When I learned a few months back that Lisle would be hosting its first ale fest, my ears instantly perked up. As it is my current home town, I was psyched for a fest that I could get to and from so easily and quickly. Then once I found out that the Lisle Ale Fest would focus on fall and harvest beers, it immediately became my top-priority event for the early autumn season.
Organized by Lou Dog Events, the same troupe that premiered the Naperville Ale Fest this past July, the Lisle Ale Fest was held in the heart of downtown, only a few steps from the Metra station. This location, which made it ideal for city folk and other out-of-towners, while offering drivers plenty of parking in the station lot, undoubtedly contributed to the fest eventually selling out at 1200 attendees (hundreds of walkups were actually denied entrance to keep the fest from being overcrowded).
With 40+ breweries pouring 80+ beers and a handful of local restaurants serving their specialties, there was definitely plenty to keep your palate occupied. A good mixture of local and national breweries were on hand, and a handful of them brought new or lesser-known beers to pour. These included Southern Tier’s Warlock, an imperial pumpkin stout (my personal favorite of the fest), Lagunitas’ Whiskey Rye Cappuccino Stout, Boulevard’s Bob’s ’47 Oktoberfest, Sierra Nevada’s Flipside red IPA and Left Hand’s Week Sauce coffee porter.
The VIP experience was kept simple, which helped eliminate the chances for any snafus. These attendees were allowed into the fest an hour early for tasting and were given a food voucher and commemorative fest t-shirt.
The layout of the numbered booths made it easy to find a brewery if you looked it up in the fest guide, but if you were casually strolling from one to the next, it was difficult to determine who was behind each counter. Not all breweries bring large banners with them, so standard signs above the booths would have helped immensely in this regard.
Like many festivals, volunteer pourers were a large component of this event, and while I understand why they are required in some instances, I strongly feel that there needs to be an agreement reached amongst festival organizers and brewery representatives when it comes to their participation. I keep hearing more about a “no drinking if you’re pouring” law being enforced at festivals, so I assume that’s playing a part in the absence of some reps behind their booths. After all, this is supposed to be a good time “for all.” However, reps must understand they’re missing out on a prime opportunity to promote their beer, brand and story to festival-goers who are hungry for knowledge about craft beer and its many players. Volunteers cannot accomplish that nor are they expected to; they simply take your ticket and pour with a smile, not knowing one iota about the beer they’re passing you.
The only other grumbling amongst the crowd was the long, winding line for the portable restrooms, which can probably be attributed to there not being enough of them. That’s something I’m sure will be easily remedied for next year’s fest. At least those in line were right next to the band stage, where they could enjoy the excellent live blues music.
Since the festival ran from 4-8pm and the weather was unseasonably warm, a unique feature was being able to enjoy yourself while the sun set and then for a couple hours into the night. At most outdoor beer fests, shade is at a premium as attendees bake in the summer’s hot sun. This was a great alternative, and festival organizers could not have asked for a better day.