By Anna Lothson
Five years ago, about 400 people turned out for a microbrew beer fest. Last year that number hit roughly 3,000.
This year on Saturday Aug. 17 from 3 p.m. to 7 p.m., event organizers expect between 3,500 and 4,000 people to flood the streets of Marion Street in downtown Oak Park for the annual Micro Brew Review, hosted by Seven Generations Ahead. As always with a group promoting environmental awareness, the Micro Brew comes with another popular feature: Micro Waste.
As a nonprofit, Seven Generations Ahead's mission is to promote the development of ecologically sustainable and healthy communities. They work with local government, community, and private sector leaders to help places like Oak Park make the changes needed to put mission into action.
Because this event is also held in cooperation with the Illinois Craft Brewer's Guild, it also raises awareness of smaller, more unique brews.
"Their members are all bringing their members," explained Julie Ledogar, Seven Generations Ahead's director of events. Unlike most beer fests where vendors represent large distributors, this event features smaller, harder-to-find brewers.
"People will be getting some really unique low-quantity-produced beers," she said.
Besides the distinctive brewmasters in attendance, Ledogar attributes the success of the event to the trend toward more craft and micro-brews. This event gives beer connoisseurs many to choose from.
"The beer is unique compared to [other] beer fests that are popping up," she reiterated, noting that the charm of the brick-clad Marion streets also helps draw the crowds.
The zero-waste component at the fest is an important feature for Seven Generations Ahead. Zero waste means there won't be garbage cans full of plastic cups; the food vendors emphasize sustainable and organic practices as much as possible.
This year's fest has added 10 more brewers and expanded the space. Ticket sales will be limited if beer starts to run out, but can be purchased on site the day of the event. Two ticket options are still available — Taster's Choice (3-7 p.m.) and the Master's Choice (1-7 p.m.). Four other options were sold out as of press time. For more information, visit sevengenerationsahead.org.
The event features more than 60 microbreweries who supply more than 120 unique craft beers; RepublicAle is one of the brews debuting at this event. Hourly food and beer pairings are also offered.
To top it off, music will add some extra ambiance — all of it viewed through a "green lens."