Anyone who tells you beer is cheap hasn't been to a craft beer festival recently. I'm all for spending money on the good stuff—treat yo'self; quality is worth it; etc.—but if you start scooping up festival tickets left and right, $40 here and $65 there can add up at the end of the month. That's especially true of the fall season, when Chicago craft beer events pack the calendar seemingly every weekend. So where to spend those hard-earned dollars? We'll give you the rundown on eight major craft beer festivals and events taking place this fall and leave you to decide where to throw your cash. email@example.com @redeyeeatdrink
How much: $65 general admission; $100 VIP tickets (includes a whole pig roast and more)
This 8th annual fundraiser for the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation returns to Carmichael's in the West Loop with a lineup of special one-off beers, live music, raffles and food. Beers will include a collaboration between Three Aces chef Matt Troost and Sawyer, Mich.-based Greenbush Brewing Co., paired with a Three Aces dish. Attendees can also try a food-beer collaboration from Begyle Brewing Co. and River North restaurant Bottlefork, as well as early tastes of cider from new Chicago cider maker Right Bee Cider. Additional participating breweries—most of them local—include 5 Rabbit (brewing a special one-off for the event), Ale Syndicate, Forbidden Root, Goose Island, Lagunitas, Revolution, Rock Bottom, Temperance, Marz Brewing and more. Tickets include samples and are on sale at cff.org.
Lions Tigers and Brews
How much: $49 general admission; $19 designated driver ticket (no beer samples); $89 VIP tickets (includes one hour early entry and access to VIP lounge)
Cannonball Productions presents the first-ever Lions Tigers and Brews event at the Lincoln Park Zoo. Kate Levenstien, Cannonball’s president and founder, organized last year’s Craft Brew Festival at the zoo in her previous role at LivingSocial. Expect pours from at least 60 breweries, the majority of which are from Illinois. While you sip, explore the zoo’s exhibits, play games of bags and purchase food from food trucks. Admission includes at least 35 drink samples and tickets are on sale now at lionstigersandbrews.com.
Chicago Beer Festival
How much: $40
This beer festival, which takes place in Union Station's Great Hall, has sold out in past seasons, so best not to sleep on these tickets if you want to attend. Admission includes 30 3-ounce samples of fall beers from dozens of domestic and international breweries including Ballast Point, Upland, 4 Hands, Off Color, Flossmoor Station and others. Choose from an afternoon or an evening session. Tickets are on sale now at thechicagobeerfestival.com.
[Editor's note: Chicago Ale Fest has been cancelled for 2014.]
Chicago Ale Fest
How much: $50 general admission; $100 VIP (includes food voucher, T-shirt, VIP access lanyard); $20 designated driver ticket (no beer samples)
This inaugural Grant Park beer fest from the organizers behind Naperville Ale Fest will bring together approximately 100 breweries from across the country, each pouring at least two beers during two sessions (Friday night and Saturday afternoon). The goal, founders say, is to offer some recognizable brews from Sierra Nevada, Stone and other big names, while also introducing people to smaller, local breweries including Flesk, SlapShot and Pipeworks. Tents and food trucks will set up around Buckingham Fountain, and the event will take place rain or shine. Admission includes 20 drink tickets redeemable for 3-ounce samples, with the option to purchase additional tickets for 50 cents. Tickets go on sale 10 a.m. Thursday at chicagoalefest.com and partial proceeds benefit the Grant Park Conservancy.
Logan Square Beer Festival
How much: $45
Now in its second year, this festival at the Logan Square Auditorium has added a second session, meaning you can choose from afternoon or early evening three-hour blocks. Twenty-plus participating breweries—including Three Floyds, Half Acre, Penrose and Transient Artisan Ales—will supply more than 50 beers, many of which will be cask-conditioned, collaborations or barrel-aged offerings. A Ball Park hot dog truck will offer free hot dogs, and Lagunitas founder Tony Magee's band, Alice Drinks the Kool Aid, will perform at the afternoon session. Admission includes up to 50 drink samples and a commemorative glass. Tickets are on sale now at logansquarebeerfestival.com.
312 Urban Block Party
How much: $10
The third annual Goose Island- and 93-XRT-sponsored evening block party returns to the Fulton Street brewery with performances from The Breeders, Thao & The Get Down Stay Down, Unknown Mortal Orchestra and Cayucas. Purchase $3 pints of Goose Island mainstays as well as special releases, including Bourbon County Brand Stout, beers in the Fulton & Wood series and your last chance to try the two beers created for Pitchfork Music Fest, SVE kolsch and Recommended pilsner. Tickets include admission and live music (beers not included) and are on sale now at ticketweb.com.
How much: $45 general admission ($55 day-of); $85 VIP tickets (includes appetizers, access to rare beers and spirits and a lounge area; $95 day-of)
Beer Hoptacular moves back to Uptown's Aragon Ballroom for its fifth year, a shift from its previous location in Pilsen's Lacuna Artist Lofts. The fest also occurs about a month earlier than last year and will feature nearly 60 breweries pouring around 150 beers. Look for the return of the Beer Hop Derby (a pinewood derby-inspired race between breweries) and the inaugural Beard Hoptacular, a competition to find the event's best facial hair. A food pavilion in the parking lot with beer-friendly snacks for sale will help pad your stomach before you sample beers from Vice District, Arcade, Pipeworks and New Belgium. Admission includes 25 samples and tickets are on sale at beerhoptacular.com.
Festival of Wood and Barrel Aged Beer
How much: $55
Now in its 12th year, this festival organized by the Illinois Craft Brewers Guild is arguably the most anticipated Chicago craft beer event of the year, offering the chance to sample dozens of wood- and barrel-aged stouts, porters, ciders, sour beers and other styles. FOBAB tickets sell out in mere minutes, so if you're planning to go, make sure to be near a computer on Aug. 25 when they're released (check illinoisbeer.com for ticketing link). Organizers have big changes planned for FOBAB 2014, including a new location at UIC Forum and an expansion to three sessions over two days (one on Friday night; two on Saturday). This year also marks the debut of BarricAle, a project that challenged brewers to use a batch of Wild Turkey bourbon barrels—delivered to them in January—to age beers for presentation at FOBAB. Though a list of participating brewers won't be released until the end of the month, if you're a hardcore barrel-aged beer drinker, this is probably worth your dollars.