Smile Politely

The inaugural Mahomet Craft Beer Festival in review

On Saturday, April 29th, JT Walker’s hosted the Inaugural Mahomet Craft Beer Festival in downtown Mahomet. Main Street from the Masonic Lodge to JT Walker’s was closed and lined with tents offering craft beer. JT Walker’s did an outstanding job with preparing this event; it was well organized and well executed. Bands were scheduled throughout the evening to keep the festivities going after the festival ended.

During the festival (2 to 6 p.m.), around 25 breweries were represented and each had at least two beers to enjoy. Light, spring-seasonal, citrus based flavors and Northeast style pale ales (known for cloudy or hazy appearance) were popular.

Despite the threat of rain the event was a huge success. The turnout was huge. I had a difficult time navigating through the crowd to talk to all the brewers. People were smiling, chatting, and partaking. The brewers were also having a great time. Rain or shine, people made up their minds to enjoy themselves.

Andy Hart (who handled the social media and created the logos for the event) used Facebook to post photos and “go live,” and you can check out the video on the event’s Facebook page. Admission to the event was free, and tickets were sold to purchase food and beverages ($20 for 10 tickets, or $25 for 12 tickets and a 9-oz. commemorative tasting glass). 

Throughout the event, people could vote for their favorite brewery. I don’t know how people eventually made up their mind. When I asked people which beer was their favorite, and the response was usually the beer currently in their hand. Fair enough. In the end, decisions were made and winners were announced at 6 p.m. First place went to Big Thorn Brewery, a brewery located on owners Anna’s and Aaron’s farm in Georgetown, which is run completely by solar power. I love that about them: they are ecologically minded and they know how to make great beer.

Big Thorn brought Farm Red (6%, 30 IBU), a barrel aged Red Ale made from rye and oats. They also brought Wood Thyme Tart, (5%, 0 IBU) a log-aged kettle-sour made bitter from two different variations of thyme from their farm. Both are fermented in an underground cellar which Anna and Aaron built. It was bold and light, and I want some more.

Second place went to Triptych in Savoy. They said that they were happy to see such a great turn out at this event. It was a great way to start festival season. These people are so fun, it is easy to see why they were a crowd favorite.

Triptych served Hawaiian Shirt Day, (5%), a pale ale and the only beer I noticed that used passionfruit as its citrus. They also brought Really Dank Meme, (7%) an East Coast IPA.

Third place went to White Oak Brewing from Normal. They brought the Res Ipsa Loquitur, (6.75%, 70 IBU) an all citra hops IPA that is more “juicy,” meaning people who don’t usually like IPAs generally like this one. They also brought the Bro…Doyoueven IPA (7.5%, 70 IBU).

JT Walker’s sponsored the event and shared a tent with Blind Pig Brewery and Triptych. This tent was a trifecta of beer. Look at the comradery and the friendship amongst our local brewing culture! They enjoy beer and they enjoy each other — I love that. This is community.

J.T. Walker’s brought Bull Dog, (6%, 22 IBU), a brown ale that tastes of roasted chocolate. It is a great intro beer for those that are new to craft beer. They also brought the Orange and Blue (5%, 10 IBU), an American wheat ale that is currently very popular. It is available at many different local establishments, with good reason.

Blind Pig Brewery brought Wookie Snacks, Raspberry Wheat, and Blue Pils. The Pig was determined to spread BEER LOVE at the festival. Interesting to note the Raspberry Wheat is made with real fruit and not artificial flavoring or extracts. The Wookie Snacks (8%) is a black rye IPA; one that any wookie would snack on. It’s a serious beer for a serious wookie.

Rigg’s Beer Company in Urbana was there serving beer made from 100% Urbana grown barley from behind their beer garden. They handed out samples of the raw barley to taste; I had never eaten raw barley before. As I was chewing, another person commented that they were, “better than sunflower seeds.” Once I was finished, I had to agree. Thanks for the new experience, Riggs! They served their Hefeweizen (5.2%, 11 IBU) which is made with 15% barley. They also served the Barley Wine which is 100% barley.

Decatur Brew Works brought 101 IPA made with citra and mosaic hops, a cloudy Northeast style IPA named after their address. They also brought their red ale named Let There Be Red (5.75%). The beer was great and they were fun guys to talk to. How does their new beer get put into production? Simple, they make small 5-gallon test batch and then serve it at their bar. The patrons decide which batches should go into commercial production. If you would like to give this type of input, I suggest heading over to Decatur and trying a pint.

Pollyanna Brewing Company (from Lemont) brought Orenda (9%, 30 IBU), a Belgian tripel, and the Humpenscrump (5.2%, 13 IBU), a hefeweizen named after a medieval musical instrument related to the fiddle. The Humpenscrump is a perfect summertime beer with hints of bananas. But let’s face it: the real reason I love this beer is its name. We all need an excuse to work Humpenscrump into our day to day language. You can also check out Lexical Gap (7.3%, 85 IBU), an India pale ale on tap at JT Walker’s. Continuing with its theme of well thought out names, a lexical gap is something that doesn’t translate well into language; that is, it is something there should be a word for but isn’t. With that thought in mind, I can’t wait to go to JT Walker’s and try it out.

Tangled Roots Brewing Company (Ottowa, IL) brought Irish Red, a seasonal beer that tastes of caramel; like roasted coffee beans without the bitterness. They also brought the Devil’s Paint Box — with an ABV of 6.66%. The reference was not missed on me, Tangled Roots. The beer was light and not over malted with grapefruit and possibly mango citrus.

Noon Whistle (Lombard, IL) and Tighthead Brewing (Mundelein, IL) shared a tent. Noon Whistle Brewing got its name because it believes in day drinking (so its beers are usually around 5% or less), but not before the noon whistle goes off. They brought Jive Gummy (6.6%), a juicy Northeast IPA and the Smack That (5%) a dry hop sour which was light with a nice malt aftertaste. Tighthead brought their Irie IPA, a dark, piney West Coast IPA, and Chilly Water IPA, a wheat-based beer that used orange for the citrus.

Destihl Brewery was busy pumping out four different taps. They will be even busier after their new location in Normal opens on May 27th.

Half Acre Beer Company (Chicago) brought their flagship Daisy Cutter and featured their seasonal Double Daisy Cutter (8%), a double pale ale with twice the personality of the original. Half Acre shared a tent with Apple Knocker, who was so busy I did not get to speak with them, so whatever they were serving must have been pretty great.

Begyle Brewing (Chicago) is a “community supported brewing company,” according to their website. Begyle is a young company out of Chicago that started as home brewers that then went commercial. They are not yet distributed in our area, but plans are in the works to start in a few months. I asked which beers we should be on the lookout for. Their Blonde, an easy drinking honey ale, and their Firebird pale ale are the most popular choices.

Last but not least, Chester’s BBQ and Dragon Fire Pizza brought their tasty fare to keep us well fed while sampling all that the Mahomet Craft Beer Festival had to offer. Craft beer in this community is alive and well and here to stay. I can’t wait to go next year.

For more info about the Mahomet Craft Beer Festival, check out Facebook

All photos by Rebecca Johnson. 

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