Just about 40 minutes outside of Chicago, sits Naperville. The Western Suburb, which is home to Solemn Oath Brewery, held its first Ale Fest a few Saturdays ago, July 20th on the grounds of the Naper Settlement. The settlement is 12-acres of land right in the bustling downtown, near the city’s popular Riverwalk. The tree lined, grassy area served as a nice summer atmosphere for a fest, despite the heat.
The festival featured more than 180 beers from both local breweries and nationwide breweries. Illinois’ breweries included Flesk Brewing Co. (Lombard), Finch’s Beer Co. (Chicago), Half Acre Beer Company (Chicago), Nevin’s Brewing Company (Plainfield) and Lake Effect Brewing Company (Chicago). Rarer beers were also offered, like Bell’s Roundhouse and Goose Island Bourbon County Brand Coffee Stout.
While beer was by far the star of the show, the food served was not far behind. I got the chance to speak with one of the festival founders, Joshua Seago, who explained to me that the food available at the fest was a big component of the event. They wanted the food to compliment and add to the experience of the beer.
Mostly local Naperville vendors designed their menus to go along with the beers. The food was definitely not an after-thought here. Shinto was hand rolling fresh sushi and mixing up fried rice. Sullivan’s Steakhouse served mini-filet sliders and mac n’ cheese, Crosstown Pub & Grill served their famous wings and Tom & Eddie’s served burgers. OMango, Barconi’s Restaurant, Pintripes, Heaven on Seven, Wurst Kitchen and Belgio’s all put out an impressive menu as well.
Duke’s Jerky gave suggestions on how to pair their jerky to the various beer styles. The Island Teriyaki flavor paired with a Kolsch, Spicy Barbecue with an Oatmeal Stout, Cracked Pepper with a Pilsner, Chili Lime with an American Lager, Roasted Cayenne with an Amber Ale, Honey Bourbon with a Brown Ale and the Original Angus with a Pale or Red Ale.
Whole Foods was there offering free samples of cheese from their specialty department that paired with various types of beer. The Drunken Goat was an aged goat’s milk Spanish cheese that they suggested pairing with a wheat beer. For hoppy beers like American Pale Ales or IPAs, they offered Henning’s Hatch Chili Cheddar, a Wisconsin cow’s milk cheddar infused with Hatch chili peppers. Piave, an aged cow’s milk Italian cheese, similar to Parmesan, was paired with stronger beer, like a Belgian Tripel.
Simply put, it was a great fest for beer lovers and foodies alike.