Top 10 Highlights from Chicago's BeerHoptacular

On Saturday we made our way to Cinespace Chicago Film Studios (where Empire, Chicago Fire/PD/Med and much more were filmed) for the 6th Annual BeerHoptacular, a craft beer festival promising 150+ beers from 75 breweries. There were 2 sessions of the event to choose from, either 1-4 PM or 7-10 PM and general admission tickets for each session were $50. For an additional $10 you could get an extra hour of exploration before your session formally began (to which we said, yes please!). Between the sheer volume of beers to try, the upbeat and welcoming attitude of the staff and brewers, the short lines, and the food truck variety, we were some pleased BeerHoptacular-goers, but check out our top 10 reasons why below:

1. Size of the Sample Pours

One of my biggest complaints about beer and wine festivals are the lines that queue at each booth waiting on samples. Because the sample pours are typically so small, guests are inclined to throw one back and then remain at the booth to try more, resulting in greater wait times in line. Even with a packed house with hundreds of guests, BeerHoptacular cracked the code in keeping lines short; by offering larger pour sizes, guests got their sample and stepped aside to enjoy, letting the rest of us never wait more than a minute or two in line!

2. Roaming Brass Band

This one is pretty straightforward - the "Four Star Brass Band" that roamed throughout the venue jamming during breaks in the all-vinyl DJ's sets were entertaining and just simply played great music, end of story.

3. 3D Photo Booth

Like small children with a new fancy toy, we had more than our share of fun experimenting with photos in the 3D photo booth. While I did not try their scotch whisky + craft beer combo drink, I am grateful to Auchentoshan for their memory making booth!

4. "The Roaming Hog's" Pork on Naan

The variety of food trucks staged outside the festival was a pleasant surprise. In an effort to sample as many trucks as possible, we paced our appetites and ventured outside in between every few beer tastings for a bite. We enjoyed The Happy Lobster Truck's Junior Lobster Roll (a steal at $10 with a respectable amount of lobster meat for the price) and Lobster Mac 'n Cheese Balls, Dinky Donuts' made-to-order Old Fashioned Sugar Cream Pie Mini Donuts, Chicago Pizza Boss' Arancini, and especially Piko Street Kitchen's Bulgogi Ribeye Bao. Our favorite of the day, however, was The Roaming Hog's Pork on Naan with marinated ground pork, sambal mayo, cucumber and cilantro on homemade naan bread.

5. Band of Bohemia's Pear Fenugreek Wheat

After trying so many different craft beers, they honestly started to run together (of course my growing buzz did not help) BUT hands down the most memorable/my favorite of the day was Band of Bohemia's Pear Fenugreek Wheat Beer. It should come as no surprise that a brewery that was just awarded it's first Michelin Star (the first brewpub to earn one) for its dining is brewing such memorable beers. The 7.9% ABV Wheat took you on a bit of a flavor ride, kicking off with a hint of celery from the fenugreek, followed by a surprising punch of maple (also from the fenugreek), and ending with mellow sweetness from the pear puree. I (and you) NEED more of this...VERY SOON.

6. The Insult Booth

Although I did not indulge in said Insult Booth, the entertaining menu alone ($1 for a Half-Assed Insult, $2 for a Whole, and $4 for a Custom Compliment since kindness isn't cheap) and colorful puppets were enough to make this a highlight.

7. Local Breweries

Having only lived in the Greater Chicagoland Area for about 2 months, I've only made it to a handful of local breweries despite my list of those to try just continuing to grow. For that reason I loved being able to sample brews from many of the local Illinois breweries I've had my eye on all in one place, especially those tucked away in the burbs.

8. The Glorious Sunny Weather

Well this one is both a highlight AND a "low" light. The weather was out of control beautiful on Saturday which was ideal for some craft beer day drinking. However, BeerHoptacular took place in a dimly lit warehouse-like film studio with not a window in sight. BUT with the food trucks positioned right outside, we still soaked up that glorious sun on our (numerous) snack breaks.

9. Breweries' Cooler Disguises

After several laps perusing the 75+ brewery booths, we couldn't help but notice the various ways the breweries had disguised the coolers connected to their taps. From robots to retro ice chests to hand painted pallet boxes, rating and ranking cooler disguises became an unexpected BeerHoptacular activity.

10. Sticker Giveaway Mania

Everyone loves a little swag. While the giveaway sunglasses, coasters, and magnets sprinkled around various brewers' setups were welcomed tokens, there was some sort of unidentified satisfaction in collecting brewery stickers from many of the booths. I became nearly obsessed with gathering them, knowing deep down I had zero use for them after the festival. Nonetheless, collect I did, and boy, did it feel good. Once home, I slapped them all on this stray piece of foam board to complete my sticker fulfillment. Ahhh. Success.

Cinespace Chicago Film Studios
November 5, 2016