If you read my post last week about the Naperville Ale Fest, I explained how most beer fests are created to appeal to the average beer drinker, with breweries pouring their most popular labels. Every so often, though, a beer fest is held that follows a more stringent set of guidelines that causes beer geeks to rejoice. A perfect example was the recent Tribes Alehouse Beer Fest, held at their Tinley Park location.
The inaugural fest for this south suburban craft beer destination, the fest was created by owner Niall Freyne, who set out from the start to host a fest at which only rare and hard-to-find beers were poured. “I don’t want any beers at the fest that you can regularly find on tap or in bottles at a bar or liquor store,” he said in a May interview for my feature on Tribes. This quote set up the framework for a one-of-a-kind fest that would be one to remember if he pulled it off.
Upon entering Tribes and opening the list of beers available at the fest (see slideshow below for image), it was plainly obvious to me that Freyne’s grand vision had come to life, and that a few hundred beer geeks would be celebrating that afternoon.
Eighteen highly regarded breweries set up along the outer walls of the outdoor courtyard, leaving more than ample room for the 175 attendees at each of the two fest sessions to gather and roam (the early session sold out in two days/second session sold out in a week). Crowds, long lines and congestion were never an issue – the space and laidback vibe of the fest was a breath of fresh air, and the light crowd and rare beer list lent an air of exclusivity for attendees.
Brewery reps (no clueless volunteers!) each poured a couple selections, forcing attendees to make a plan up front for their 10 sample tickets. With so many amazing choices, this was no easy feat. Additional tickets were available for sale if you couldn’t narrow down your list to only 10 though. No matter the path you chose, you were bound to leave a happy camper.
A cellar-worthy selection of boozy barrel-aged stouts and hoppy IPAs were complemented well with summer-friendly saisons and wheat ales. Even if there was a beer label you recognized on the list, that brewery put a special twist on it such as barrel-aging it, dry hopping it or adding unique ingredients.
A huge advantage of this fest was the Tribes bar/restaurant being a few steps away in case you wanted something to eat from their mouth-watering menu (25% all day for attendees) or a beer off their diverse list (see slideshow below for image). In fact, a handful of unique beers were on tap from some of the fest’s participating breweries, keeping the party going even after your session ended.
In addition to his two successful Tribes locations (Mokena and Tinley Park), Freyne has built the model for an elite beer fest that will hopefully continue for a long time to come.
[click arrows on left/right to advance through the slideshow]