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This year's event will go down in history as the muddy one: the outer lawn was waterlogged, and you could sink a half inch just stepping into the grass. Around the booths that grass quickly turned into mud, leading people to improvise with trash bags wrapped around their feet. The squishiness makes a convenient scapegoat for the fact that I didn't make it to several of the breweries I'd starred on my list as places to try (never mind that my attention tends to wander after the first couple hours of a tasting, which is how long it took me to make it to the far part of the lawn). So I still haven't tried 5 Rabbit's Paletas beer—which I missed last summer when they introduced the line of fruit beers in flavors like guava and watermelon (inspired by Latin American popsicles). And there were a few new breweries that I meant to try and didn't.
Bucket List Brewing, another brand-new endeavor, is currently contract brewing at Slapshot and isn't really on the market yet. "This is our first hurrah," one of the owners joked. Aquanaut Brewing, formerly known as Strange Pelican, is operating out of the Ravenswood space originally occupied by (now defunct) Four Paws Brewing; 350 Brewing Company in Tinley Park, run by two friends who've known each other since high school, has been two years in the making and will open in June or July. Below are some of the best things I tasted, both at Beer Under Glass and the New Brewer Showcase—some with notes, some without.
Transient Artisan Ales: My colleague Philip Montoro got really excited about this brewery when he first came across its beers last fall, and at Beer Under Glass I discovered why. There wasn't a bad beer among the four I tried, but the Henry porter and Obelus: Galaxy saison were my favorites.
Une Annee: I've been a fan of the Maya Belgian IPA for a while now, but hadn't tried the tart, floral, citrusy Sanguinaire Belgian amber ale before. I'd try to wax poetic about how complex it is, but my friend already summed it up pretty well when she commented, "My mouth is intrigued; tell me more."
350 Brewing: When I first tried the Ruckus golden ale I couldn't taste much; palate fatigue is a hazard of beer tastings. But I'm glad I took more than a couple sips, because as I kept drinking the flavor developed and I realized that this easy-drinking beer is something I'd pick up on a hot summer day.
Aquanaut: This brewery's mash-up of an English mild and a saison is creamier and darker than you'd expect from a saison, more citrusy and yeasty than you'd think an English mild would be. As odd as the combination sounds, it works.
Bucket List: Hellfire Club brown ale
Middle Brow Beer Co: Life Pursuit (Philip has a much more detailed description here than I could come up with, so this is just another vote in favor of the beer)
Spiteful Brewing: God Damn Pirate Pigeon peanut butter porter
Slapshot Brewing: Leather Leisure Suit ESB
Hopvine Brewing Company: Stolp Island wheat
Dryhop Brewers: I'm Not a Raccoon saison (a collaboration with the Lincoln Park Zoo; funds from its sale benefit the Red Panda Wish List Fund)
Penrose Brewing Company: Proto Gradus Belgian single
And, of course, because in Chicago we need 11 days to celebrate Craft Beer Week, it ain't over yet. A bunch of events run through Sunday, including two big ones on Saturday: the West Loop Craft Beer Fest and Middle Brow's homebrewing competition.
Julia Thiel writes about booze on Thursdays.