After years of focusing its annual May celebration on Chicago and its suburbs, the Illinois Craft Brewer's Guild now includes events across the state. Accordingly, it's changed the name of the event to Illinois Craft Beer Week.
According to ICBG executive director Danielle D'Alessandro, "As a statewide organization with over 230 breweries located across the state, it just seemed to make sense to expand to a statewide celebration of all the amazing things our breweries are doing." Events are still being added, but Alter Brewing in Downer's Grove is hosting the first annual Backyard Brew Fest to celebrate the breweries of the western suburbs. "It's not just about the beer, the liquid, it's about the community and the social experience," says D'Alessandro. "This is a way to get people throughout the state excited and engaged."
Other changes this year include moving the kickoff event, Beer Under Glass, from Thursday to Friday, and adding a closing festival called Good Libations (details below). The event has a tropical theme, and costumes are encouraged. "Anytime you tell brewers to dress up they're all in, so I'm pretty excited to see what some of our brewers are going to show up wearing," D'Alessandro says. And while Craft Beer Week has often stretched to a week and a half, this year it's shorter, starting Friday and ending a week later. Some of the biggest events are below; for a full list check the website
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Beer Under Glass
The ninth annual BUG is on a Friday for the first time—the better to sleep off the next day's hangover in bed rather than at your desk. Otherwise, though, the event is unchanged: beer from more than 100 breweries, served both under and next to glass (in the conservatory and the surrounding gardens), with small bites from local restaurants. Fri 5/18, 6-9 PM (5 PM entry for VIP ticket holders), Garfield Park Conservatory, 300 N. Central Park, $60, $80 VIP
All the beer served at this festival from the Hop Review (an online beer journal that focuses on Chicago and the midwest) will have been packaged within the past five days, making it—as the name would suggest—very fresh. More than two dozen local breweries will bring pale ales and IPAs (expect lots of those) along with a few lagers and the odd saison or hefeweizen. Sat 5/19, 5-9 PM (4 PM entry for VIP ticket holders), Right Way Signs, 2333 N. Seeley, $45, $55 VIP
Funkpocalypse Tiki Prom
The theme of Burnt City Brewing's annual Beer Prom this year is funk: funky beer, funky music, funky costumes. Penrose, Illuminated Brew Works, Hopewell, Middle Brow, Light the Lamp, and Whiner will be on draft, along with some Burnt City creations made with brettanomyces; tiki cocktails and traditional (nonfunky) beer will also be available. Costumes are encouraged but not required. Sat 5/19, 8 PM-1 AM, Burnt City Brewing Pub and Bowling, 2747 N. Lincoln, no cover
Empirical Brewery hosts a home-brew festival with 30 beers from nine different home-brewing clubs; attendees can try unlimited samples and vote for their favorites. Food will be available for sale. Sun 5/20, 1-4 PM, 1801 W. Foster, $20
Battle of the Breweries
Goose Island's fifth annual dodgeball tournament pits teams from more than 30 breweries against one another in a single-elimination showdown. There will be plenty of beer, including tappings of specialty versions of Bourbon County Stout, and food from Girl & the Goat, Donermen, the Fat Shallot, and other restaurants and food trucks. Tickets include six beer tokens. Sun 5/20, 2 PM-sundown, Goose Island Barrel House, 603 N. Sacramento, $25
NW Side Craft Beer Ride
Three buses run a continuous loop among nine northwest side bars; stops include Lake Effect, Side Kicks, Old Irving, Eris, and Tipsy Cow. Ticket price includes transportation only. Thu 5/24, 6 PM-midnight, various locations, $20
Good Libations Beer Fest
This new festival has a tropical theme, with fruit-infused beer (and some that's not) from 60 breweries, lakefront views, and small bites from chef Cleetus Friedman. "Creative tropical attire" is encouraged. Fri 5/25, 6-9 PM, Theater on the Lake, 2401 N. Lake Shore Dr., $60