What is FoBAB?
FoBAB, the Festival of Wood and Barrel-Aged Beers, gives a lucky ticket holder the opportunity to try over 213 different “one-off” or “extremely rare” beers from 95 breweries. The festival, which is in it’s 11th year, is actually a competition. Brewery’s submit their beers into 11 categories including: Classic Porter/ Stout, Strong Porter/Stout, Barleywine/Wheatwine, Classic styles (not higher than 7% ABV), Strong/Double Pale Beer, Strong/Double Dark Beer, Fruit Beer, Experimental Beer, Wild/Brett, Wild/Acidic and Cider/Mead. Then a panel of qualified judges decides which of these rare beers reign supreme. The best part, you get to try whatever beers you want.
Best in Show went to Bell’s for their 100% Brett beer called Le Bretteur, which was aged on French Oak Chardonnay barrels. I found this particular specialty brew well balanced, clean tasting and fun to drink. For a complete list of winners check out BEERDOWNLOAD .
FoBAB is SoFAB
This incredible tasting collection of rare barrel aged beers is put together by the Illinois Craft Brewers Guild headed up by Haymarket Brewmaster Pete Crowley. And what a fine job that is done by this group. Endless detailed planning must go into this event in order to have volunteers pour beers, clean floors, refill water jugs, take tickets, badge VIP’s and keep moving thousands of thirsty craft beer lovers around the spacious environment. They even had a live #FoBAB Instagram and Twitter picture feed on a big screen in the room.
Top 5 beers
With my tasting cup and program in hand I set out to hunt down the best beers of the competition. I’m not beer judge, but I love to taste beers and analyze them. Here’s a list of stand-outs for me.
The Abyss- a Deschutes Brewery Imperial Stout aged on Bourbon, Pinot Noir and Oregon Oak barrels. Well balanced and very complex beer.
Sixteen- 16th Anniversary beer from Central Waters Brewing. An imperial stout aged in 21 year old bourbon barrels. In a group of 100’s of bourbon barrel aged stouts this one just came off as slightly better.
Radlersnake- Off Color Brewing from Chicago. Lemon radler aged in gin barrels with wild yeasts. Reminiscent of Ginger Ale in a good way.
Barrel-Aged Abraxas- and Imperial Stout from Perennial Artisan Ales aged in Rittenhouse Rye barrels with ancho chiles, cacao nibs, vanilla beans and cinnamon. Definitely worth the long line. Depth-defying deep cocoa notes with just a hint of spicy heat and cinnamon.
Goose Island Blending Station- While these particular beers weren’t part of the official judging program, it was more of a showcase from Goose Island. Most everything was available from the Goose Island Bourbon County line, along with their other Fulton & Wood choices. I chose Bourbon County Ancho Chile blended with Bourbon County Cherry Rye. I wasn’t disappointed.
Next year if you’re fortunate enough to get a ticket for this monstrous festival I recommend a couple of things. If you’re local to the event make sure you line up someone to drive you or take public transportation. If you’re coming from out of town make sure you take public transportation or have someone drive you. (yes I said that twice).
I was so impressed by the beers, the coordination of the event, the Bridgeport Arts Center building and the enthusiastic crowd. I hope next year I’m lucky enough to attend once again. Cheers!