It's hard to believe the Annual Oak Park Micro Brew & Food Review has been going on for five years already and I'd never made it there…until last weekend.
This event draws thousands of people, with many ticket categories – including the most expensive VIP passes – sold out well before the event started.
Co-produced by Seven Generations Ahead (an organization that promotes sustainable commerce) and the Illinois Craft Brewers Guild, the Oak Park Micro Brew & Food Review pours over 100 craft beers from over 50 microbreweries across Illinois and the Midwest.
That's a lot of beer. I tried several, but as usual with beer, the first few sips I had were some of the best. Those sips came from DryHop (3155 N. Broadway), a brewpub that opened just this past June. Brant Dubovick, brewmaster at DryHop, served me a Shark Meets Hipster, which Dubovick described as having a "passion fruit nose, and a floral taste, citrusy." I also tried their Executioner, an American Pale Ale with two different hop varieties that gave the brew an almost pine-like flavor.
I asked Dubovick what attracted him to the Oak Park Micro Brew & Food Review, and he said "I love this festival. A lot of the brewers are into the sustainability aspect, and it's amazing that we can pull 3-4 thousand people here."
Many of those beer-lovers came from Chicago, frequently via Green Line or Metra. Tim Eggert, owner of Competitive Foot, mentioned that "Many people who come to this event have never been to Oak Park before." That kind of exposure seems like it'd be an advantage for most of the stores on Marion, North Boulevard and environs. Even though, as Eggert added, "They may not be interested in buying anything" during the event, they at least visit the store and, perhaps, they'll return.
Leonard Hollander, the chef at Marion Street Cheese Market Café, was among those offering food. "We definitely do a higher level of business during this event," said Hollander, and I think I know what he meant.
I spoke with a few police officers and they all confirmed that over the years the crowds have been "very manageable" and that they'd "never had trouble," which is kind of surprising when you consider how many people are drinking for hours right down town. But it seemed to me, too, that this was a good crowd, with many generations represented, even some families, all for the love of beer.