Images from the 2021 Microbrew Review | Melissa Elsmo

For 15 years, Seven Generations Ahead has paired brewers and beer-lovers at the annual Oak Park Microbrew Review. The largest zero-waste craft beer festival in the Midwest draws attendees by the thousands.  Now, after riding waves of Covid uncertainty, the 15th annual event is scheduled for Saturday, Aug. 20 from 2 p.m. to 6 p.m. The event in downtown Oak Park supports Seven Generations Ahead and its mission to address climate change and promote sustainable communities.

“The 15th anniversary marks a point of longevity and the success of the event,” said Gary Cuneen, executive director of Seven Generations Ahead. “Last year we dipped our toe in the water for a post Covid re-entry and this year we are hoping to build the fest back to prior years.”

Cuneen admits ticket sales are lagging behind pre-pandemic numbers at the moment, but organizers expect a flurry of last-minute ticket sales. He notes that Covid volatility is likely a factor in the sales differential and suspects people are waiting until the event date draws near to make the purchase.

A draw for Oak Park and the surrounding communities, the Microbrew Review is set to feature 70 breweries serving up 130 unique beers for tasting. Event organizers are focused on “going beyond the beer” this year by highlighting the brewer backstories with particular focus on amplifying Black, Latinx, and women-owned craft breweries.

Be on the lookout for Moor Brewing at the Microbrew Review. Established in Chicago on Juneteenth 2021, the Black-owned brewery launched with the intention of reaching communities that have been underserved by the craft brew market. The knowledge that “less than 1% of the craft brewing industry is African American-owned’ drives owners Damon Patton and Jamhal Johnson to create their flagship session ale with notes of key lime, lemongrass and green papaya.

Crafting brews in Homewood, Latinx and woman-owned Rabid Brewing is another notable name on the expansive list of festival participants. Raiye Rosado and Tobias Cichon are known for crafting creative brews from ingredients sourced from local farms — anticipate unexpected flavor profiles like blackberry-apricot, lemon-rose, and peach-blood orange-mango to differentiate them from other festival participants.

Chicago-based Funky Town Brewing, brought to life by some OPRF graduates, will also be on site on Aug. 20. Their Summertime Chi, a session beer with notes of citrus and coriander, caught the attention of Forbes Magazine in June. Writers call the offering a “zesty little brew” and credited Funky Town brewers for “capturing everything they love about the city in the summer.”

Hyperlocal participants include Kinslahger Brewing Company and One Lake Brewing of Oak Park, Exit Strategy Brewing of Forest Park and Flapjack Brewing of Berwyn.

The 2022 Microbrew Review also marks the return of the Iron Brewer Competition. Twenty breweries are vying for best brew bragging rights and a fine trophy. Iron Brewers are given the same yeast and malt and challenged to brew something outside of their dedicated styles. VIP and Iron Brewer ticket holders have the power to vote for the winning brew. Cuneen indicated that judges can expect to taste a Southern German Hefeweizen from Elmhurst Brewing Company and a Bohemian Pilsner from Exit Strategy Brewing Company.

For those looking to fill their bellies at the Microbrew Review food options are plentiful with Tres Sorelle, Q-BBQ, Betty’s Pizza and Pasta, Kalamata Kitchen, and Carnivore set to sell everything from pizza and burgers to smoked eggplant sandwiches and shish kebabs. Bringing some city flair, Little Goat Diner will be onsite serving up avocado dip with chili-lime crunch. Maggie’s Sweets will offer treats for sale to general admission guests and will also join Carnivore in providing complimentary fare for VIP ticket holders in a designated tent located at CrossFunction Flexible Workspace at The Boulevard Arcade.

“Carnivore has a very specific reputation for things like steaks and burgers and fried chicken sandwiches and doing the VIP tent gives me an excuse to do lighter, more focused fare,” said Chef Brad Knaub, co-owner of Carnivore. “It’s a chance to show people a side of Carnivore that is a little more cutesie-poo fine dining.” Knaub intends to let seasonal ingredients drive the menu for VIP guests.

Organizers are committed to following all Covid related modifications required by the health department should they arise, but as of now the event is unrestricted.

“We are excited to bring people to our downtown Oak Park venue with its cobblestone streets and shops, said Cuneen. “This event always feels like a reunion and gives us a chance to be outside with some of the most friendly and wonderful people who share a love of craft beer.”

More on MicroBrew

VIP, Iron Brewer and general admission tickets to the 15th annual Micro Brew Review are on sale now:

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