Seven days might be enough for America to salute craft beer — American Craft Beer Week runs May 14-20 — but it won't be enough for Chicago.
That's why the third annual Chicago Craft Beer Week will be spread over 11 days, from May 17-27. We have a few early details, and it sounds as if beer lovers should clear the week. Ahem, 11 days.
Festivities will again begin with Beer Under Glass at Garfield Park Conservatory, where last year more than 25 craft breweries poured their suds in one of the city's most verdant and lush landscapes. The conservatory, heavily damaged in a hail storm last summer, is now fully reopened, but continues to rebuild.
Tickets for Beer Under Glass will go on sale March 1 at the conservatory website. Tickets will cost $40 from March 1 to April 30, $50 between May 1 and May 16 and $60 on the day of the event. I hate to stir the craft beer frenzy pot, but tickets sold out in two weeks last year. With interest in craft beer still soaring and events like Goose Island's Stout Fest selling out in one minute earlier this month, they'll probably go quicker this year.
The other scheduled event at the moment is at the end of Chicago Craft Beer Week: a closing party featuring Illinois beers at Revolution Brewing's still-under-construction production facility at 3340 N. Kedzie Ave. Ticket information is not yet available, but will be at the Chicago Craft Beer Week website some time in early March.
Based on a couple of conversations with Peter Crowley, president of the Illinois Craft Brewers Guild, which is organizing Chicago Craft Beer Week, it sounds as if this year's event will be a bit smoother than last.
In 2011, the brewer's guild hired a New York promoter to organize Chicago Craft Beer Week. The promoter brought with him a vaguely convoluted system that involved buying a $10 passport for the week and collecting a series of bottle caps at different bars that could be redeemed for merchandise. That's out this year.
The bigger issue last year was that bars were charged $250 or more to participate in Craft Beer Week. Several bar owners took umbrage, including Michael Roper of Hopleaf. The division between officially participating bars and unofficially participating bars — like Hopleaf — left beer lovers scrambling among websites trying to piece together the calendar of events for themselves.
In 2012, any bar that has poured craft beer and regularly maintained its draft lines for the last year is eligible to participate — no charge. Crowley expects about 200 bars in the city and suburbs to qualify. All of those bars will be able to upload their events to the Chicago Craft Beer Week website, centralizing information about the dozens (hundreds?) of events happening. Hallelujah.
Roper said he has already been contacted by several breweries about staging events, and will happily participate.
"I went to a meeting and liked what I heard," he said. "It's better this year."
Crowley, who owns Haymarket Pub and Brewery, said frustration with Craft Beer Week 2011 spurred plenty of local beer folk to pitch in on this year's version.
"We always wanted to do it in-house, but didn't have the organization or people to do it," he said. "Once we went outside of our house, a lot of people suddenly jumped on board and said they would help."
As for the week itself, Crowley said there will be loads of rare beer tappings, beer pairing dinners, tap takeovers and visiting craft beer luminaries. He said participating bars will be divided into 13 zones, and each bar will have a featured beer selling for $4 during the 11 days. Drinkers who try two featured beers in six of the zones will have access to a VIP area at the closing party where "super rare beers" will be poured.
"It's gonna be a crazy 10 days for sure," Crowley said.
To quote Homer Simpson: Woo hoo.
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