Chicago is super-rich with beer fests during the warmer months of the year. In the winter? Not so much. It makes January even sadder, colder, and lonelier for the craft beer fan.
Enter Chicago Ale Fest.
Last month this bi-annual beer fest filled Navy Pier's Aon Grand Ballroom with stouts, porters, barrel-aged brews, winter warmers, and giant double IPAs. Upstairs and down, you could try unique brews from local and national breweries.
Some of my favorites:
Middle Brow's Milk-Eyed Mender - an American Imperial Milk Stout spiced with three kinds of peppers, cacao nibs, vanilla, cinnamon, and sweet orange peel. Interesting and delicious.
Lost Abbey's Serpents Stout. Oh my. This was another American Imperial Stout, and while it was 11%, that dark chocolate, vanilla, and french roast coffee were so smooth I wanted to ask for another. And another. And another.
Band of Bohemia's Pear Fenugreek Wheat. This brewery is known for pushing boundaries and creating beers that are infused with culinary flavors.
Speaking of infusion, there was an infusion center, with four beers cycled through infusion machines to create one-time only beers.
Another tasty beer was 3 Sheeps Brewing's Rebel Kent. The Sheboygan brewery added rye malt to a Belgian Abbey Single to create a unique beer. It was a refreshing change after all the dark beers, although I would not have turned down their Cashmere Hammer (a chocolate nitro stout) if they'd been offering it.
There were so many more that I loved, some I liked, and a couple I could have done without, but there were very, very few of those (like, two, I think). In addition to the beer itself, one of my favorite things about this event was the venue. It was spacious enough that there was no jostling, no crowding, and while there were some lines, none of them were terribly long.
The next Chicago Ale Fest is June 1 & 2. Can't wait? Head to the Naperville Ale Fest on February 24. It's run by the same people, so I'm betting we can expect the same quality experience. Just bundle up, because this one's outside!
I was invited to attend Chicago Ale Fest as a member of the media, but all stout-loving opinions are my own and weren't influenced at all by the 11% ABV.