Getting a taste of craft beer made close to home

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Getting a taste of craft beer made close to home

January 16, 2016 - 13:13
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Enjoying the HF Park District's Explore the Pour event are,
from left, these are Janine Mlynarcik of Flossmoor,
and Brian Knetl and Amy Knetl, of Homewood.

(Photos by Tom Houlihan/HF Chronicle)

If there’s one thing craft beer fans love almost as much as good beer, it’s talking to the brewer and hearing how it’s made.

At the Homewood-Flossmoor Park District’s “Explore the Pour” event Friday, 10 Chicago-area breweries served up samples at Dolphin Lake Clubhouse from 6 to 9 p.m. At $20 per person, the event sold out quickly, giving 150 beer lovers the opportunity to sample 25 brews, taste appetizers from Wiley’s Grill and take home a 16-oz. glass.

“We wanted to do some cool public events, especially for adults. And craft beer is such a craze right now,” said Shari Klein, food and beverage manager at Wiley’s Grill, which provided the liquor license for the event. “Joe (DeCicco, a park district recreation supervisor) came up with the name. And we decided to keep it real local when it came to inviting breweries.”

Amanda Bates, head brewer
for Vice District Brewing
Company, talks about  beer
at Friday's Explore the Pour 
event.

Brewers included Blue Island Beer Co. from Blue Island, Brickstone Brewery from Bourbonnais, Flossmoor Station Brewing Co. from Flossmoor, Hailstorm Brewing Co. from Tinley Park, Noon Whistle Brewing from Lombard, One Trick Pony Brewery from Lansing, Pollyanna Brewing Co., from Lemont, and Chicago breweries Goose Island Brewing and Vice District Brewing Co., which plans to open a brewery production facility and taproom in Homewood this year.

Janine Mlynarcik of Flossmoor thought it was a great idea.

“I like having something like this locally. It’s a fun event,” she said. She sampled beer from the Blue Island Brewing Co. with Amy and Brian Knetl of Homewood.

“Some of the breweries I’ve heard of but some I haven’t,” Amy Knetl said. “I’m hoping local establishments and stores pick up on these so we can buy them.”

Brian Knetl said he was glad to sample beer made locally.

“It’s all from places that are close enough that you can go to the breweries,” he said.

He tasted Blue Island Brewing Co.’s Early & Often American Black Session Ale and asked a question of co-owner and manager Alan Cromwell.

“How can it be so dark but only 3.8 percent alcohol?” Knetl asked.

Cromwell was glad to answer.

“Roasted malt does a lot to give color to beer,” he said. “People sometimes associate darkness with alcohol content, but it’s not true.”

Cromwell also explained that the Small Victories Belgian Specialty Ale was “made with rose hips and hibiscus.” The alcohol content on the pale amber-colored brew was listed as 9.1 percent.

He was glad to be at Explore the Pour. “You find some very savvy, well-read fans,” Cromwell said. “People like to learn and ask questions. They have adventurous palates.”

Ryan Czaja, assistant brewer for Flossmoor Station, handed out samples of Rail Hopper IPA and Pullman Brown Ale, the latter a long-time favorite at the nearly 20-year-old brewery.

“We switched head brewers a few months ago and he’s bringing his own style to all the beer on our menu,” he said of Eymard Freire.

Amanda Bates, head brewer at Vice District Brewing Co., was a fan of Explore the Pour as well.

“At an event this size, you can do a direct comparison and taste beer from different breweries side by side,” she said.

“You can also get a taste of everything and still be standing when it’s over.”