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Highwood celebrates craft beer craze

The Highwood Craft Beer Festival returns for a second year to Everts Park on Aug. 2, featuring more than 80 craft beers.

The brews will come from more than 40 craft and microbreweries throughout the Midwest and Chicagoland.

Consumer demand for craft beer has soared in the past decade yet there were no major brew events on the North Shore, said Ted Widen, the festival's founder and event coordinator,.

"Over the last handful of years, craft beer has become unbelievably popular in the Chicago area," Widen said. "There are a few other beer events in the northern parts of Chicago — Mundelein and Grayslake held theirs in June — but there were none in the North Shore."

Highwood's reputation for niche festivals led Widen to pursue the location last year. The City Council immediately welcomed the idea and the fest drew around 1,200 people, he said.

Widen hopes to double that this year with twice as many tickets already sold.

There are VIP and general admission tickets, with VIP providing 25, three-ounce samples and entrance into the festival an hour before the official opening. VIP tickets are $55 in advance and $60 at the door. General admission provides 20 samples and costs $35 in advance and $45 at the event. Everyone receives a five-ounce souvenir glass. Designated-driver tickets are available.

A portion of the proceeds will go to Arts of Life, an artistic community for those with developmental disabilities. Ben Finch, of Finch's Beer Co., brought in the charity and some breweries.

"Ben is involved with the charity, which produces art and sells it to raise money. We'll have folks from the organization with a booth so people can purchase the work," Widen said. "Ben's brewery, a co-sponsor of the festival, also happens to be the fourth largest in Chicago. He lives in Highland Park and thought the North Shore was a little behind when it came to craft beer. He helped to bring in some of the top brewers in the area."

There will be food vendors and performances of the bands Snafu and Almost Joe.

"People will be able to walk around the park and eat and drink at the same time," Widen said. "I've been to a lot of beer festivals and most of them are held in parking lots. But with Everts Park, it's a more warm, relaxing atmosphere."

As for the recent surge in the craft beer craze, Widen believes the public has simply grown tired of the average brew.

"People's eyes have opened. It used to be a two-horse race, with Budweiser and Miller," Widen said. "In the early 1900s, there were around 2,000 brewers in the country. That number when down to less than 100 in the early '70s. Now we're back to 2,000. Craft beer has really taken off in the last 10 years. It's the difference between Minute Maid and fresh-squeezed orange juice. It's like night and day."

Brew fest hours are noon to 5 p.m. Aug. 2 for VIP, and 1 to 5 p.m. for other tickets. For more details, go to

Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun
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