These are boom times for craft breweries and the people who enjoy them. There are more than 150 craft breweries in Illinois, whose growing popularity is tied to a “drink locally” trend.
“The amount of breweries coming up and expanding is huge,” observed Allesandro Vazquez, president of Oswego, Illinois-based Brew Avenue Events, which is mounting the Great St. Joe Craft Beer Festival in Wilmette on September 16. “There is almost a new brewery opening every month, and every other town is either working on a craft beer project or a brewery is ramping up production. Craft beer is becoming as diverse as the wine market with a proliferation of different styles and ingredients.”
The beer festival will give visitors the opportunity to taste nearly a dozen local labels. It’s a new addition to St. Joseph’s Oktoberfest celebration, now in its 14th year, which traditionally includes an afternoon Antiques Market and Family Fun Fest and an evening party. The inaugural Great St. Joe Craft Beer Festival, which will run from noon to 4 p.m. for adults ages 21 and up, will help get the party started.
The local breweries and cideries scheduled to participate include Alarmist Brewing, Right Be Cider, and Revolution Brewing from Chicago, North Shore Cider Company, Temperance Beer Co., Sketchbook Brewing Co., and Smylie Brothers Brewing Co. in Evanston, Ten Ninety Brewing Company, and Macushla Brewing Company in Glenview, and New Belgium Brewing Company in Fort Collins, Colorado.
The beer festival will also feature food trucks.
Oktoberfest is one of two primary public events to raise funds for St. Joseph’s school and parish.
“It’s part of our community outreach to showcase who we are with inclusive events for all ages and who live in all areas of the North Shore,” Dave Mastrofski, co-chair of the festival, said.
The craft beer festival is an aperitif to the main event. “Okotberfest is still the big party,” Mastrofski said. “We’re inviting people to spend a day at St. Joseph’s. I think a fall Saturday spent sampling beers is a great way to spend the afternoon.”
As with wine, this can be intimidating to the more casual drinker, but craft beer festivals are going a long way toward making the artisan brewing process accessible. “It’s a great way to be introduced face-to-face to the public, to get your beer into people’s glasses, and to talk about your craft and creativity,” said Vasquez.
Mike Walsh was a home brewer for 10 years before opening Macushla Brewing Company in August. The Great St. Joe Craft Beer Festival is his second festival.
Macushla (a Gaelic term of endearment heartbreakingly referenced by Clint Eastwood in the film Million Dollar Baby, and decades before that as the name of the cow in the 1945 holiday film classic Christmas In Connecticut) is a micro, or small batch, brewery and tap room located on Lake Avenue. It shares a parking lot with Hackney’s (Welch’s grandfather purchased Hackney’s restaurant almost 80 years ago).
The festival is a welcome vehicle to “get our name and our good beers out to our neighbors and let them know we’re here,” Walsh said. “Participating in the community is hugely important, especially the church community.” (Walsh is an alumnus of Our Lady of Perpetual Help parish in Glenview, but his father-in-law attended St. Joseph’s).
Mastrofski anticipates growing the Craft Beer Festival to include more brewers and food trucks. “By no means am I an expert,” he said, “but I’m an expert sampler.”
Oktoberfest is on Saturday, September 16 at St. Joseph’s School on Lake and Ridge Avenues in Wilmette. The Antiques Market will run from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. The Family Festival begins at 10 a.m. and runs until 4 p.m. These two events are free.
The Dinner and Outdoor Party runs from 6 to 11:30 p.m. Tickets are $35 per adult, $20 for seniors, and include a traditional German dinner at 6 p.m. A party with live entertainment follows at 8:30 p.m. A party-only ticket is $20 per adult.
The Craft Beer Festival will take place from noon to 4 p.m. Tickets are $45 per adult and include a 16-beer/cider sample passport and souvenir tasting glass. Additional beer sample tickets will be available for purchase.
For more information or to purchase advance tickets, visit stjosephwilmette.com. For discounts on tickets, use the promo code sjsfriend.