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Beer Under Glass, held at the Garfield Park Conservatory, kicked off 2015 Chicago Craft Beer Week.
Photograph: Max Herman

How to navigate Chicago Craft Beer Week 2017

Written by
Karl Klockars

This year’s Chicago Craft Beer Week is, so far as we can tell, the first one since 2011 where "week" actually means “week.” Most other celebrations this decade have run up to 11 days long, and for the past three years, the whole thing has closed out with a big shebang of a neighborhood beer fest.

For 2017, however, CCBW's dialing back a bit, just going Thursday to Thursday with no crazy gathering in the West Loop or Welles Park. After the official opening Beer Under Glass event, we beer drinkers are on our own to dive headfirst into the madness that can be CCBW. You can, as always, define your own experience with the list of events on the CCBW page here, but it can be a bit difficult to fish through the random Bourbon County tappings, uninspiring tap takeovers, $4 pint specials and other random noise. That’s why we're here to help.

There continue to be a few beer week traditions that have been well discussed in past yearsHaymarket’s Beerfly Alley Fight and Goose Island’s Sunday Funday, for example—and they remain great events to attend. For this year, though, we've got all the new, interesting, weird, crazy, helpful, fresh-faced fun stuff.

That said, we're kicking the week off with an oldie but a goodie:

Thursday, May 18: Beer Under Glass

Held at the Garfield Park Conservatory and sponsored by the Illinois Craft Brewers Guild, this festival has grown from a whopping 27 breweries in attendance to around 110.

It’s always a great way to check out beers from places you haven’t been or can’t easily get to; there’s always plenty of beers that don’t regularly show up on store shelves or draft lines around town. You’ll also be hard pressed to find a prettier place to drink all these fancy beers. (You’re also welcome to track me around BUG with my list of must-try breweries here.)

Friday, May 19: TIKIPOCALYPSE Beer Prom at Burnt City

Break out the Hawaiian shirts and grass skirts, because it’s Tikipocalypse timeYou’re probably thinking, “tiki doesn’t mean beer, dummy. Those are cocktails!” Well, there’s been a growing wave of tiki love from brewers over the last couple years—see Off Color’s new “tiki weisse” called Spots—but this is the most explicit tiki-centric beer bash we’ve seen since Marz and Pipeworks brewed their Super Pina Collider collaboration. Burnt City promises a “fiery tropical paradise” but also a special keg of their Face Melter IPA infused with ginger and coconut.

Other events: While you’re in the neighborhood, Paddy Long’s is right around the corner—they’ve got a Spiteful Brewing event this evening pairing some of their Goddamn Pigeon Porter variants (Oreo! Peanut butter!) with bacon, and it’s hard to imagine a world where that’s not a good combo.

Saturday, May 20: Pipeworks’ Boozy Bocce Brunch

The Pipeworks crew is going all-in on this year’s beer week, taking over the pop-up space at Emporium that recently housed Branca Bar.

They're turning it into what they’re calling the PDubz Pipedream with events throughout the week—it’s basically serving as the taproom we wish the brewery actually had. This is close enough. Bloody Mary's with a Pipeworks pale ale beer back sounds like bliss for a Saturday Fun Day kickoff, as do Lizard King beermosas.

Other events: Saturday is pretty good for midday drinking elsewhere, too—the first South Side Craft Beer Fest kicks off outside Baderbrau in the early afternoon (1pm VIP, 2pm GA). The fest isn’t solely populated by South Side breweries, but it does feature a vast majority of them, including the brand new Soundgrowler Brewing from Tinley Park.

Sunday, May 21: IBW’s Twin Peaks Party  

Illuminated Brew Works is big into mysterious, weird stuff—as you would expect from a brewery whose logo approximates the All-Seeing Eye and calls their employees “The Cult.” So, a Twin Peaks premiere party with a special selection of their beers at The General is completely on brand for IBW.

They may also be tapping the weirdest damn beer we’ve seen listed during all of this year’s CCBW—an oyster gose poured through fresh coffee beans. The decision as to whether or not they make a damn fine cup of coffee will be up to you. If there’s a season 4, one can only hope they make some sort of chewing gum inspired beer, which will presumably be coming back into style right around then.

Monday, May 22: Actually Learn About Your Beer

Thankfully, this year there are two different events on Monday night that are education-based and also give you a reason to celebrate beer in the suburbs as well. Aurora’s Hopvine hosts a Intro to Craft Beer event which will cover basic brewing process info, beer pairings, palate training and general beer learnings. Orland Park’s Brass Tap hosts a similar Brew 101 event which includes a beer tasting and souvenir pint glass, as well as a review of beer styles and flavors.

Tuesday, May 23: The Suburbs Come to You

Beermiscuous kindly brings suburban beers and brewery representatives to West Lakeview on Tuesday night so you can try beers from outside of the city area, proper. They’re hosting an event for a few suburban breweries including BBGB Brewery and Hop Farm, Ten Ninety and 18th Street (the breweries in the above respective locations) as well as from Noon Whistle (Lombard), Penrose (Geneva) and Temperance (Evanston, which technically is a suburb).

Wednesday, May 24: BuckleDown’s Craft Beer Roundtable

Lyons’ BuckleDown hosts a roundtable discussion about the current state of the beer business including representatives from the host brewery as well as Half Acre, Kinslahger and Brickstone, moderated by beer-business reporter Peter Frost from Crain’s. It’s one of the few times this week people are actually taking time to talk about the beer, not just drink it, and it should be an interesting evening.

Thursday, May 25: Forbidden Root’s “New Era IPA” Takeover

Honestly, someone had to do something like this, and we're glad it's Forbidden Root. The craze over New England style IPAs—hyper-hoppy beers so hazy and thick they often look like orange or pineapple juice—is in full effect this year, so it was inevitable that someone would put on a festival for them.

Creativity points are awarded to whoever decided to rebrand these as a “New Era IPAs." Ten different area breweries will be on hand to pour their take on a NEIPA, including a special Forbidden Root / 3 Floyds collaboration beer called Stay Lit.

Other events: And if you just can’t wait another 6 months for the Festival of Wood & Barrel-Aged Beers (aka FoBAB) to return, then Ravenswood’s Fireside has you covered with their Beasts of the Barrel event featuring multiple different barrel-aged beers. If you have to find just one place to get your hands on some Goose Island BCBW this week, well, Goose’s Sunday Funday is the day to do that—this one is worth your time as well for vintage offerings and other breweries including Central Waters, Arcadia and Excel.

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