Festival of Wood and Barrel Aged Beer

I came across a flyer for this festival last year while visiting the Metropolitan Brewery and I knew this would be a great event for the physical sciences graduate students. I went for the first time last year and I enjoyed it a lot. So this year, shortly after the tickets were released to the public in September, I purchased some for the evening session (the 1pm session was sold out within a few days). The ticket included a souvenir tasting glass and 16 tickets for 2 oz servings (last year they had 12 tickets for 3 oz servings). I personally prefer more smaller tastings, even though only my first tasting was ~2 oz, while the others ranged from ~3 oz to almost a full glass 🙂 The beers were divided into 10 categories this year: 1. Classic Porter/Stout, 2. Strong Porter/Stout, 3. Barleywine/Wheatwine, 4. Classic Styles, 5. Strong/Double/Imperial Pale Beer, 6. Strong/Double/Imperial Dark Beer, 7. Fruit Beers, 8. Experimental Beer, 9. Wild Beer/Brett, 10. Wild Beer/Acidic. Last year, I started with the first category, but by the time I made it to the fruit beer section only the very sour beers were left, so this year I decided to start with the fruit and experimental beers categories. Some of my favorites:

  • Lagunitas – Chocolate Raspberry Brett Bourbon Barrel Aged – well balanced with subtle chocolate and raspberry flavors
  • Fitger’s Brewhouse – Decadence – very delicious, tasted liked liquid raspberry chocolate
  • Goose Island – XOCOLATL – tasted liked milk chocolate, but I would have liked to taste a more bold flavor in addition to the chocolate
  • Destihl – St. Dekkera Reserve Sour Hawaii Fire-Ale – I usually don’t like the wildly acidic beers, but this one was not too sour and while it was hard to pick out the individual fruit flavors, the mixed fruit flavor was nice
  • Three Floyds – Kinder Beer – can taste the cherry, could have been a bit less sour
  • Three Floyds – Conquistador de Muerte Porto – a bit too spicy, I prefer last year’s Conquistador de la Muerte
  • Goose Island – Honey B – winner of the show, but to me it tasted like a cup of tea with too much honey
  • Upland – Gilgamesh – runner-up, nice flavor, grows on you as you keep drinking

I was happy to see some beers from the Glacier Brewhouse since we liked their beer when we visited Anchorage. I tried their Beam Porter which was a very smooth porter with a taste of chocolate. From the Metropolitan Brewery, I only got to try one of the last few glasses of the Doppel Sticke Alt and it had a lighter, diluted flavor, but could taste the high alcohol content. I tried several other beers, but I didn’t take notes and can’t remember some of the individual flavors. Probably the accumulation of alcohol didn’t help 🙂

Overall, I enjoyed the beer festival a lot, but there where too many beers and too little time. There is an added time pressure as some of the more popular beer can ran out as early as the first 30min. Also, most of these beers have a high alcohol content, which makes it even more difficult to taste a lot of different beers. I am going to try to search for some of these beers online so I can take my time enjoying them at home 🙂 You can find the full list of featured beers at illinoisbeer.com.

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