Complimentary tasting glass, contents unknown
  • Complimentary tasting glass, contents unknown

For 2012 the Festival of Wood and Barrel Aged Beer (the proofreader in me always wants to style it “Festival of Wood- and Barrel-Aged Beer”) moved from the Chicago Journeymen Plumbers Union hall on Washington to the fifth-floor Skyline Lounge of the Bridgeport Art Center at 35th and Racine. Colloquially referred to as FOBAB (pronounced “faux bab”), the festival presents dozens of the strangest, strongest, most fanciful beers brewed anywhere, all aged in barrels or in contact with wood.

The barrels might be new raw or toasted oak or have previously held bourbon, rye whiskey, rum, cognac, port or other wines, and a few beers are aged on cedar. This year you could taste several adult beverages that had luxuriated in Pappy Van Winkle bourbon barrels, or in barrels that once held 50-year-old French cognac. Many spent that aging time in the company of fruits or spices: I tried a Flanders red ale aged with blueberries in wine barrels, an IPA aged on cedar with peaches, a strong Belgian dark ale aged in bourbon barrels with raisins, cinnamon, and dried chiles, a milk stout aged in sweet Madeira barrels with cherries, and a Belgian-style IPA aged in a cabernet barrel with passionfruit and cacao nibs, to name just a few.

The Illinois Craft Brewers Guild presents FOBAB, this year held on Saturday, November 17, with one session from 1-5 PM and another from 6-10 PM. I attended the swiftly and thoroughly sold-out event thanks to the indulgence of ICBG president Pete Crowley (who also runs Haymarket Pub & Brewery) and executive director Justin Maynard. Last year I went with my coworker Julia Thiel, which made it easier to try more beers without incapacitating myself, but this time, flying solo, I managed a mere 26, among them nine medal winners—and that’s counting a couple I previewed at a kickoff party at Haymarket on Friday evening. All the winners (and the rest of my review) are after the jump.

Philip Montoro has been an editorial employee of the Reader since 1996 and its music editor since 2004. Pieces he has edited have appeared in Da Capo’s annual Best Music Writing anthologies in 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2010, and 2011. He shared two Lisagor Awards in 2019 for a story on gospel pioneer Lou Della Evans-Reid and another in 2021 for Leor Galil's history of Neo, and he’s also split three national awards from the Association of Alternative Newsmedia: one for multimedia in 2019 for his work on the TRiiBE collaboration the Block Beat, and two (in 2020 and 2022) for editing the music writing of Reader staffer Leor Galil. You can also follow him on Twitter.