Half Acre Far & Away Festival | A Sensational Beer Event
The first annual Far & Away festival hosted by Chicago’s Half Acre Brewery and held at the city’s popular Millennium Park offered beer fans a ‘27-Yankees level brewery and beer lineup; heavy hitters that did not disappoint in October. For the two PorchDrinking.com writers who attended each session, the immediate discussion afterwards included the comment, “best ever.” Granted, immediate conclusions can be wrought with over-reactions, but the mere fact that we both said that speaks to the festival’s sheer excellence.
To label beer festivals as ubiquitous is an understatement. Most fests these days couple beer with food, interesting venues, a theme, or something that helps packs ‘em in. Far & Away offered a good venue, set amidst Chicago’s famous downtown architecture at the Harris Rooftop in Millennium Park. However, Far & Away could likely be held in a Chicago alley after a January snowstorm and no one would care — the beer was simply that good.
In a room full of Monets and Renoirs, it seems almost unfair to highlight any individual brewery, but numerous folks spoke with enthusiasm about The Referend Bier Blendery (New Jersey), which offered both its Berliner Messe: Gloria Grand Cru Spontaneously Fermented Ale Wheat Ale and Tender Buttons Framboise. Both beers exceptionally well executed and delicious beyond description, but the Framboise edged out the Grand Cru for favorite based on chatter. I can’t argue. Do yourself a favor and read more about the beer.
While Referend prides itself as a brewery that, “specializes in the production of spontaneously fermented beers, as practiced by ancient cultures and ushered into modernity by the lambic brewers of Belgium’s Pajottenland,” one did not have to limit themselves to experimental and wild beers at Far & Away, although there were plenty on-hand!
For instance, the Fremont Brewing Field to Fremont Citra Fresh Hop Pale Ale resonated with hop heads, not with the big punch of a DIPA, but with a celebration of hops in all its flavorful and aromatic beauty. Fremont makes the beer with hops that are only HOURS old. Welcome to Yakima, Chicago! (Oh, and The Rusty Nail BBA Imperial Stout with Licorice and Cinnamon Bark from Fremont wasn’t exactly a B-side beer, by the way.)
A few breweries also offered lovely pilsners, including Creature Comfort who brought their Bibo Pils to the fest. As good as that beer can be on a normal day, it’s even better when needed a little break from BBAs and wild ales.
One could also enjoy well-known beers with almost no line, such as Founders KBS. To think of the amount of fanfare that goes with a KBS release, yet at Far & Away it was one of the many all-star beers on-hand.
No line. pic.twitter.com/FK75aoYHQx
— PorchDrinkingChicago (@PorchDrinkChi) October 13, 2018
For this writer, it was fun to bounce between places like New Belgium, Sierra Nevada, Side Project, Jester King, Crooked Stave, Maine Beer, Cigar City…well, the list goes on and on. But, it was equally gratifying to try Aslin Beer Co, Threes Brewing, Bagby, Troon, Columbus Brewing and a host of other breweries not easily (or ever) found in Chicago.
No matter the name. No matter the size. No matter the geography. Beer after beer, brewery after brewery, one thought kept entering my mind — it’s a good time to be a beer drinker.
Yep. No question. This was my favorite fest. And for a man who loves FoBAB & Beer Under Glass (B.U.G.) and a slew of annual beer release parties with a passion, I don’t say that lightly. Simply, I’ve never had this much good beer under one tent. That is my honest assessment.
The $90 price tag may have seemed steep; and I understand that is not cheap. But if you are a beer fan, and if Half Acre throws this party again, I implore you to spend your money here. You will be ensconced in the essence of craft beer.
Feature image (modified) from Half Acre Beer Co, Mathew Powers (PorchDrinking.com) and Charlotte Bodden of Only Child Brewing in Gurnee, IL.