Another Festival of Wood and Barrel Aged Beer is now in the books. Thirteen years strong and still growing, FoBAB is the premiere barrel-aged beer festival in all of the land. For the 2015 edition the Chicago festival featured 157 breweries that poured 363 different beers that spent some of its life in a wooden cask all categorized in 12 different categories.
Held each and every year in November this year’s FoBAB felt as if it was a in the middle of winter as a mid-November winter snow storm hit the Windy City. With a blustery wind and snow in the air the need of big, bold barrel-aged beers was quite evident. The three session event took place on November 20 – 21. One session on Friday evening and two sessions on Saturday with the award ceremony taking place during Saturday afternoon’s session.
Now in its second consecutive year at the University of Illinois Forum, the organizers from the Illinois Craft Brewers Guild improved the layout and attendee flow from last year’s FoBAB. The large festival floor poured all of the draft offerings while an annex room poured the bottle offerings to make things run a bit more smoothly than last year’s FoBAB.
Entry was $60.00 and included a festival glass and 16 tasting tickets for 2 oz pours each. However this year we noticed tickets not being used so each session was a barrel-aged beer dream come true on sampling. This is definitely a festival that should be on any craft beer fans radar. And if you’re afraid that your favorite beer will run out, organizers require three 1/6 barrels of each beer being entered with one for each session.
Beyond the breweries entered barrel-aged beers, FoBAB also features a unique project known as BarricAle. This is where all participating breweries from Illinois use one constant variable that all other breweries use and that is with the barrel used. Sponsored by Goose Island, the barrel used for 2015 FoBAB was from Heaven Hill. A few beers sat for 12 months while others sat for a few months.
A majority of the barrel-aged beers at FoBAB are from the Midwest being the close proximity to Chicago. However as in year’s past this year’s FoBAB featured a few breweries from the Pacific Northwest including Big Sky Brewing, Breakside Brewing, Fat Head’s Brewery, Fremont Brewing, Gigantic Brewing, Glacier Brewhouse, Grand Teton Brewing, Oakshire Brewing, Payette Brewing, and Widmer Brothers Brewing. Our regions cideries included Finnriver Farm & Cidery and Seattle Cider Company.
Three Pacific Northwest breweries walked across the FoBAB stage on Saturday to receive a few coveted awards. Oakshire Brewing was the first to cross the stage when receiving its Bronze Medal for Frederic C. Noir in the Wild Beer/Brett category. Then it was Fremont Brewing’s turn for a Bronze Medal for its Bourbon Abominable in the Strong Dark Beer category. The last winner from our region was Gigantic Brewing for its Pipewrench in the Strong Pale Beer category. Then when the Best in Show awards were announced Gigantic was awarded Best in Show Runner Up for its Pipewrench making it the second best beer according to the judges at this year’s FoBAB.
Below is a list of the medal winning breweries and its beers in each of the 12 categories. The Best in Show Winner and Runner Up follow the individual categories. To calculate Best in Show at FoBAB all Gold Medal winning beers advance to the final judging panel to see which two come out on top. Congratulations to all winners!
Gold – Virtue Cider: Percheron
Silver – Apple Knocker: Hard Knocks
Bronze – Sonoma Cider: Dry Zider
Wild Beer Sours w/ Fruit
Gold – The Lost Abbey: Veritas 015
Silver – Trinity Brewing: Red Swingline on Apricots and Peaches
Bronze – Avery Brewing Company: Raspberry Sour
Wild Beer Sours
Gold – Avery Brewing Company: lll Dolia
Silver – Off Color Brewing/Central State: Whiskers
Bronze – New Belgium Brewing: Le Terroir
Gold – Penrose Brewing Co. and 18th Street Brewery: Wild 18
D.J. is a Portland, Oregon based writer that spent his formative years in the Midwest. With over 20 years under his belt of drinking beer at festivals across America and the world, he has developed a strong appreciation and understanding of craft beer and the industry that surrounds it. He can be found in any of the great breweries or beer bars that make Portland the best beer city in the world. His writing can also be found in Northwest Brewing News and can be followed on Twitter at @hopapalooza.