Chicago Alefest Whirl and I spent most of the afternoon at Alefest Chicago. It was a beautiful day today, and it just did not seem right not to get outside and enjoy the afternoon. So at about 1:00 in the afternoon, after a leisurely morning cup of coffee, we made our way across Grant Park to the south lawn of Soldier Field. There we found almost fifty different exhibitors with over 150 different rare and craft-brewed beers, ales, lagers, pilsners and … well, my mind gets a little fuzzy if I try too terribly hard to remember them all. We spent four hours at the festival, enjoying ourselves and the delicious beverages that surrounded us. I was rather surprised at the turnout. I had expected, given the tradition of beer-drinking in Chicago, that the festival would have been crazy busy. It wasn’t. I mean, there were people there, but never more than the venue could handle. I never waited more than about 15-30 seconds to get a beer. I met some really friendly and well-educated craft brewers. And did I mention the tasty beer that surrounded us? There were many tasty beers.

Between the two of us, we had forty tickets with which to try various brews. I think we made it through thirty different types before discretion reminded us of its better half. I tried several pils and wheat beers, I found a brewery that made altbier in the style of Germany’s Ruhrgebiet. I tried a strangely refreshing beverage I might never have tried otherwise: a lemon radler from Austria. And most surprisingly of all, I discovered an importer of my all-time favorite beer: Jever Pils. I discovered Jever when I lived in Germany. When I returned to the United States I was saddened to learn Jever did not export outside of the country. Now they do. And I had one for the first time in 18 years. And it was good. It was very good.

The festival included a number of organizations and brewers supporting the craft brew hobby and businesses. If you have an interest in drinking, learning about or making hand-crafted, not mass-produced beer, this is the place to be.

What added a particular sentimental enjoyment for Whirl and me were the memories of our first weekend together. The weekend Whirl and I first met, we attended a similar beer festival in Portland, Oregon. The beer festival was (part of) our first date. It was quite fun to allow those memories to wash over us — accompanied by the warm memories of all the years in between.