Oregon Brewers Win at 12th Annual Festival of Wood & Barrel Aged Beer

FoBAB 2014

With the colder weather that has recently hit us, there’s nothing better than to hunker down with a big, bold barrel-aged beer to warm you up. And this past weekend we braved the even colder weather of Chicago to take in the 12th Annual Festival of Wood and Barrel Aged Beers (FoBAB).

Our good friend, Pete Crowley now of Haymarket Pub & Brewery, founded FoBAB back in 2003 at downtown Chicago’s Rock Bottom location. Since this time FoBAB has evolved to larger locations, then adding two sessions and with this year’s event adding another day for a total of 3 sessions.

Bronze 2014 FoBAB Medal
Bronze 2014 FoBAB Medal

Over the years the brewers of Chicago, beginning at Goose Island, were at the forefront of this now massive trend of barrel aging beer from used whiskey and bourbon barrels. As we all know now, the types of barrels that are sourced for this additional aging process has drastically expanded to almost all spirits, including Absinthe, along with wine and even used hot sauce barrels. Creativity is king when it comes to this highly skilled task of barrel aging.

This year saw some changes to the festival that is now in its 12th year. The major change was finding a new venue, now the festival’s 5th location, in the University of Illinois at Chicago Forum building and adding an additional day to the weekend. What ambiance was missed from the past few years at the Bridgeport Art Center was made up for in both quality and quantity of the barrel aged beers presented.

The additional Friday night session and larger venue meant that tickets weren’t as scarce as in year’s past. However, all three sessions were quickly sold out.

The setup at the 23,000 square foot floor was very reminiscent as what one sees at the Great American Beer Festival. The major difference is that the beers are all located in groups from the festival’s eleven categories. We feel that this is nice for those that want to sample by style of barrel-aged goodness.

Overhead Crowd Shot at 2014 FoBAB
Overhead Crowd Shot at 2014 FoBAB

Entry this year was $55 that included 15 taster tickets. Once on the floor one could choose from the record number of 300+ beers from an array of 115 different breweries. Goose Island had the longest line during FoBAB. Their massive line wrapped 1/2 way around the perimeter of the Forum. Maybe this has something to say that when it comes to high quality, well sought after beers, beer fans do overlook who the brewery owner actually is.

Goose Island Goes Big at 2014 FoBAB
Goose Island Goes Big at 2014 FoBAB

Goose did not shy from bringing the big guns to FoBAB. They featured their Belgian inspired beers along with the crowd favorite 2014 Bourbon County Stout lineup of Original, Coffee, Barleywine, Vanilla Rye, and Proprietors. On Saturday night Goose was pouring their BCS Barleywine through a coffee randall. This beer was amazing!

Goose Island Pouring 2014 Bourbon County Barleywine thru a Coffee Randal at 2014 FoBAB
Goose Island Pouring 2014 Bourbon County Barleywine thru a Coffee Randal at 2014 FoBAB

In all, things ran quite smoothly with some minor congestion amongst the aisles. The pumping music from DJ Brewer was the only thing we would like to see changed. The volume levels were a bit on the high end, which meant a challenge in discussing the barrel aged beers that were in hand (and mouth).

Pouring Fremont Westland Whiskey Rye Saison at 2014 FoBAB
Pouring Fremont Westland Whiskey Rye Saison at 2014 FoBAB

Eight breweries and one cidery represented the Pacific Northwest. This list included the following along with the amount of beers/ciders being served:

Breakside Brewer – Ansatz, Aquavit Barrel-Aged IPA, New World Bruin

Finnriver Farm & Cidery: Finnriver Forest GINger Cider

Fremont Brewing: Bourbon Barrel Aged Dark Star, Westland Whiskey Rye Saison, Bourbon Abominable

Gigantic Brewing: Pipewrench

Glacier Brewhouse: Beam Marzen, Buffalo Trace Eisbock, Hungarian Imperial Stout

Grand Teton Brewing: Barrel Aged Coming Home 2012, Barrel Aged Belgian Golden, Huckleberry Sour

Oakshire Brewing: Flanders Framboise, Hermanne 1882, Oude Bes

Stickmen Brewery & Skewery: Mmmm…, One Rye Bitch, Vinegar Strokes

Widmer Brothers Brewing: Oak Aged Upheaval, Barrel Strength Kill Devil Brown Ale, Gentlemens’s Club Brandy Barrel Aged

(Bold Beers were Medal Winners at 2014 FoBAB)

Siebel Institute's Keith Lemcke, Gignatic Brewing's Van Havig and Wiseacre Brewing's Davin Bartosch strike it up at the 2014 FoBAB
Siebel Institute’s Keith Lemcke, Gignatic Brewing’s Van Havig and Wiseacre Brewing’s Davin Bartosch strike it up at the 2014 FoBAB
FoBAB Founder Pete Crowley begins the 2014 FoBAB Award Ceremony
FoBAB Founder Pete Crowley begins the 2014 FoBAB Award Ceremony

A panel of brewers, industry experts and even myself judged the beers at FoBAB on Friday prior to the evenings session. It was quite the experience to be part of the judging process and a great new-found appreciation for this work that judges provide at competitive beer events. Once the judging was completed on Friday afternoon, the judges awarded gold, silver and bronze medals to beers in 11 categories.

When the awards ceremony began just a bit after 3:00pm the blaring music ceased bringing brewers and many festival attendees down to the east end of the Forum to see first hand who the 2014 FoBAB winners were. With 11 categories to announce, along with Best In Show and Best In Show Runner Up, Pete Crowley started off with Category 11, the newly created category of Cider/Perry/Mead, and then ascended to Category 1.

The first of the Pacific Northwest breweries to win was Oakshire Brewing that squeaked in with a Bronze for their Hermanne 1882 in Category 9: Wild/Brett. Also placing in this category with a Silver was frequent visitor to Oregon, Jason Yester from Colorado Springs’ Trinity Brewing with Easy Swinger Wild IPA. This win was right on the heels of Trinity’s other Silver Medal in the previously announce Category 8: Wild/Acidic.

Jason Yester, aka "Saison Man", at 2014 FoBAB
Jason Yester, aka “Saison Man”, at 2014 FoBAB

Breakside Brewery won a Silver Medal for their Aquavit Barrel-Aged IPA. Jacob Leonard was the sole representative this year from Breakside and he was ecstatic when it was announced that they won in the Experimental Category. This was Breakside’s second year sending beer to FoBAB and their 2nd medal. This category had 32 entries.

Breakside Brewery's Jacob Leonard and Oakshire Brewing's Matt Van Wyk Celebrate their Medals at 2014 FoBAB
Breakside Brewery’s Jacob Leonard and Oakshire Brewing’s Matt Van Wyk Celebrate their Medals at 2014 FoBAB

The complete list of winners is listed below:

Category 11: Cider/Perry/Mead
Gold: Virtue Cider: Lapinette
Silver: Vermont Hard Cider Co.: Wyder’s Reposado Pear
Bronze: Vander Mill Cider: Chapman’s Oats

Category 10: Wild/Acidic
Gold: Port Brewing: Veritas
Silver: Trinity Brewing: 365 Day Sour
Bronze: AC Golden Brewing: Dark Creek

Category 9: Wild/Brett
Gold: Off Color Brewing: Papillon
Silver: Trinity Brewing: Easy Swinger Wild IPA
Bronze: Oakshire Brewing: Hermanne 1882

Category 8: Experimental Beer
Gold: Perennial Artisan Ales: Barrel Aged Abraxas
Silver: Breakside Brewing: Aquavit Barrel Aged IPA
Bronze: Temperance Beer: Boulevardier Barrel Aged Might Meets Right

Category 7: Fruit Beer
Gold: Off Color Brewing: Yuzu Er’d Og Begravet
Silver: Lake Effect Brewing: Cerise De Michigan
Bronze: Goose Island Clybourn: Vainglorious

Category 6: Strong/Double/Imperial Dark Beer
Gold: Milwaukee Brewing” Louie’s Resurrection
Silver: Sun King Brewing: Sympathy for the Devil
Bronze: Glacier Brewhouse: Buffalo Trace Eisbock

Category 5: Strong/Double/Imperial Pale Beer
Gold: Revolution Brewing: Filibuster
Silver: Southern Prohibition Brewing: Barrel Aged Mississippi Fire Ant
Bronze: Rock Bottom Chicago: Gin Blitz

Category 4: Classic Styles
Gold: Ei8ght Ball Brewing: Reintarnation
Silver: Glacier Brewhouse: Beam Marzen
Bronze: Sun King Brewing: Soul Shakedown Party

Category 3: Barleywine/Wheatwine
Gold: Revolution Brewing: Straightjacket
Silver: 4 Hands Brewing: Volume 2
Bronze: Firestone Walker Brewing: Abacus 2013

Category 2: Strong Porter/Stout
Gold: Pipeworks Brewing: Barrel Aged Jones Dog
Silver: Great Divide Brewing: Barrel Aged Yeti
Bronze: 4 Hands Brewing: Barrel Aged Bonafide with Cinnamon

Category 1: Classic Porter/Stout
Gold: Saugatuck Brewing: Barrel Aged Oatmeal Stout
Silver: 5 Rabbit Brewing: Barrel Aged Yodo Con Leche
Bronze: Perrin Brewing: Lil’ Griz

Best of Show Runner Up
Perennial Barrel Aged Abraxas

Best of Show
Port Brewing Veritas 013

FoBAB Best of Show Port Brewing Veritas 013
FoBAB Best of Show Port Brewing Veritas 013

Keep abreast of FoBAB by following @IllinoisBeer on Twitter or IllinoisBeer on Facebook and their newly re-launched website at illinoisbeer.com. We look forward to our next trip back for the 13th Annual FoBAB in November 2015.

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