The village of Plainfield has come into its own as a craft beer destination within the past few years. There’s Limestone Brewing Company, north of town on Rt. 59, which opened its doors late in 2009. About the same time, Finnegan’s Irish Pub downtown reinvented itself as a craft beer and foodie destination.
On August 27, Plainfield and environs will see more of the local craft beer scene as Limestone, Finnegan’s, Two Brothers Brewing, and an army of local volunteers presents the first Midwest Brewers Fest at the Plainfield Riverfront, south of Lockport St. on the west bank of the DuPage River. The MWBF is a fundraiser for the Plainfield Riverfront Foundation, dedicated to redeveloping the Riverfront as an attraction and a showcase of sustainable use. The area had once been the site of Electric Park, a vacation resort built by the trolley companies to which they brought summer tourists from throughout the Chicago region in the early 1900’s. As the trolley service died out, Electric Park fell into disrepair, and its last remnants were destroyed in the tornado of August 28, 1990.
In 2007, Plainfield Village and its Park District adopted a plan for developing a two-mile stretch of the river through downtown. As with other riverfront towns like Naperville, the plan hopes to build the DuPage River as a resource and an attraction for private and public development. The Riverfront Foundation was founded in 2009 to shepherd outreach and fundraising to implement the Master Plan. The area was already hosted the River Days Festival, and further volunteer cleanup has been going on throughout the summer to prepare for the MWBF, simply to clear space for the fest.
The main attraction, of course, will be 150 craft beers being sampled out from a long list of 60+ brewers: 5 Rabbit, Anchor, Argus, Boulevard, Breckenridge, Brickstone, Big Muddy, Big Sky, Brooklyn Brewery, Central Waters, Chicago Beer Co., Clown Shoes, Crispin Cider, Crown Valley, Destihl, Dogfish Head, Emmett’s Ale House, Finch’s, Firestone Walker, Flossmoor Station, Founders, Galena Brewing, Gordon Biersch (Bolingbrook), Granite City, Great Lakes, Greenbush, Goose Island, Half Acre, Haymarket, Ipswich, Lagunitas, Lakefront, Limestone, Lost Coast, Lunar, Magners Irish Cider, Mendocino, Napa Smith, New Belgium, New Holland, Ommegang, Rock Bottom Orland Park, Samuel Adams, Shipwrecked, Sierra Nevada, Smuttynose, Southern Tier, Stockholm Brewery Geneva, Stone, Two Brothers, Uinta, and Wild Onion. All admission tickets will include 25 tasting tickets for two ounce pours, with additional sampling tickets available at the fest for 50 cents each.
Ticket prices are $40 for advance online sales, $50 at the gate. There is a limited supply of VIP tickets at $100. Designated Driver tickets for $10 will enjoy complimentary soda and water.
There will also be a Homebrewer’s Pavilion, where some of the area’s many homebrewing clubs, such as Plainfield’s own P.A.L.E. club will be talking about and demonstrating home beer making, and sampling their recipes. They will also man a Craftbeer 101 tent to help newbies in the craft beer scene. Homebrewer and beer writer Marty Nachel, author of "Beer Across America”, "Beer For Dummies" and "Homebrewing For Dummies,” will have a booth at the Pavilion.
This 21 and over event will have plenty going on besides beer. There will be booths vending food from local restaurants and stores, and a Bags tournament sponsored by the Friends of the Plainfield Park District. A full day of live music is also scheduled.
Online tickets are available through the Fest website. Advance tickets can also be purchased at Finnegan’s, Bart Homes, and Limestone Brewing in Plainfield. There will be free shuttles running from the Metra’s Naperville Rt 59 (north lot) train station to the fest, and to the main parking lots at Plainfield Central High School, and the Plainfield Meijer. Parking at the site itself is limited to brewers, VIPs, and the handicapped, so check Fest site for an updated list of nearby open parking. Presenting sponsors are Limestone, Finnegan’s, Local Lister Technology, Pints for Prostates (the prostate cancer awareness not-for-profit), The River 95.9 FM, Two Brothers Brewing Co. and Whole Foods Market Naperville.
Steve Caton, owner of Limestone Brewing Co., has been one of the ramrods of the MWBF. He told me that he and Dale Lewis, owner of Finnegan’s, started planning for the fest last year:
"Dale and I are members of the Riverfront Foundation, and we were at River Days last year volunteering, pouring macro beer. We really felt that Chicago needed an outdoor craft beer fest, and that this site would be perfect and that the event could raise a lot of money and awareness for the cause."
How many people are now expected to be involved, both visitors and volunteers? Any advance on how much this is expected to raise for the Foundation?
"Our goal is to raise $40,000 for the cause, and we are selling 4000 General Admission tickets; we have almost sold out of 250 VIP tickets, and we have 250 volunteers."
You had described on your Facebook page how cleanup volunteers at the site found a flagpole that may have been part of Electric Park. Is that being set up somewhere, is it in shape to be put up?
It is an old flagpole, but local historians are not sure its origin. We did straighten it, and it is onsite near the entrance. I am trying to get a flag for next week.
Is it a coincidence that the Fest is taking place almost on the anniversary of the tornado?
It is ironic, but not planned for that reason. It happens to be the 21st anniversary on August 28th. (I lived through it), so there could be someone born that week, just turning 21 and having their first beer at the fest.