The 11th annual Festival of Wood and Barrel-Aged Beer (FoBAB) came and went this past Saturday (in a definite blur for most attendees). The Illinois Craft Brewers Guild continues to make this the preeminent event for beers of this kind, and as a first-time attendee, I found it extremely easy to see why.
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FoBAB brings together a passionate community of brewers dedicated to pushing the boundaries of what we’ve all come to know and love about beer (and even ciders and meads). Walk the fest floor and you’ll see a handful of the beers you’ve tried before that have been literally flipped on their sides in barrels and aged to lend them entirely new and unique flavor profiles (and a swift kick in the ABV as well).
With tickets reportedly selling out in less than a minute a few months back, FoBAB was easily this year’s most highly anticipated beer event in Chicagoland. Held at the spacious Bridgeport Art Center and split into two sessions, the fest welcomed 95 breweries that poured a total of 213 beers. Instead of organizing the fest layout by brewer, the fest laid out the beers per the categories in which they fell (Classic Porter/Stout, Wild Beer (Brett), Experimental Beer, etc.). While I didn’t get to try them all, I was able to sample small amounts of about 40 beers amongst the 11 categories. My palate was treated to a virtual cornucopia of barrel-aged flavors…from bourbon, tequila and rum to sour, sweet and downright funky. Choosing a favorite was impossible for me, but luckily a handful of others were given the unenviable, daunting task.
Prior to the public tasting sessions, all of the beers were judged by a panel of industry experts to determine winners (gold, silver and bronze) for each category and a Best in Show. These were announced to the crowd toward the end of the first session. For the full list of 2013 FoBAB winners, click here.