The past year has definitely been a roller coaster for me, but there have been nothing but highs when it comes to my experiences in the world of craft beer. Below is the first batch of my personal highlights in no particular order. Thanks to all of my new friends and followers that made 2013 a truly unforgettable year. Links to Parts 2 and 3 are at the bottom of this post.
Pour Man launched – The majority of the highlights below would not have been possible for me to experience were it not for my decision to combine my passions for craft beer, writing and photography. This first year of running my website and social media has been a blast, and I can’t wait to add new features to help take you deeper into the Chicagoland craft beer market.
New friendships were forged – From beer bloggers, brewers and bar owners to distributor reps, event coordinators and everyday craft beer enthusiasts, I’ve befriended a countless number of them who are truly some of the most generous, passionate people I’ve ever met. With a community this strong and dedicated, Chicago is sure to be named Beer City USA in the very near future.
Chicago Craft Beer Week continued to put Shark Week to shame – A whirlwind 11 days of events featuring special beer releases, new brewery launches, collaborations and one-of-a-kind events, CCBW makes me appreciate living in Chicagoland even more. I block out the days in my calendar every year for this. As the week’s kickoff party, Beer Under Glass continues to set the bar thanks to an amazing setting provided by Garfield Park Conservatory, and Goose Island’s 25th Anniversary Party was another highlight of the week.
I entered the world of homebrewing – A couple of my best friends are serious homebrewers, so it was only a matter of time before I followed them into the garage to fire up the burner. I’ve collaborated on a couple brews and last month brewed the first beer on my own all-grain system. As I was warned, I’ve now got the bug and can’t wait to learn and brew more. I also really enjoy designing the labels for my beers, and decided to use a Beatles theme for my “brewery” and beer names.
The Chicago Brew Bus drove me to drink – If you haven’t taken a ride on this bus yet, do yourself a favor by grabbing some friends and booking your trip. Owner Kevin Salvi goes to any lengths that are legal (and maybe some that aren’t) to make sure you have an amazing time visiting a handful of local breweries. From what I remember of my day back in January, there wasn’t a down moment the entire time.
Windy City Distributing went on a hot streak – Not only did Windy City bring Maine Beer Co. (a personal favorite after visiting them in 2012) to Chicagoland, but they brought back Surly as well. If that wasn’t enough, they’ve put smiles on the faces of Three Floyds accounts across the area after the Munster monster decided to switch distributors. And this was all within the span of a couple months.
I helped form Ale to the Burbs – It’s no secret that the Chicago suburbs sometime get the short end of the stick or a bad rap when it comes to craft beer. Along with my fellow suburban bloggers Subbeerbia, Blah Blah Beer, Suburban Brew and Beer Dogging, we decided enough was enough and formed a group whose mission is to bring more positive exposure to the suburban craft beer scene. We’ve already helped coordinate some successful events, but look for Ale to the Burbs to make some major noise in 2014!
I took beercations in San Diego and Boston – What’s the point of a vacation without visiting some of the local craft breweries right? In 2013, I was fortunate enough to visit two of the best cities to represent their respective coasts’ craft beer scenes. Aside from the amazing weather and zoo, San Diego kept me busy with 10 brewery visits with Stone, Green Flash, Mission and Pizza Port being my favorites. In Boston, between trips to Fenway Park and Cape Cod and numerous bowls of clam chowder, stops at Harpoon, Trillium and Night Shift were worth every minute. I also benefited from the Pour Woman’s amazing skills when it came to packing bottles in suitcases to bring home. Helpful tip: bring your bottle-filled suitcases to curbside check-in – they rarely weigh your bags, so you can avoid the additional fees.
Tribes Alehouse Beer Fest made beer geeks geek out – Tribes owner Niall Freyne wasn’t kidding when he told me months before the fest that he wouldn’t allow just any beers to be poured at his first beer fest. Not only were the who’s who of craft beer in attendance but they brought their rarest and most potent beers for all to enjoy. I really hope Niall decides to host this fest again in 2014.
Suburban beer festivals started multiplying – In addition to Tribes, a handful of cities experienced a surge in beer geek traffic over the summer. Naperville, Lisle, Plainfield, Wheaton, Belleville, Schaumburg, Itasca and Oak Park each hosted their own beer fests. These weren’t your average backyard BBQs either – many of them brought thousands of attendees through the gates, showing that the burbs know how to party too.