For the second year in row, an August downpour hit just as the Annual Oak Park Micro Brew Review was getting started, but the festivalgoers who turned out for the popular craft beer festival didn’t miss a beat. More than 3,500 filled two blocks of downtown Oak Park’s Marion Street for the afternoon-to-evening event, which featured more than 160 unique craft beers and 80 breweries, including several that recently opened in Oak Park.
Tonia Ward and her husband Felix Harper of Aurora attended Micro Brew for the first time. “It was so much fun. Even though there was a slight downpour, everything just picked right back up. The crowd was friendly, the music was energetic, the food had lots of variety and, oh, the beers. They surprised my taste buds,” Ward said. "I'm already looking forward to next year."
In its ninth year as the major fundraiser for the Oak Park-based nonprofit Seven Generations Ahead, Micro Brew Review is one of the most beloved craft beer fests in the Chicago metro area and one of the largest zero-waste craft beer fests in the world. In addition to the large selection of brew samples that come with festival tickets, eight local restaurants sold small plates of their most popular fare, and deejay D Brice and a dozen bands provided music across a range of genres.
New this year was the Single Hop Pale Ale Challenge, a competition for brewers to add their special touch to a single recipe. Using the smooth floral and citrus flavored Citra hop, 30 brew masters took on the challenge. Taking home the trophy cup for his Citra hop Pale Ale was Ike Orcutt, 37, head brewer and co-owner of BuckleDown Brewing, a small craft brewery in Lyons, Ill., that specializes in bold, flavorful beers.
“It was very exciting to win the inaugural Challenge,” said Orcutt, who had participated in Micro Brew Review for the last four years and started brewing about 10 years ago. “It feels good to get recognized by the beer-drinking public.”
As the crowd gamely weathered the alternating sunshine and rain, Micro Brew organizers, brewers and a team of about 175 volunteers remained calm and kept the festivities flowing under the dramatic skies. By the time it was over, festivalgoers had used more than 8,000 plates, 5,000 eco-tensils and 9,000 napkins, which were all compostable, during the afternoon. All of those items and other recyclables had been diverted from the landfill and hauled away by Waste Management, the company contracted to collected food scraps in Oak Park.
"We're thrilled by the attendance, the great support from the Oak Park community, and we're very thankful for the breweries that make this event so special," said Gary Cuneen, Executive Director of Seven Generations Ahead and event co-founder.