Each experience puts a whole new spin on the traditional beer festival
This past weekend, our staff had the pleasure of joining Brooklyn Brewery during their stop in Chicago as part of a nine-city tour that’s raising the bar for beer festivals as we know it. We chronicled every informative, flavorful, and wacky bit of the weekend that brought Brooklyn to the Windy City.
Timberland Presents: Mikal Cronin
While a preview dinner from Chef Andrew Gerson was held at TWO last Thursday evening, Friday night was the perfect introduction to the weekend-long event for us. A crowd gradually crept into Thalia Hall in the early evening, and by 7:30pm it was bustling. Happy attendees socialized and took advantage of free beer that was handed out until 8pm, featuring Brooklyn Brewery varieties such as the Defender IPA, the Scorcher IPA, and the Bel Air Sour. A rustic wooden press was the centerpiece of the upper-level bar, as a silk-screener made shirts live for onlookers and handed them out for free, sporting the Brooklyn Brewery logo with “CHICAGO” noting the tour’s stop on the back. Finely-crafted accessories and outerwear courtesy of Timberland were gifted to a few lucky winners, adding to the style and ambiance of the event.
A crowd gradually crept into Thalia Hall in the early evening, and by 7:30pm it was bustling. Happy attendees socialized and took advantage of free beer that was handed out until 8pm, featuring Brooklyn Brewery varieties such as the Defender IPA, the Scorcher IPA, and the Bel Air Sour. A rustic wooden press was the centerpiece of the upper-level bar, as a silk-screener made shirts first-hand handed them out for free, sporting the Brooklyn Brewery logo with “CHICAGO” on the back. Finely-crafted accessories and outerwear courtesy of Timberland were gifted to a few lucky winners, adding to the style and ambiance of the event.
As stage lights dimmed and light percussion started to stir, crowds flooded onto the balcony seating and floor of the venue. Native Chicago band Father Costume took to the stage with new wave sounds, while Varsity, another Chicago band, played lighthearted, pop-rock jams. Then it was time for Mikal Cronin, the main event, who played indie rock melodies into the night. With great beer and great music, it was just right for a Friday night.
Easily the most intriguing day of the weekend, Beer Mansion totally surpassed our expectations. A name like that is enough to draw you in, but also piques enough curiosity to make you wonder what else could possibly take place inside.
In true Brooklyn fashion, the venue was out-of-the-way in an unassuming lofted studio space on the outskirts of the West Loop. Upon entry into the building with soaring ceilings, we were met with multiple rooms that left us wondering where to begin. The first room was an offbeat recreation center with old-school arcade games, shuffleboard, and turntables from Chicago’s Reckless Records. The next featured a long line of people waiting to sample eats from the Chef. No plate was needed for this hands-on dish. The Chef served a spoonful of fresh, raw salmon, nori, and sesame seed into the hands of guests for an unbelievable sensory experience. A virtual reality station, cotton candy machine, food from Cholula, and live music were more that we met on our paths through this wild maze of fun.
Then there was the beer. Hopewell Brewing Company, Marz Community Brewing Company, Solemn Oath Brewery, Aquanaut Brewing Company, and of course the organizing brewery were on the roster and the flavors were amazing across the board, adding an element of education to the mix.
Pilsen Neighborhood Immersion
What a truly unique experience! With some of our staff being SO suburban, we thought any opportunity to explore the city would be exciting. Pilsen is one of a kind – so full of culture, artwork, and best of all, sincerely friendly people.
Brooklyn Brewery, from their beer to their hospitality was great. We had a few infrequent beer drinkers with us, so when we trusted them to just give us something good, they knew the Brooklyn Sorachi Ace would be the one to please.
The Timberland Trailhead pop-up bar was a perfect mesh of art, style, and relaxation, as the location was hosted at the Nych Gallery. With exclusive artwork, Timberland’s latest apparel, and of course the free beer and popcorn, this was a perfect way to start off the immersion.
Brooklyn Brewery provided us with a variety of coupons and vouchers for free food, drinks, and discounts around the Pilsen neighborhood. We grabbed lunch at Pl-zen, a low-key gastropub. It offered a very relaxed atmosphere, with dim lighting and intimate seating. We tried the short rib torta and the Kobe Beef Burger. The pico de gallo garnish on the torta gave it the perfect touch, and the burger was nothing short of huge and filling. The walls were completely covered with comic book-inspired artwork. And the staff was nothing but friendly and helpful when introducing us to their food, drinks, and neighborhood.
The Brains Behind the Operation
During the weekend, we caught up with Gabe Barry who worked her energetic magic the entire weekend to bring the events to life. She answered some of our questions.
What are you most excited about for this tour?
The nature of collaboration is what makes this so awesome. We’re excited to showcase our partners. It’s refreshing to have new names coming together in one facility. Craft means the power of choice, and we’re excited to share these options with new faces.
How role does beer play within a culture?
Beer is the oldest beverage ever, and craft is relatively new. Before we knew about its process, it was a sense of place. Your brewery in your town was you. It tasted like the food and flavors of the town and represented the people that make it up. It brings people together.
What do you like most about Chicago?
Our first domestic stop is very different than international stops. Some say Chicago is New York without the heavy tourism, so local perspective is strong and important. It’s a city that’s like New York with the feel of the people and the industry, so there are a lot of overlaps, which makes it comfortable for us. A lot of our team is from Chicago which makes it more special for us to be here.
What’s your favorite brew?
I think there’s a beer for every moment, but if I had to pick, I’d say the Sorachi Ace. It’s like a desert island beer because it’s so unique and hoppy in its own way. It’s a great teaching moment, and it’s just a damn good beer.
From beginning to end, we loved the Chicago Mash from Brooklyn Brewery and can’t wait to see what they concoct next year. To learn more about Brooklyn Brewery and their tour, visit their website.