Beer. Sunshine. Friends. Good eats. Lawn games. Music. More beer.
It’s not complex. Just the perfect recipe for a fun summer beer fest. For its third go-round, organizers of the Midwest Brewers Fest built upon their hits and misses from the past couple years to create a solid event that catered to a wide variety of attendees.
With 63 breweries complemented by a cask ale tent pouring 15 rare choices, novice drinkers and hardcore geeks alike were able to sample beers they may have never had before. With the recent legislation allowing homebrewers to take their products outside of their homes, the Homebrew Pavilion featured not only speakers and supplies but a handful of aspiring brewers pouring their beers for attendees to taste. This was a great addition to the fest as it opened many attendees’ eyes to the quality of beer that could be produced by small, at-home setups. Other amenities found at the fest included a shopping tent with beer-related clothing and accessories, a cigar tent with couches, chairs and umbrellas, a dining tent with a handful of food trucks, and a live music stage. With a true Chicagoland summer sun blasting down, the misting station and shade tents came in extremely handy.
As I’ve said before, location and setting play a huge role in the overall enjoyment of beer festivals, and the Plainfield Riverfront once again provided a lush, green backdrop. Situated a bit further down the river than previous years’ fests, this year’s Midwest Brewers Fest featured a more spread out layout, which helped eliminate any sense of crowd clutter.
If I had to pick out any negatives from this year’s fest, it would have to be the continued use of volunteers in the brewer’s booths. Considering many of the fest’s attendees are trying these beers for the first time, this is an opportunity for brewers to not only educate them on their beers but increase the likelihood of them buying it in stores or choosing it on tap at their favorite watering hole the next weekend. Instead they are met by a volunteer that simply shrugs when asked questions or replies “I’m just pouring the beers” or “The brewery rep is around here somewhere I think.” I understand that reps are not always available to attend every event, but other beer fests have made the most of these situations by giving volunteers some quick training on the beers they’re pouring. Heck, some beer fests only allow a brewery to participate if they agree to only have one of their reps pouring. (There are some rumors as to why the majority of the brewers were not behind their serving tables, but I will refrain from speculation until I have all of the facts; 9/6: Per the Village of Plainfield and Liquor Control Commission, if you pour beer at a festival, you are not permitted to consume it as well. Also, all fest pourers must be Bassett-certified.).
Another drawback of the fest was the inconsistency in pour amounts. Given that everyone received a very small sampler glass (~4 oz), it would seem simple for each brewer to fill these for attendees (unless a smaller pour is requested). At least half of the pours I received were around the halfway mark…and these were not the higher ABV beers either. With VIP tickets costing $100 and a set number of sample tickets, organizers need to make sure brewers are giving people their money’s worth.
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