Event Recap | Chicago Beer Classic at Soldier Field
Although the last vestiges of winter traversed Lake Michigan and infiltrated the Chicago Beer Classic on May 6, glorious blue skies and both golden sunshine and beer screamed, “spring.” Besides, a little cool breeze couldn’t ruin an experience provided by 100+ brewers pouring beer at a venue that provided plenty of proverbial “wow factor.” Produced by Red Frog Events, few venues exceed the uniqueness offered by a chance to sip a beer while standing on the Chicago Bears logo at the 50-yard line. Go Bears, or go beers — both applied. The additional component of the stadium’s role in paying homage to America’s soldiers only added to the fest’s positives.
With 100 breweries serving 200 beers, it wouldn’t be prudent to determine winners or losers — this writer has but one liver and one belly. What one could notice was an attempt by breweries to unleash lighter, golden, crisp, farm-fresh upon beer drinkers who have spent months filling their pub glasses with an abundance of stouts and BBAs. A few exemplary examples include the exquisite, flavorful, superbly crafted Flossmoor Station Lager, which successfully awoke taste buds from their deep winter slumber. Meanwhile, Around the Bend Beer Company Helles Bock with plum and Mexican Cinnamon fit Chicago spring weather perfectly, light on the tongue, heavy on flavor. All Rise Brewing Orange Wit simply knocked it out the park with its farm-freshness, orange zing, and quaffable-as-hell nature. Not to be outdone, Vice District Black IPA fit right into the lighter-beer theme, too. Sure, it’s dark, but a black IPA is the hop head’s malty option — a little dark, a little sweet malt, hoppy, and still easy drinking. Sublime!
In addition to fine Chicago brews, Colorado’s New Belgium, Atlanta’s Sweetwater, New York’s Ommegang, and plenty of midwestern regional representation filled Soldier Field’s sidelines. One would be hardpressed to find flaws in the brews offered at Chicago Beer Classic — diversity in genre, region, and name with quality abound. There were plenty of flagships, seasonals, and one-offs to go around.
Parking, food, games, trivia, and the ambiance all helped make Chicago Beer Classic an A+ event. Although public transportation (or cabs, Uber/Lyft-style transportation) was highly encouraged, as it should be with any fest, parking for this writer proved to be easy-peasy in the main garage under Soldier Field adjacent to the Field Museum. Parking in the garage also provided fest goers an opportunity to stroll back to the car along the south end of Chicago’s museum campus under a sapphire-blue sky in the midst of Chicago’s majestic, towering cityscape. Not bad at all. Meanwhile, food trucks offered easily accessible munchies such as pizza, BBQ and tacos, and VIPs had an slew of food choices from which to pick, as all the vendors on the mezzanine level of Soldier Field were open and serving plenty of stadium favorites. Throw in trivia, giant-sized beer pong (read: large balls into garbage cans), bocci ball, and a few other goodies and it would be hard to complain about the amenities.
All told, the fest was a good one, which is no easy accomplishment in this era of festival-mania. I have a feeling even Packer fans would enjoy drinking beer on the Bears’ home field.