FoBAB ReFlections, 2023 – Guys Ingesting Beer

Now that I’ve recovered, listed here are some ideas:

An enormous theme from most of the FoBAB 2023 award winners will be summed up in a single phrase:


That’s what many of us saved saying as medals went to not well-established repeat winners with extremely regarded barrel packages, however to small brewery after small brewery from across the Midwest and past whose names we didn’t acknowledge.

Earlier than FoBAB, how many people had ever heard of Minneapolis’ Idyll Forest Artisan Ales? Of Full Mile Beer Firm & Kitchen from Solar Prairie, Wisconsin? Or Centerville, OH’s Free Ends Brewing? Or locations like False Idol, or Ever Grain, or Magnanimous?

Most years there are successful beers from small places however nothing, it appears, like this. And I feel that’s superior.

As a result of, sure — huge breweries with plenty of sources nonetheless walked away with medals for his or her barrel-aged beers. Two of these are (or have been till lately) huge A-B manufacturers: Depraved Weed scored a medal and 10 Barrel took residence threeBoulevard, Solar King and Firestone Walker got here away with wins of their very own.

However we additionally didn’t see any wins from dependable outfits like Werk Power, Pollyanna or Revolution. (We sadly additionally didn’t have a earlier dependable winner within the type of Smylie Brothers. I additionally received a real pang of emotion seeing the ultimate barrel-aged beer pouring from Oswego Brewing Firm. Alas.)

If all which means that the world of barrel-aging high quality is continuous to flatten out, I’m thrilled for it. Beer is an industrial product however placing it right into a barrel to generate a desired have an effect on requires a sure artwork, as does mixing these beers into one thing higher than the sum of its elements. Locations like FoBAB are the place you get to see the payoff of plenty of costly experimentation and funding in one thing particular, and I’m joyful to say that extra FoBAB entries than ever are genuinely good beers.

If we’ve lastly circled round to barrel-aged beer being a product that may be nice from large barrelhouses and simply as nice from single barrels patiently ready within the nook of some small city taproom, then I’m completely proud of that. Extra thrilling beers to probe for all of us. And any of us, anyplace, may be capable of entry world-class barrel-aged beers.

I additionally nonetheless love having the occasion on the Credit score Union 1 Enviornment — with house for beers on the mezzanine, beers on the principle flooring, room outdoors for the Goose Island railcar and two separate areas put aside for NA hop waters and lagers, it’s just about the proper measurement for a competition like this and nonetheless have room for folks to sit down and unfold out. For these of you who keep in mind the overwhelming noise (and, later within the occasion, the … aroma) of the wild/cider room on the earlier location, you already know what I’m speaking about.

If I’d need for something, a little bit quiet house put aside for the sensory-sensitive can be good to have. Different festivals have instituted this and there have been occasions after I’ve been overwhelmed by the straightforward sound and stimuli of a fest, even unbiased of alcohol consumption.

There are solely two beer festivals that I journey interstate for: GABF and FoBAB. Regardless that costs haven’t gone up in fairly some time, $85 for a ticket to FoBAB1 is a bit pricey (even regardless of inflation) however when you think about how a lot entry you get to a complete world of fantastic, creative, inventive, time-consuming and total intense beers from across the nation … nicely, I’m nonetheless saying it’s nicely well worth the journey.

Different takeaways:

It was a very huge yr for berry beers. Quite a few stouts, barleywines and wild ales all got here loaded with raspberry, blackberry, brambleberry and marionberry flavors, which I’m going to assume is a operate of price issues from when these beers have been being put away amidst a world pandemic 12, 18 or 24 months in the past.

I don’t think about {that a} unhealthy factor, although: One in all my favourite beers of the day was Resident Tradition’s Spontaneous Raspberry, which I assumed was higher than their medal-winning Ego Dying stout with vanilla. Nonetheless, a little bit completely different from previous years the place peanut butter, Madagascar vanilla beans, unique coffees and different spices reigned supreme.

Talking of berry beers (tangentially, at the very least), that is the place I inform you that for those who title a beer Fart At The Satan: Raspberry, I’m certain by responsibility to attempt it at the very least as soon as. I’m nonetheless not letting Niles Brewing Firm off the hook for not but sending a label for this by means of the TTB. (It was wonderful.)

