“We only serve water here,” asserted a young female volunteer tending a Revolution tap. But her serious face soon cracked a smile, indicating that, yes, she would pour me a glass of IPA as soon as she rinsed it out. Between this gesture and the anticipation of a “prohibition speech,” the mood throughout the loading dock of the Bridgeport Art Center, the venue for Mash Tun Oktoberfest, was hoppy and jovial. Sponsored by Maria’s Packaged Goods and Community Bar, the Friday night event celebrated the release of the 2012 edition of “Mash Tun,” a local craft beer journal.
“We â™¥ Beer,” typed in small, sans-serif font on the back cover of the magazine, echoed the sentiment to which the crowd of more than 3,600 evidently subscribed. Sitting on freight ramps and leaning against concrete pillars with bright yellow bollards at the foot, couples and groups of friends sipped pilsners, lagers, and ales from Chicago craft breweries such as Half Acre, Pipestone, BaderbrÃ¤u, and (soon to be Chicago-based) Lagunitas. Nick Iverson, Chicago correspondent for the latter, chatted about their new pour house (complete with a bowling lane) opening at 18th and Rockwell while he prepared tastings of Lil Sumpin’ Wild, a favorite of the night. But the longest line was not for brews but cuts of a whole pig, roasted with a side of white bread.
Select pours from national and international breweries, such as Belgium-based Kwak, added a cosmopolitan touch to the night. Yet despite the international nod, the brick-lined, industrial nook in the art center, complete with snack tables, was reminiscent of a hyper-local “picnic of grandmas,” as one guest observed, walking into the warmth of the adjacent art center to explore.
Perhaps the party’s success was only the beginning of a much larger trend in support of craft breweries in Chicago. As Ed Marszewski, owner of Maria’s, wrote in his introduction to the journal, “They say the time is nigh for another craft beer bubble.” Let’s hope he doesn’t expect it to burst any time soon.