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Event Preview | 2017 Festival of Wood & Barrel-Aged Beers (FoBAB)

FoBAB Preview
Mike Zoller

With the 15th annual Festival of Wood & Barrel-Aged Beers (FoBAB) less than a week away, the weeks and months leading up to this year’s event have been different than in the past. With a price increase and the Illinois Craft Brewers Guild releasing the brewery lineup before the event for the first time ever, there seems to be more talk about FoBAB than in recent years.

When ticket information was released earlier this year, the big story seemed to be the price increase. Last year’s tickets sold for $65, while 2017 tickets cost $85. While on paper it looks like a $20 increase, it should be noted that this year’s price includes all fees, except for a $2.55/ticket processing fee. Last year there were several other fees that were tacked on at the end. Yes it is a price increase, but it’s not as significant as it seems.

fobab 2016 barrels
Photo by Eric Dirksen

Guild Executive Director Danielle D’Alessandro said that ticket sales are pacing just like they were last year. Tickets are 95% sold and she expects the event to sell out before Friday night. Currently, tickets are only sold out for the Saturday morning session.

The fact that they’re not sold out yet, but pacing like last year, is a good sign considering the event can hold more people this year.

“While we were able to include more breweries and cideries this year because we reduced the number of entries per location, we have less entries overall,” D’Alessandro said. “This created more space in the venue. We also changed the floor plan slightly so there will be a better flow.”

A couple of changes include moving the concessions outside of the event area and moving Goose Island’s booth to a place where their never-ending lines don’t interfere as much with the rest of the breweries that are pouring.

Photo by Eric Dirksen

With the price increase, D’Alessandro says that FoBAB is now priced more in-line with other premiere craft beer events.

“We are still really happy with ticket sales and believe that we made the right decision with the price increase,” she said. “This is an event unlike any other and is the only time you’ll be able to try a lot of the beers available. The ticket price is in-line with other high quality events like the Great American Beer Festival and the Firestone Walker Invitational. It also just costs more than it did five years ago to host an event of this size.”

For the first time ever, the Guild released the list of breweries that will be pouring at FoBAB (See here). While the actual beers can’t be released because of the competition aspect of FoBAB, additional hype was created by seeing names of breweries that have never been at the event before or are making a return after several years away.

More Brewing will be in attendance for the first year ever and fans are desperately hoping they bring Henna to the event. Even though Goose Island has not confirmed it, it seems very likely that they will be bringing Double Barrel Bourbon County Stout which will surely create a massive line.

Long lines waiting to get into FoBAB are common. Expect longer lines with the brewery list released. Photo by Eric Dirksen.

As FoBAB continues to grow, it almost seems certain that the event will outgrow its home in the UIC Forum. With 206 breweries and cideries pouring (up from 180 last year), as well as over 500 volunteers, at some point, no matter how much they try to change the floor plan, FoBAB is going to need to move.

“That’s a very real question and one that we continue to evaluate,” D’Alessandro said. “For the time being, we are just focused on making this year the best one yet. I’m incredibly proud of our team and all the work they do to make every year successful.”

For those coming to FoBAB for the first time, D’Alessandro has one piece of really good advice.

“Take. Your. Time. You have four hours to sample some of the best barrel-aged beers in the country. I can tell you, from experience, how easy it is to overdo it in the first hour. You have plenty of time to go through the booklet and read all of the posted signs to decide what you want to try.”

And as this is the 15th anniversary of the event, we asked if there might be any special things being done to celebrate.

“Yes! You’ll have to join us to find out,” D’Alessandro said.

Did the pricing change to this year’s event have an impact on if you decided to go or not go to FoBAB this year? We want to hear from you. E-mail us: [email protected] to share your thoughts.



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