Illinois took home a total of nine medals at Great American Beer Fest 2019. These annual awards are held in Denver and consist of 107 categories that are judged. This was my first year watching the live stream and my main takeaway was that Illinois is truly such a small piece of this craft beer world. Even with 170 breweries (~70 alone in Chicago), it was awesome to see how many winners came out of states I never would have known about. This is helping to shape my travel list of 2020!
Chicago’s greatest brewpub of all time,
Piece Brewery and Pizzeria , hosted ‘Heavy Medal’ which included all the Illinois winners on draft and bottomless pizza (Excluding Ballast Point – Chicago who sold their souls for a billion dollars four years ago to Constellation Brands). Piece is one of the few breweries in Chicago that you can name off hand over 10 years old and has had the same brewer since day 1, Jonathan Cutler. Cutler started at Goose Island and worked under Firestone Walker’s Brewmaster, Matt Brynildson. The brewpub is most known for Mooseknuckle (barleywine) and Cameltoe (an Egyptian pale ale) and their new-haven style pizza which also makes this destination worthy. This year, they won a silver medal for their Swingin’ Single in the Belgian- and French-Style Ale category.
Begyle Brewing took a gold medal home to Malt Row for their 2018 Barrel Aged Imperial Pajamas in the Wood- and Barrel-Aged Strong Stout category. If you can still find this stuff, be sure to get your hands on it before their 2019 edition rolls out on November 15th.
Off Color debuted their first round of cans the exact week that they won a gold medal for “Other Belgian-Style Ale”. ‘Very, Very Far’ mixes a non-traditional wine yeast with a Belgian ale strain giving you an easy drinking blonde ale with fruity notes. Luckily for us locals, this is an all year round offering from the mousetrap!
Pollyanna showed up with their Lite Reading (American Lager), resulting in gold medal for the American-Style Lager or American-Style Pilsener category. People say lagers are the hardest to brew because there’s minimal margin for error. Paul Ciciora, President/Co-founder was on site with the medal itself (check out my swag 😍).
This event was worth every dollar spent given you didn’t have to travel over ~240 miles from Chicago to visit each of the breweries individually. It was held up front in the pit – but was still open to the public while Wicker Park residents did their trick or treating down North Ave. Each brewery also had either the brewer or representative of on site for conversation and questions. If you’ve never been to Piece, the newly permanent menu item HBFC Buffalo Chx. pizza is a must order while there. Grab a pint or two on the side and you’re good to go! Check out all the winners below.