Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Chicago's 10th Annual Festival of Wood and Barrel-Aged Beer

The Illinois Craft Brewers Guild’s 10th Annual Festival of Wood and Barrel-Aged Beer (FoBAB) was one of the most impressive beer fests we've been to yet. The innovation and quality of the beer offered was undeniable. The sold out festival, which has grown exponentially each year had the largest attendance yet. Over 2,000 people arrived at the Bridgeport Art Center on Saturday to sample over 173 beers from 60 breweries. The layout was set up according to style rather than brewery, which was an exceptional way to taste your way through the ten categories.

It was no surprise that Goose Island left a bold and sizable impression on festival goers showcasing a first taste of the Cherry Bourbon County Stout, which launches in stores on Black Friday. Also making an appearance was the rare and beloved 2011 King Henry Barley Wine. Another highlight from Goose Island was the “Blending Station” in which paddles holding four different barrel aged Bourbon County Stouts could be sampled - BCS aged in Koval, BCS aged in wine barrels, BCS aged in Buffalo Trace barrels and BCS aged in Low Storage barrels. Our favorite was the Koval barrels which added more toasted oak and fruit characteristics.

Bourbon County Stout "Blending Station"

Even without the breweries having assigned tables the brewers had a strong presence and were eager to talk and share a craft beer. We had the opportunity to meet some fantastic and talented folks from around the country.

Devon from The Lost Abbey and his 4 medals

Our new buddy Bryan from Great Divide Brewing. We love his tshirt!

Here are just a few of our favorites (it was VERY tough to narrow down!)

Kim’s FoBAB picks:

Barrel Aged Abraxas (Perennial Artisan Ales) - This Imperial Stout with flavors of chocolate, ancho chile, vanilla and cinnamon was high on my list for the day. Aged in Rittenhouse rye whiskey barrels, it embodied the perfect combination of sweet & heat with a smooth, full body finish.

Bourbon Barrel Holiday Spice Lager (Lakefront Brewery) - If Christmas Day was a flavor - this would be it. A perfectly balanced, moderately spiced Doppelbock with brightness of honey & orange peel, aged in bourbon barrels - it will be my holiday go-to beer of the season.

Track #11 (The Lost Abbey) - This Strong Ale had a beautiful pour with a slight orange hue. It had big fruit-forward peach and bourbon aroma as well as flavor, with hints of black tea that created a slightly bitter finish.

Mayan Gold (Goose Island Clybourn) Chocolate + Bourbon = a match made in heaven! Formerly known as XOCOLATL, this Mayan spiced Barley Wine was sweet, rich and flavorful with mild notes of cinnamon, toffee and toasted wood. YUM, yum, yum!!

Pappy Van Muckle (Sun King Brewing) - I have to admit I am a sucker for Scotch Ales and Sun King’s Wee Heavy aged in a Pappy Van Winkle barrels did not disappoint. It was smooth as can be and a solid, traditional execution which was a nice treat after all of the bells and whistles we encountered.

Dave’s FoBAB picks:

King Henry (Goose Island Beer Co.) Goose Island’s Barley Wine aged in Pappy Van Winkle barrels was astounding. Such a simple idea with incredibly complex flavor's, ending with a smooth finish. I felt honored to be able to taste greatness.

Humidor Peach IPA (Cigar City Brewing) - This IPA brewed with peaches and aged in cedar. The cedar left a dry, white pepper finish that was balanced by the slight sweetness of the peach's. This was the first cedar aged beer I've had and I'm looking forward to trying many more.

Sex Syrup (Rock Bottom Brewing Chicago) - Breakfast in a glass! Rock Bottom’s Imperial Oatmeal Stout brewed with bacon, maple syrup, coffee and then aged in bourbon barrels had to be one of the most intense beers at the fest. Despite the copious amounts of flavors waging an epic war in your mouth, everything settled into a harmonious balance on the finish. Needless to say I went back for seconds (...and thirds).

Rumpkin (Avery Brewing) - Avery's Imperial Pumpkin Ale aged in Gosling’s dark rum barrels was the one beer I was looking forward to trying the most. Despite the heat (17%), the pumpkin and spices married so well with the vanilla and brown sugar notes from the rum. One of the most ambitious and delicious pumpkin ales out there.

Smaug’s Breath (New Holland Brewing) - Dragon’s Milk Imperial Stout aged in bourbon barrels with chiles. In my opinion the best chile beer I've tasted. Silky, smooth mouthfeel that leads into smoky vanilla. You feel a subtle bite of heat and spice from the chiles, very balanced.

We hope you had a chance to try some of these as well - and if not, keep an eye on illinoisbeer.com for ticket announcements on all events. Those suckers sell FAST!

Results of the judged competition can be found at http://www.illinoisbeer.com/fobab-2012-winners/