Plainfield. Has there ever been a town so honest with its name?
I headed there on Saturday to attend the third Midwest Brewers Fest (midwestbrewersfest.org), tagging along with the crew from Algonquin’s Village Vintner Winery & Brewery (thevillagevintner.com) to check out the beers, ciders and meads and to celebrate history being made.
For this was the first event where, under rules just put in place in July, homebrewers in Illinois could legally offer samples of their wares at public events. Yes, sometimes even politicians can exhibit common sense.
Despite this very good reason to drink, I was a little apprehensive about going to Plainfield. Sure, it could be filled with funny people like native daughter Melissa McCarthy. But my experience with its residents had been limited to, on separate occasions, knowing two conniving cads who lived in its boundaries.
I feel like Amy Jacobson just writing that (www.huffingtonpost.com/tag/amy-jacobson-bikini).
Adding to my trepidation was the fact that, when we got into town, to get into the doings at Riverfront Park along the DuPage River, you first had to follow a maze of signs through a subdivision and double back to the long, narrow road that led into the park – all to dissuade people from making left hand turns to their destination.
The vendors were told to be onsite before 10 a.m. for the fest, which began at noon. For incentive there was a nice breakfast spread.
As opening time approached, I took note of this being the first beer-related fest I have been to where the police have made their presence so known, with about a half dozen or more officers in the park – to deal with a crowd that was estimated to be 3,000.
Mind you, I was in Milwaukee the prior weekend and don’t remember seeing any uniformed officers with a crowd at least five times as big milling about Summerfest grounds, with plenty of beer and whiskey to be found.
The Plainfield police even brought along their K-9 unit, well-trained to differentiate between hops and hemp, no doubt.
But hey, patrons were given 25 tickets to be used at spots set up by commercial craft brewers and three to use for homebrews, each good for a 2-ounce pour.
So for their $40 admission ($100 for the VIP pass) – with the money going to charities – they could have three-and-a-half pints at a fest that lasted five hours at the lower price point and six hours for the big spenders. Of course, you could buy extra tickets, but it didn’t seem like many people were doing so.
Vendors were allotted tickets for sampling, too – but were told that if they drank they couldn’t serve their beverages.
So the organizers provided friendly, red-shirted folks who volunteered and trained as pourers in exchange for being invited to an after-party. I was confused, because, by their own rules, who would be pouring the beer?
Odd as this all seemed, the fest was a perfectly pleasant way to spend a summer afternoon.
There was a local celebrity on hand, too, with the genial Jarrett Payton making an appearance to hawk Argus (www.argusbrewery.com) All-American Wheat Ale (AKA S-wheat-Ness, which is to honor his dad, but really isn’t the best of puns as the made up word looks way too close to sweat-ness).
The fest even had a couple old couches set up on the grass in an area set aside for smokers. A nice elderly woman took a picture of me lounging there (but not smoking). The sofas used to belong to her mom who was in a nursing home, and the daughter had donated to the event, with which her son was involved. It was sweet, and made me feel a little better about Plainfield.
Knowing the crowd, I was wearing my “I Got Totally Naked at New Glarus” t-shirt. While there may be nudists among beer-lovers, those in the know recognized the label from the 20-year-old Wisconsin brewery (www.newglarusbrewing.com), which only has its beers available in that state, which has helped create a mystique for the company and its tasty beverages.
If you are old enough to remember, it’s like how your dad might have been when Coors was only available west of the Mississippi and how he felt like a bootlegger making the drive to buy it.
Coors, of course, is now part of a mega-global brand that unleashed canned water on the world. And by that I mean Coors Light, which is even popular in Ireland! WTF!
New Glarus brings forth chatter like this: “Sure, everybody has tried Spotted Cow. But have you had the Raspberry Tart Framboise or the Belgian Red Cherry Ale?”
And the Nude Glarus shirt got nods for being one of the cool kids.
Or maybe those were the same kinds of looks I was getting in Milwaukee with my “Stop Staring at my Kielbasa” t-shirt and kilt. That was a great sociology project, proving that if you tell people with your clothing not to do something, they do it. Which is why I was wearing a sporran that day.
In Plainfield, there were four tents holding craft beverages from 65 places and one for six homebrewer clubs, and they were spread out a good distance from each other so you could work off those 2-ounce drinks. Come to think of it, I think I am going to ask bartenders at my local to only give me that much at any one serving. Then I will go walk for a bit and get the next bit of my beer. Doing that eight times to get a pint – I think I might be onto a commission for a diet book.
Drinking good beer – like eating good food – isn’t simple these days. There seem to be few minimalists interested in simple elegance.
As but one example, straight from the brewer’s website (www.ten-ninety.com): “Ten Ninety Imperial Porter is fiery elegance. Our porter is brewed with ample Munich, mild brown and de-bittered black malts for a chocolaty, espresso base. To contrast this bittersweet backbone, we added an ample dose of cayenne pepper, and tempered this heat with tart pomegranate juice.”
Which means you get antioxidants with your beer!
The above was one of the favorites of this Grizzly Bear-sized guy in an Ohio State t-shirt, who also enjoyed the Vintner’s Coconilla Stout – the beer with the stripper name made with vanilla and cocoa beans that tastes like a chocolate cake for adults.
He so loved the above brew, he promised he would bring his buddies up to Algonquin Friday to have so more. He had already plotted the route and the estimated time for the trip on his smartphone.
Another group of people told the Vinter crew that Coconilla reminded them of the Neapolitan Milk Stout from Saugatuck Brewing in Michigan (saugatuckbrewing.com) which has the same chocolate, vanilla and strawberry flavors that the ice cream does.
I wonder if you put that with the tasty Not Your Father’s Root Beer Beer from Small Town Brewery (www.smalltownbrewery.com) – that was on tap in Plainfield – if you would have a root beer beer float?
Ominous-looking but tasty were shrouded casks of beers racked in a tent, as if they were funereal brews. Actually, they held a variety of “real” ales, which are made in small casks and served at room temperature.
I picked up a t-shirt for myself to help the Pints for Prostates (www.pintsforprostates.org) cause, which friends told me I should support because I can be a big pain in the ass.
And as the day wore on – and maybe because of all the damned Facebook posts I was getting because I clicked “like” for “The World’s End” page – I had the uneasy feeling something right out of the The Cornetto Trilogy (thecornettotrilogy.tumblr.com/) was going to happen there in Plainfield. Those are the Simon Pegg/Nick Frost movies where the townsfolk either turn into zombies, or are in some anal retentive, murderous cult, or turn out to be robots from space.
We didn’t stick around for the after-party to see if I was right.
Perhaps my paranoia was the warm weather getting to me (or all the folk singers trying sounded like Bob Dylan, Neil Young or John Prine). Or was it? After all, come Sunday I had a heat rash on both legs, which I am monitoring to see if it turns into nano-diodes.
I also came home with a Ranger IPA-flavored lip balm, so my kisses can taste like bitter hops, ladies.
And I heard the best backstory to steal for impressing people when on further drinking adventures: These two brothers who are both pilots have their own Tailwinds Distilling Company (www.tailwindsdistilling.com) in Plainfield where they make rum and blue agave spirits.
Maybe I will try using it out next August in Doolin (www.facebook.com/DoolinCraftBeerandFoodFestival).
Ireland: It’s not just for Guinness anymore. It’s infused, like every place else.