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 second 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 1 and 3 are at the bottom of this post.
Dark Lord Day retained its throne as the “King of Beer Festivals” – As soon as my tickets were secured for Dark Lord Day, Three Floyds’ annual party/release day of its coveted Russian Imperial Stout, my mind began to wander with thoughts of how they would top the previous two years’ festivals I attended. Leave it to FFF to completely massacre my expectations and throw down not only its best event to date but probably the top beer festival of the year in Chicagoland. The bar has been set.
Atlas Local Beer Showcases introduced me to new brewers – With the overwhelming number of breweries popping up around Chicago and its suburbs this past year, Atlas Brewing did me and many others a huge favor by hosting a handful of Local Beer Showcases at its brewpub. Lined up together along the wall to pour beer samples for the masses, five or six new brewers were able to shake hands with their customers, and talk about their beers, breweries and plans for the future in an unrushed, one-on-one fashion.
AmericanCraftBeer.com brought me on board – You never know where a 5-minute chat will take you. At FOBAB, I fell into a conversation with a girl who I soon found out was the Texas correspondent and social media guru for AmericanCraftBeer.com. Turned out they were looking for a Chicagoland correspondent. Within a couple weeks, I was welcomed to the team and have been enjoying sharing local news and insights with a national audience.
The town of New Glarus brought me to my knees – It’s no secret that Wisconsin holds the key to most people’s hearts with its abundance of readily available beer and cheese. There was no better display of this fact than the Beer, Bacon & Cheese Fest hosted in New Glarus last summer. Home to New Glarus Brewing, one of the best breweries in the world, the town combined three of the most enticing words in the English language for this festival (part of their annual weekend-long Polka Fest) and even threw in a handful of sausage vendors as icing on the cake. Needless to say, my hotel is already booked for this summer’s event.
I produced a beer commercial and did an OK job of it – When I learned of 30 Seconds Over Chicago’s craft brewery commercial competition last spring, my creative juices immediately began to flow. I was fortunate to have Church Street Brewing choose my pitch and had a blast working with some friends to shoot the spot. With a packed house at the Double Door, my commercial aired and was voted 4th out of 32 submissions. The whole experience was rewarding, and I’d love to work on more projects like that in the future.
Beer collaborations were all the rage – The community or brotherhood/sisterhood element of the craft beer market really went to the next level in 2013. Breweries from local, national and even international distances broke bread, put their heads together and brewed beers that shared both names on the label. It’s these types of shows of support that help keep the craft beer market strong and barreling ahead.
I sang live with my Dad’s band – A longtime item on my bucket list, singing with my Dad’s band was an absolute thrill for me. He’s been playing guitar and singing in bands for the past 40+ years, and I’ve always had a secret wish to join him for a song. The opportunity finally came up this past summer at a gig at Grape & Grain, a fantastic bottle shop/bar/homebrew store in Homewood (see – there’s a craft beer tie-in here), and I ran with it. After my initial nerves died down, I really got into it and let it rip. I think I’ll stick to my solo concerts in the car going forward though.
I discovered Indianapolis craft beer…and it was good – With Chicago and Michigan getting most of the publicity for their burgeoning craft beer scenes the past couple of years, I quickly learned after a couple of day trips that Indianapolis isn’t far behind. Stops at breweries such as Sun King, Indiana City Beer, Fountain Square, Black Acre, Bier Brewery, Upland and even New Day Meadery convinced me that there’s more than Colts, Pacers and a good steak in Indy.