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Event Recap | 2015 Festival of Barrel Aged Beers (FoBAB)

Event Recap | 2015 Festival of Barrel Aged Beers (FoBAB)
Mike Zoller

While the weather outside the UIC Forum was frightful, the beer being poured inside for the 2015 Festival of Barrel Aged Beers was quite delightful.

Despite receiving its first significant snow fall of the season, craft beer fans flocked to Chicago for the largest beer festival in the country featuring barrel-aged beers put on by the Illinois Craft Beer Guild. This year’s FoBAB featured 90 breweries and 300 unique beers to try.

This year's tasting glass was a mini mason jar.
This year’s tasting glass was a mini mason jar.

Always a hard ticket to come by, FoBAB draws breweries from all over the country looking to showcase their beers that have been aged in all different types of barrels. This year’s biggest draw was Goose Island’s Bourbon County Brand Stout Rare. For some, FoBAB was their only chance to try BCBS Rare since bottles will be in high-demand on Black Friday.

(READ MORE: The Story Behind 2015 Goose Island BCBS Rare)

All of the Goose Island offerings at FoBAB. Not shown is 2015 Prop that was also being poured.
All of the Goose Island offerings at FoBAB.
The line for BCBS Rare formed quickly
The line for BCBS Rare formed quickly

One ingredient that seemed to be prevalent in the festival was the inclusion of raspberries into the stouts and porters. Not only used in the fruit beers, raspberries made their way into many of the stouts and porters and created an excellent flavor contrast with the chocolate, vanilla and other standard flavors found in darker beers.

Besides the barrel-aged porters and stouts, other styles of beers are highlighted during the festival. Beers can be entered into one of 12 different categories for judging purposes.  

Five favorite beers

I wish I could have tried every beer at FoBAB, but I wanted to stay alive. These were my favorites. Comment below with yours!

Vlad Russian Imperial Stout – Hailstorm Brewing Company: This beer might have been missed by many FoBAB goers. It was actually in the Barricale section which is its own very rare competition amongst Illinois breweries. The variable this year was Heaven Hill barrels, the breweries all use the barrels and put whatever beer they want into them. Vlad Russian Imperial Stout was chocked full of raspberries and the flavor was phenomenal. You got some cocoa nib undertones but the raspberries were the star of the show. Hope you got to try this one.

Blue Label – Perennial Artisan Ales: This year Abraxas was missing from FoBAB, which was a huge disappointment for me, but Blue Label was a perfectly balanced Imperial Stout. I got a great blend of chocolate and sweet maple syrup. A thicker beer that was highly talked about on the festival floor.

Malevolence – Spiteful Brewing: One of two beers to win gold medals for Spiteful, Malevolence was one to not miss at FoBAB. Strong earthy tones highlight this beer, but the secondary flavors of vanilla, bourbon and chocolate complete the beer.

Pamplemousse – Lake Effect: Moving away from the stout category, this fruit beer was packed with grapefruit. Early on in the festival too much pulp was coming out of the keg giving it a look that probably turned some people off. However, the volunteer pouring it told me to give it a try and he was on point with his recommendation. It’s an extremely strong grapefruit flavor but in a festival full of heavy beers it was a great complement to have. Later in the festival they fixed the pour and the beer was a hit.

Early on Pamplemousse was better than it looked. Once they changed the way they poured the beer it looked much better.
Early on Pamplemousse was better than it looked. Once they changed the way they poured the beer it looked much better.

Bourbon County Brand Stout Rare – Goose Island: Goose Island is in a weird position in FoBAB. They have the largest display, in fact two different huts pouring beer, everyone flocks to them first but then it seems to become an afterthought. Yes, Rare was the most highly sought after beer in the festival, but it seemed strange that Rare and all of the Goose Island beers were shut out of medals this year. Perhaps we take Goose Island for granted being in Chicago but Rare was definitely one of the best stouts being poured at FoBAB.

