As we traversed the campus of the Garfield Park Conservatory during Friday night’s Beer Under Glass festival, there were a handful of occasions in which we stopped, looked around wide-eyed, and said simply, “what a great place to host a craft beer event.”
Packed to the gills with rare, vibrant plant life and ponds teeming with gliding fish and puttering turtles, the conservatory’s glasshouses are not your average brewery fest venue. While gorgeous and fascinating, the last time we visited (a Saturday afternoon), the place was laden with tourists and families and small, loud children.
On this evening, it was full of happily buzzed adults strolling through the premises, admiring the greenery, taking photos, laughing — a more relaxed environment, to say the least. Though not ideal (a bit chilly at less than 50 degrees), the conditions outside were seasonably pleasant, making the outdoor portion of the event as big of a hit as the indoor component.
One thing that struck me was the highly logical setup of the whole ensemble: the brewery booths were organized into various “neighborhoods” as I’ll call them, allowing you to move from one cluster of vendors to another while enjoying the scenery as you walk, with the crowd being a bit more dispersed between each grouping.
We put together a navigation strategy on the fly:
- Enter a beer “neighborhood”
- Identify the breweries you’d like to hit
- Enjoy a few samples
- Admire the lush plant life as you meander to the next neighborhood
This approach worked swimmingly. Of course, most festivals aren’t fortunate enough to be set in such an environment, but utilizing a similar setup should help other large beer events avoid the excessive crowd buildup that tends to occur when so many vendors are set up in the same vicinity.
And believe it or not, there were some beers worthy of attention as well.
Rock Out With Maibock Out | Hailstorm Brewing: Best beer name of all time (I’m exposing my sophomoric sense of humor unapologetically here). Also a damn good Maibock.
Juiced: Mango & Pineapple Smoothie Sour | 25 West Brewing: Very cool to see 25 West at the event, with a tasty, refreshing sour on tap to boot.
Speakeasy Saison | Oak Park Brewing: I’m very hit-or-miss with farmhouse ales, and this Belgian brew was very much a hit. Well-balanced, medium strength, great flavor.
2019 Bourbon Barrel Aged Sleepy Bear With Coconut & Vanilla | Werk Force Brewing: I liked it when I tasted it at FOBAB, but I loved it at BUG. I guess this huge, frothy stout grows on you.
Hop Prism Blue | Noon Whistle Brewing: Nice to see an aggressively hopped Midwest IPA come from the famed producer of uber-hazy brews.
We faced very few disappointments, though I had high expectations for the Hold My Crown pale ale from Skeleton Key and the Clencher 2 IIPA from Buckledown that weren’t quite met. The former tasted more like a saison than a pale, while the piney intensity of the latter kind of overwhelmed my senses.
My only suggestion for improvement to the event would be to beef up the food truck-to-attendee ratio, as some of the snack lines became somewhat unmanageable. It’s always nice to offset the endless stream of tasters with some solid sustenance now and then.
All in all, we came away thoroughly impressed with the work of the Illinois Craft Brewers Guild in putting together this fest. Let’s hope the partnership with the Garfield Park Conservatory is still going strong a decade from now!