Last weekend, I had the opportunity to attend a beer-centric panel as part of Taste Talks Chicago. The panel — named The Wildest Beers in Town — showcased some of Chicago’s most progressive brewers from a range of breweries:
John Laffler — Off Color Brewing
Eric Olson — Marz Brewing
Tim Faith — Goose Island
The panel was moderated by Michael Kiser of Good Beer Hunting and covered a range of topics from the (over)use of hops to serving beer to compliment a meal.
From left to right: Michel Kiser, Eric Olson, Tim Faith and John Laffler
We got to sample a beer from each brewery represented in the panel. Fierce from Off Color, Lilith from Goose Island and Bubbly Creek from Marz. Each was a Berleiner Weissbier-style, so it was fun to be able to compare and contrast the beers while their brewers described them. (Fierce from Off Color was my favorite.)
Overall, I’d hoped to hear more discussion from the panel around the craft beer market in general. While I know this wasn’t the intended topic of the discussion, I can only imagine the opinions of the panel would be vastly different, especially considering the panel included representation from Chicago’s oldest modern craft brewery (Goose Island, founded 1988) and one of its newest (Marz Brewing, founded earlier this year).
We can only anticipate what John Laffler would’ve said, but he touched on it by saying, “Beers that are most interesting are those that are trying to express an idea.” He continued with, “There are a lot of people working hard to redefine beer as more than just a commodity.”
And he’s right — people are working hard. Competition is tough. The idea of standing out in an oversaturated marketplace isn’t just desirable — it’s necessary. Because the reality is — whether it’s tap handles at your favorite bar or shelf space at your local liquor store — there’s only so much room. And with a new brewery opening (seemingly) every week, when does Chicago’s craft beer bubble burst?
No one knows for sure, but one thing holds true — Chicago’s beer consumers are a prideful bunch. Because hey — there’s a lot to have been excited about over the past few years. Whether it’s waiting in line at our favorite brewery on release day, getting together with friends for bottle shares, or just knowing you’ll always be able to find something new, the idea of “drinking local” means something extra special in Chicago.
Check out an full length (well, almost full length — I missed some of the intro at the beginning) audio file from The Wildest Beers in Town Panel at Taste Talks Chicago via the Dropbox link below: