Your Summer Beer Trail Just Got a Lot Shorter

Chicago Ale Fest


You May Say I’m a Dreamer

When I was growing up, my parents used to watch these home showcase programs on Sunday afternoons. They didn’t have the money to buy any of these homes; they just liked to dream about it, to imagine what it might be like to live like those people.

I do the same thing with beer trails. With two young kids at home, I don’t get to travel a whole lot. When I do, it’s on business, which limits my down time, or it’s with two young kids, which limits by brewery time.

But when I see those maps in state tourism brochures or in an issue of Draft, I read through it as though I’m actually planning to do it later this year. Call me a dreamer, I guess.

The hard reality is that, just like I’ll never read all the books I want to read or see all the movies I want to see, I’ll never try all the beer I want to try.

The Good News for Dreamers

If you’ve ever found yourself wishing you could visit all those cool places that have beer you can’t get at home, well, there’s good news for you: the Chicago Summer Ale Fest is bringing them to us!

That means that dream beer trail has just gotten a heckuva lot shorter for us.

Let’s be clear: this summer’s Chicago Ale Fest will feature beers that you cannot get anywhere else in Illinois. They don’t distribute here (yet — we hope). This is your chance!

Here are just a few of the many out-of-towners I’m excited about:

Cigar City

Tampa, FL

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Photo: Cigar City

This brewery began with a mission to showcase the local Latino culture and tobacco-manufacturing history of Tampa Bay, but it is their taste and quality that has made them a kind of Flordia beer Mecca. They ranked #3 in the 2016 U.S. Open Beer Championship, which is not too shabby. If they bring their Hunaphu Imperial Stout, get that first before it all runs out - it’s like the Bourbon County Stout of Florida.

Angry Chair

Tampa, FL

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Photo: Angry Chair

You might think, “Oh, another brewery passion project by former corporate guys,” but Angry Chair has been making its mark in the Seminole Heights neighborhood of Tampa with a range of both sessionable and heavy hitting beers. Their mission is to provide respite from your own angry chair, wherever it may be, with an experience that is as far from boring as possible. They currently enjoy a 4.16 on BeerAdvocate and an impressive 99/100 on RateBeer.

 The Commons

Portland, OR


Photo: The Commons

From my old haunts in southeast Portland, this trio of brewers focuses on sessionable beers to encourage taking your time and enjoying some good conversation at their tap room — like at a public commons, see? Expect beers with European names but Northwest flavors, and maybe plan to linger there a while with your friends.

Crooked Stave Artisan Beer Project

Denver, CO


Photo: Crooked Stave

With a name like that, you know you’re going to be seeing some interesting beers. These are guys who made a name for themselves with a sour golden ale aged in oak barrels, called Persica. Now, I’ll admit the whole thing does look a little pretentious on the surface, but all indicators suggest these folks really deliver: they have a 100/100 on RateBeer, for crying out loud. They’re big on sours, on brett, and on barrels, so you can expect plenty of unique flavors.

Funky Buddha

Oakland Park, FL

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Photo: Funky Buddha

This is the brewery that brought you the Maple Bacon Coffee Porter, which, though you may not have had theirs, you’ve probably tried something inspired by it. Well, now you’ll have a chance to try this or some other food-forward beer along the lines of their Blueberry Cobbler Fruit Ale, German Chocolate Cake Brown Ale, or Lemon Meringue Berliner Weisse.


Athens, GA


Photo: Terrapin

A terrapin is a kind of freshwater turtle, which inspired the name and a playful cartoon character that shows up in all sorts of places on their labels, from a beach to a peach farm to a bakery. Though they’ve been growing rapidly, they’ve managed to keep a local, casual character (check out their site), and people on Yelp say they’ll detour through Athens just to hit their pub.

The Chicago Ale Fest is a celebration of American Craft Beer in the heart of Chicago. The 2017 fest will take place on Friday, June 23rd and Saturday, June 24th. Located at Butler Field in historic Grant Park, bordered by the Chicago skyline and Lake Michigan, the fest will feature more than 200 beers from over 100 American craft breweries.

2017 Chicago Ale FestA Chicago Craft Beer Festival

June 23 & 24, 2017

Butler Field – Grant Park


Josh Seago