Rare in the mini mason jar
Rare in the mini mason jar


What was missing

I alluded to Perennial not having barrel-aged Abraxas at this year’s FoBAB above. One of last year’s must have beers that created long lines was noticeably absent from the festival. In fact, I spent the first 20 minutes searching for it, thinking surely it would be poured only to have to ask one of the organizers about its absence. Hope to have it back next year.

One beer that I never too want much of, just one sip, is Samuel Adams’ Utopia. I had hoped it would be at FoBAB this year but was disappointed it was not. The strong ale is extremely hard to find and is a costly beer at that. Normally an ounce or an ounce and a half taste is about $15-$20.

Finally where was Side Project? The brewery that is exclusively using barrels to age their beers was absent this year. I always enjoy trying one of their fermented beers and they were no where to be found on the festival floor. Side Project always created long lines at FoBAB, this year there were some longer lines but nothing like in the past where people would wait for 20-30 min for a pour of some ultra-rare beer.



Here is the complete category-by-category breakdown of all the beers that medaled at FoBAB:


Best Of Show

Winner – Destihl Brewery: Dosvidanya Russian Imperial Stout

Runner-up – Gigantic: Pipewrench

The moment Destihl found out they won "Best in Show"
The moment Destihl found out they won “Best in Show”
The rush for Dosvidanya Russian Imperial Stout after being named “Best in Show”



Gold – Virtue Cider: Percheron

Silver – Apple Knocker: Hard Knocks

Bronze – Sonoma Cider: Dry Zider


Wild Beer Sours w/ Fruit

Gold – The Lost Abbey: Veritas 015

Silver – Trinity Brewing: Red Swingline on Apricots and Peaches

Bronze – Avery Brewing Company: Raspberry Sour


Wild Beer Sours

Gold – Avery Brewing Company: lll Dolia

Silver – Off Color Brewing/Central State: Whiskers

Bronze – New Belgium Brewing: Le Terroir


Wild Beer/Brett

Gold – Penrose Brewing Co. & 18th Street Brewery: Wild 18

Silver – Perennial Artisan Ales: Savant Beersel

Bronze – Oakshire Brewing: Frederic C. Noir



Gold – MKE Brewing Co.: Gin Barrel Aged O-Gii

Silver – Listermann/Triple Digit Brewing: Chickow!

Bronze – Solemn Oath Brewery: Limousine Of The Damned


Fruit Beer

Gold – Shoreline Brewery: Imperial Raspberry

Silver – Goose Island Brewpubs: Cherry Run

Bronze – Werk Force Brewing Co.: Water On Mars


Strong Dark Beer

Gold – Free Will Brewing Co.: Black Friday

Silver – Revolution Brewpub: Working Mom

Bronze – Fremont Brewing: Bourbon Abominable


Strong Pale Beer

Gold – Gigantic: Pipewrench

Silver – Nebraska Brewing Company: Barrel Aged Hopanomaly

Bronze – Rock Bottom Chicago: Cherry Fizz


Classic Beer Style

Gold – Half Acre: Gin Pony

Silver – Metropolitan Brewing: Wooden Dynamo

Bronze – Flix Brewhouse – Carmel: B.A. Chillaxed Mild



Gold – Spiteful Brewing: Spiteful Barley Wine

Silver – Lakefront Brewery: Barrel-Aged Organic Beerline Barleywine

Bronze – 7venth Sun Brewery: Vultures From The Past


Specialty Strong Porter/Stout

Gold – Spiteful Brewing: Malevolence Chocolate Caliente

Silver – Brickstone Brewery: Barrel Aged Dark Secret With Raspberries

Bronze – Lagunitas Brewing Company: The Picante Perro


Strong Porter/Stout

Gold – Destihl Brewery: Dosvidanya Russian Imperial Stout

Silver – Bell’s Brewery: Expedition Stout

Bronze – Revolution Brewing Kedzie: Deth’s Tar

Mike Zoller is the Chicago Editor for Follow him on Twitter: @mikezoller and Instagram: @chicagobeer.

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