to tell the certified pourers to just give me a taste, not a full glass. If it were easier to toss out, it would’ve been okay. Really, it’s a minor quibble because the Micro Brew & Food Review was a beautifully run event with a super nice crowd. It was an afternoon of excellent beer, and I can’t wait for next year to attend again.