Initially of the competition I bumped into Eric Hobbs, COO of Solemn Oath/Hidden Hand, and we chatted a bit in regards to the entry he was gushing with delight about: their Oaked Val D’Or wild brett beer. It was great to see the entire group erupt in applause (see above) when this love letter to Orval was named not only a gold-medal winner however Finest in Present. Particularly figuring out how experiments with barrels and brett can both go very proper or very fallacious, you possibly can inform they knew they nailed it and clearly the judges agreed.

Fascinating to notice that the final 4 FoBAB Finest In Present winners have been non stout/porter/barleywine types. A cider, two wild combined tradition beers and now wild brett have all taken the highest spot since 2020.

Should you’ve seen the labels I’ve lately shared from Lupulin Brewing (Premium Subscribers have seen them, anyhow, ahem), you already know their artists are gifted — however after sampling their Scribbled Traces: Rene V2 I can inform you that their brewers are as nicely. This was one of many few beers I went again for an additional pour of; huge vibrant bitter golden tart acidity that punched proper by means of the noise to spark a number of taste pleasure.

Earlier than issues received too loopy, I hunted down a Tremendous Zero hop water from Revolution. I’ve no sturdy opinions on hop waters save to say that this one did pack a well-hopped punch to a palate that was thick with viscous stout; absolutely loved it as a break to barrel-aged beers however undecided I’m able to drop $9 for a six-pack.

I guess that successful two huge awards for his or her Mehndi 2023 bourbon-barrel-aged stout — Gold for Sturdy Porter/Stout plus Runner Up – Finest in Present — made MORE Brewing a bit extra assured about their choice to drop $6 Million on the brand new Fort Wayne facility that simply broke floor this week.

Metropolitan Brewing received one other award this yr for his or her barrel-aged Generator Doppelbock, however I had a pour of their BA Afterburner and man, I assumed that beer couldn’t get tastier, nevertheless it did.

Talking of beer types you don’t see loads at FoBAB, I had a pour of Dovetail’s XO7: Wild Hefe, and you already know what? I favored it! You wouldn’t count on a mix of untamed beer to interlace fairly seamlessly with their creamy, fluffy weizen nevertheless it did, and I dug it.

Haymarket’s Icky Bob Thornton could be2 the perfect Malort-barrel-aged beer I’ve ever had. Most brewers choose to only hammer you over the pinnacle with wormwood, however this one used the spirit’s pure dryness to meld superbly with the blood orange to land this blonde ale with a pleasant grapefruit-bitter end. Beloved it.

I had heard loads about Brothership’s two entries so I tracked them down ASAP — the barleywine was good however that Oumuamua imperial stout with a sizzly little rye-barrel spiced end, mmm. Great things.

A ultimate notice on attendance:

This yr’s occasion appeared a bit much less populated than within the final couple years; whether or not or not that was on account of a special configuration of beers on the ground vs on the mezzanine or fewer beers total or if there have been simply fewer attendees there. I don’t know for positive.

Goose Island has additionally had stations each inside and out of doors at previous occasions; that wasn’t the case this yr — every little thing was pouring outside, which I assume added just a few further sq. ft. (And it was a stupendous day to be outdoors, too.) I additionally don’t know what Friday evening’s crowd regarded like both.

I can inform you that I undoubtedly wasn’t crowded for house for many of the day on Saturday. I do hope that the Illinois Craft Brewers Guild received what they wanted from this annual fundraiser of a competition, as a result of I genuinely don’t need to find yourself again on the UIC Discussion board subsequent yr. Fingers crossed the financials made sense.

1 Disclosure: Sure, as members of the beer media, the guild comped us our entry to FoBAB 2023.

2 It’s.

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In regards to the Creator



Karl has written about food, journey and beer for Chicago Journal, Thrillist, Time Out Chicago, AskMen and extra. His guide, Beer Lovers Chicago, is now out there by way of Amazon and different booksellers.
Should you’re shopping for, he is doubtless having a porter or a pale ale.

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