Recapping FOBAB 2018

Recapping FOBAB 2018

Saturday was a snowy-rainy-cold-gray-slushy day, but you wouldn’t want to spend a beautiful summer day indoors, shoulder-to-shoulder with hundreds of craft beer fanatics anyway, right?

FOBAB 2018 lived up to its reputation, drawing a massive crowd that represented all walks of life. The air was thick with the aroma of hops and malts and booze, as well as the passion that emanated from attendees, brewers and everyone else participating in the fest.

For someone who struggles to choose a beer from a modest draft menu, the 400+ brews available at FOBAB was decidedly overwhelming. But more options meant more competition, making those coveted medals a little bit harder to come by for the brewers involved.

Several local favorites fared well. Logan Square’s Hopewell Brewing was awarded the competition’s overall runner-up honors with its Crudités Wild Ale, while Werk Force Brewing out of Plainfield took home both Gold and Silver in the Fruit Beer category.

img_7584Other Chicagoland winners included Goose Island, Revolution, Half Acre, Pollyana, Off Color, Middle Brow, Church Street, Empirical, More and Brickstone. Mayor Rahm Emanuel — well-known for his ardent support of the local craft beer industry — even made a surprise appearance to present medals and congratulate the winning brewers.

Check out’s full list of Saturday’s National Barrel-Aged Beer Competition winners.

Personal Preference

In terms of barrel-aged expertise, my girlfriend and I are nowhere near on par with the panel of industry judges, but here’s quick overview of a few of our samplings.


  • Moody Tongue: Pressed Asian Pear Saison. Sometimes exotic fruit flavor combinations fall hilariously flat, but this one was sweet and sour simultaneously, producing a delightful, unmistakable pear flavor that gets better as it lingers.
  • Horse Thief Hollow: Bourbon Barrel-Aged Cinnamon Girl. We don’t seek out stouts often, but we reached a consensus on this one: the best stout we’ve ever tasted, period. I love Horse Thief, one of the local beer scene’s hidden gems.
  • Off Color Mousetrap: Wildlings. It took Gold in the Wild Beer – Brett category, which tells you all you need to know. If you’ve never been to Off Color’s Mousetrap taproom, what are you waiting for?
  • Forbidden Root: Night Moth. Shocker, we loved the only hazy IPA we tried. But it’s tough to resist a juicy blend of tropical hops and a warm, piney aroma, especially after the taste buds have become accustomed to porters and barleywines.
  • Upland: Bourbon Barrel Doppelbock. A perfect choice for the season, it tastes lighter than its ABV, smooth and malty.


  • The Dayton Beer Company: Batch 100. This Belgian aged in Chardonnay barrels gave me goosebumps — in a not-so-good way.
  • Collective Arts: Origin of Darkness. I allowed myself one barleywine, and this chocolate-vanilla-miso combo just didn’t warm my belly the way I hoped it would.

Looking Back


When I previewed FOBAB on Friday, I outlined a few of my primary goals for maneuvering the event. Let’s see how we fared:

Branch out beyond city and state borders. Consider it done. Kicked it off with wild beer from Nebraska Brewing, sampled one from Upland Brewing in Indiana and another from Dayton, and closed down the show with a rich, faintly bitter saison from Des Moines’ Confluence Brewing. Even went north of the border with the barleywine from Collective Arts in Ontario.

Hit specific targets first. Too many options, too many people, too little time — this goal went out the window within the first 30 seconds, instead becoming a game of “whatever’s easiest to access.”

Don’t like it? Dump it. Props to the fest’s organizers and volunteers, as dump buckets were abundant and easy to access, as was water. Similar major brew fests should take note.

Learn something. While I didn’t pick up any new technical brewing knowledge, FOBAB was a wonderful introduction to dozens of breweries I was previously unfamiliar with, including 2018’s Best in Show winner Bottle Logic Brewing out of Anaheim, California. And prior to this event, I didn’t realize just how popular the Brett style had become with mainstream brewers.


Judging by the chatter I overheard and the consistent buzz of excitement that permeated the building, I’d say the 16th annual FoBAB was the latest in a long line of successful events.

Congratulations to the winners (especially the local ones) — looking forward to checking out all the brewpubs and taprooms that have been added to my ever-growing list.


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