Last week, I gave away six VIP tickets to the Naperville Ale Fest. Long sold out, these prizes weren't just being raffled off to create some buzz. No. These tickets, worth $75 a piece were reserved for GBH readers that have a strong connection to craft beer, and a great story to tell. In short, they had to work for it. And work for it they did.
While the VIP section is sold out, I can tell you that the rare beer list I sponsored for general admission is worth the trip alone. Get a general admission pass before they're gone today! >>
Two separate contests were run. I'll start with the Instagram results where three GBH readers tagged one of their photos and shared a bit of background on why it represented a true craft beer moment.
Instagram user @johnny_cee12 made my mouth water with this shot of Three Floyds Zombie Dust.
#goodbeerhunting The perfect summer beer, coupled with the challenge of actually getting it, puts this at the top of my list this year! Always tipping my hat to Three Floyds.
Instagram user @dkanakis and his soon-to-be-wife took their beer to new heights in Oregon.
#goodbeerhunting my now wife and I have a tradition of going on hikes and drinking a beer local to where we're hiking once we summit. This one was at Crater Lake 367 days ago - 5 days before we got married on Mt Hood. @greensug1 @fullsailbrewing
Instagram user @rossipp shared the beer that got her hooked on craft, and now she's on a serious mission to educate others!
I hold this beer close to my heart -- @jjrossi and @andrewironfist introduced me to the world of delicious craft brewing. Since then... I've been on the quest to taste as many beers as possible and have been an assistant in the brewing process, too! I'm preparing a beer and cheese tasting at work on July 19 to help educate the wonder that beer can bring. To these wonderful memories and so much more #cheers #goodbeerhunting @goodbeerhunting
And on the site, GBH readers shared their unbelievable beer moments in story form. It was such a pleasure reading these, and seeing how craft beer inspires others.
From Zack H — a heartbreaking "The More You Know" kind of moment:
This is more along the lines of worst beer story, but I wanted to share it nonetheless. A number of years ago, my wife (then girlfriend) and I planned a trip to visit her family in San Francisco. We ended up booking a hotel in Santa Rosa because it was much cheaper. The night we arrived, we drove around looking for places to grab something to eat. We finally found a place and go in. The server came to our table to take our drink order and I ordered a Miller Lite (this is prior to my personal beer renaissance) and the server informed me that they do not have Miller Lite, or any other beers like that. Completely confused, I told him that I would just have a Diet Coke then.
A few years later (after I am fully hooked on craft beer), I kept hearing about all the great beers from a place called Russian River in Santa Rosa. One day, I'm sitting there and I get a sinking feeling in my stomach. I go online and check out pictures of Russian River brewhouse and yep, I was there and tried to order a Miller Lite!
I've been dying to go back there ever since to make up for my stupidity!
From Erik J. — an homage to the scholar that planted the craft beer seed in his college brain
When i was in college i had a professor that was a craft beer aficionado and often worked beer into his examples during his business courses. His most common example was Rogue's Old Crustacean Barleywine style ale. He always used the full name, not just "old crusty." Even back then it was a tough find in Illinois, but one year, someone in my fraternity managed to pick up a bottle. At that point i was still drinking Bud Light thinking it was the best thing out there. I tried a sip of the old crusty and almost yakked. Even though my first encounter with it was less than good, I didn't stop after that. My professor had lit that fire in me. He was also our house advisor for many years and many times took our seniors out to Rhodell's Brewery in Peoria to brew our own batches to take home in the spring. Getting to my most recent experience with old crusty, i managed to find the last bottle on the shelf at Binnys of the 2012. I bought it back in November or December and hadn't been able to find an excuse to break it out. I finally sat down with it the night the Hawks beat LA to go to the cup. I wasn't completely convinced I would have another chance this hockey season. I hadn't had old crusty since that night back in 2006 when I almost spat it back out. It was one of the best beers I have ever had. I owe it to Dick Johnston at Monmouth College for developing the beer geek in me.
From Chad R. — an unbelievable story that reveals the true identity of an unannounced mandolin player
A buddy and I were in the process of making the worst batch of whiskey barrel stout known to man. We had just realized that the gravity of our beer was so far off that we essentially made what would amount to non-alcoholic bog water. During the process, and to console ourselves after, we had consumed a Sun Tea sized jug of pineapple infused vodka. Once that ran out and we continued to lament over our wasted time, money, and most of all lack of whiskey barrel stout, we stumbled over to Toons on Southport. It was at Toons that our spirits lifted with friends, good bee, and a nice staff — until we were abruptly told we could no longer keep our table after we had run a sizable tab. As there were no other tables to accomodate our party, we were very upset. The reasoning is that they needed to make room for a band, which Toons rarely ever has. It was agreed on to bail after we finished our drinks. While finishing those drinks the "band" came in. Two men, much older than us, with the smallest of instruments — was it a ukulele? Nope, guess thats a mandolin. You're kidding, being kicked out of our seats for this "band"?
One of the gentleman got the attention of the crowd, which would change our nights and give us hope to continue brewing beer. "I'm Tony Magee from Lagunitas and as long as we're playing music, our beers are on the house." Hours of a Lil' Sumpin Sumpin and IPA's ensued all to the tinny sound of that mandolin. Tony then took the time to meet and greet a large number of patrons. With my confidence swelling and some encouragement from friends, I approached Tony for help in fixing our busted beer. I'd like to think I eloquently described our process and the issues we met, but realistically it probably came out sounding like a caveman grunt "me make bad beer, help". Tony understood both my dilemma & innebriation. He spoke slowly and advised me that I could use a yeast re-energizer or try re-pitching the beer. He may have also said if all else fails dump a bunch of whiskey in it. In any case he gave me his email address to let him know how it all turned out. Well, my buddy and I are much better at drinking beer than making it. So even with the advice we turned out a poor product. I didn't have the heart to email Tony that his good advice fell on clumsy brewers, but my brewing buddy followed up to say thanks. What Tony sent back was one of the more cryptic, profanity laden and entertaining emails I had ever seen. To summarize, get off our asses and brew another batch before we lost our nerve. We will forever be partial to one of our favorite brewers Tony Magee and the amazing creations that come from Lagunitas. Cheers!
Thanks to all the winners, and to those that shared their great stories with me. I hope you enjoyed sharing them as much as I did reading them.
While we've run out of chances to get a VIP ticket to Naperville Ale Fest, there are still a few general admission tickets left, so get after them! I'm sponsoring the rare beer lists for both the VIP and general admission, so you know they're going to be worth it. Some really fantastic stuff being released throughout the day. And if you see me there, come say hello!