By: James Walsh

 

Living in Chicago means no shortage of good brews. Most major craft breweries ship their fermented goods to Chi-town and plenty of local brewmasters are concocting bold, flavorful beers that linger with you long after the last drop. In fact, the variety at most local liquor stores can be downright staggering.

Wonder where to start? That’s why you go to the Chicago Beer Festival.

Held in Union Station’s Great Hall, the 6th Annual Chicago Beer Festival is a heady experience. Event-runner Eat Drink Play fits 60 breweries into every nook and cranny of this elegant marble space. Beer lovers from all over got a chance to sample classic recipes and new favorites. Plus, they danced to a DJ playing pop hits and old jams like Parliament’s Flashlight, sated themselves on steaming salty foods, and even bought some beer memorabilia.

Other attractions kept beer drinkers safe. Drizly, a mobile app service, delivers beer to your home directly from your local liquor store. Curb, another mobile app, connects you with professional, reliable, and safe taxi drivers nearby. Let’s not forget the beer.

Sadly, I couldn’t try everything (each brewery brought 2-3 beers and you’d need the drinking fortitude of Andre the Giant to sample them all without collapse). Of those I tried, here are the best, a mixture of craft brew mainstays and exciting up-and-comers.

Atlas Brewing Company (Freight Handler Milk Stout) – The first beer on my list was this sweet and full-bodied milk stout. Though it wasn’t groundbreaking, it was satisfying and filled my entire palette with flavor.

Urban Legend Brewery (The Creature/Black IPA) – Hoppy beers sometimes overpower your tongue like a 300 lb linebacker tackling a jockey. This wasn’t that kind of beer. It was smooth, not too hoppy, and easy to sip. My kind of IPA.

Founders (Imperial Stout) – Founders was one of the few out-of-towners. They brought several classics as reminders they’re still on top. The Imperial Stout had dark chocolate bitterness with a smoky quality.

Baderbra√ľ (Lawnmower Lager) – A smooth, refreshing lager with hints of citrus tantalizing the edge of your taste buds. Makes you crave the summer.

Cademon Brewing (PB Porter) – This rookie brewery is unafraid of experimentation. Cocoa qualities start it off and goober goodness lingers in the after-taste. If you want more of a PB taste, let your beer warm up.

Even the food was delicious. The succulent brat I bought, stuffed into a pretzel bun and overflowing with caramelized onions, was well worth the few extra bucks.

In the end, the Chicago Beer Fest experience was one of a kind. As I sat on Union Station’s marble steps, beer in one hand, brat in the other, I was swept away by the noise of the crowd echoing off the atrium. As it washed against me like tidal waves against the shore, all the stresses from the workweek melted away, and I was content in that moment.

And really, that’s what a good drinking experience is about.