Christmas in July

"Christmas in July: 24 Days of Illinois Beer" allows craft beer drinkers to purchase a case of 24 randomly selected beers chosen from more than 80 different craft breweries in the state.

The Illinois Craft Brewers Guild throws some of the best craft beer parties in Illinois all year. From Beer Under Glass to Friday Night Flights to Festival of Wood and Barrel Aged Beers, these are events to which I normally set my craft beer calendar.

Because of COVID-19, the first two sets of events have been canceled this year, and FoBAB does not look promising as a second wave in the fall could affect this annual event in November. Earlier this summer, the ICBG put out a new passport program called Passport from Home that was meant to replace the Summer Passport program that encouraged craft beer drinkers from Illinois to get to as many brewpubs and taprooms as possible. Craft beer enthusiasts were encouraged to pick up their ICBG Passport picture frame from their local brewer and post pictures of their pick-ups from taprooms and bottle shops on social media. Each week through the month of May and early June they picked a winner from the hashtag #passportathome.

Now, the ICBG is back at it with a brand new program I am absolutely thrilled about — Christmas in July: 24 Days of Illinois Beer. This program allows craft beer drinkers to purchase a case of 24 randomly selected craft beers from around Illinois. The beers will be chosen from more than 80 different craft breweries in the state.

This awesome mix-and-match case of beer is $85 with a bonus Summer Illinois Beer Tank Top for $15. This is what Sam got me for Father’s Day. In addition to the case of beer, and the tank top, buying a “ticket” to this “event” also gains you access to a series of Facebook Live virtual open houses that feature some of the brewers/breweries participating in the Christmas in July random case. These virtual open houses will be July 8-31 on Facebook Live. Learn more by searching for the Illinois Craft Brewers Guild on Facebook.

If you order your Christmas in July pack, you can choose from a few different locations to pick up your case. The closest one for my readers is Hailstorm Brewing in Tinley Park, which is where I chose to pick up my box. One hundred percent of the proceeds of packages sold go to support the essential work of the Illinois Craft Brewers Guild.

“We are incredibly grateful for the support of our member breweries during a time when resources are in short supply and our work is more important than ever,” said Danielle D’Alessandro, the guild’s executive director. “We’re excited to have so many breweries on board to help bring the variety of an Illinois craft beer festival to the homes of our fans and enthusiasts. Our hope is that Christmas in July brings our community together and creates a path to revenue that enables us to continue advocating for our breweries each and every day.”

Buying craft beer during COVID times has been a little bit different. So much more lately it seems the hottest items and drops of the week run out very quickly, so I have not had as much luck grabbing new hazy IPAs from breweries such as Hop Butcher or Phase Three. By the time I see these drops happen on social media and plan my trip to The Open Bottle in Tinley Park, I have little hope I actually will be able to get these beers that used to punctuate my craft beer drinking experience during the week. I don’t know what will be in these cases, but I often have found solace in my craft-beer buying in classic Chicago flagship beers I had been ignoring in order to get ahold of these buzzed-up releases.

I wanted fresh-packaged beer to take to a friend’s house for a safe, outdoor, socially distanced toast. I was at The Open Bottle at an off-peak time, as most of these drops take place on Thursday mornings, so strolling in on Saturday evening is not a prime time. I came all of this way, and I have wanted desperately to continue to support some of my favorite breweries during a time when Chicago had not opened taprooms and bars for on-premises enjoyment. I grabbed a few four packs to last me a little while, and I grabbed the beer picks of the week.

I don’t know if these beers will be in the Christmas in July packs, but I know these beers to be some of the best beers on offer in Chicago right now, and I think you should drink them if you can. While you are at Hailstorm Brewing in Tinley Park, you can pick up some of its four packs of 16-ounce cans as well, such as the GABF gold medal Prairie Madness.

Le Tub from Whiner Beer Company

ABV: 6.4 percent


Style: Farmhouse Ale — Saison

Brewery’s notes: “White grapes, lemon tarts, funky fresh. You’ll want to bathe your mouth with it.”

Where to Buy: The Open Bottle in Tinley Park in six packs of 12-ounce cans for $12.99

Apex Predator from Off Color Brewing

ABV: 6.5 percent

IBUs: 46

Style: Farmhouse Ale — Saison

Brewery’s notes: “We pitch the yeast cold, turn off the temperature control, and let the yeast do its thing. To our delight, it spat out the sweet scent of juicy fruit wafting from a frothy, white mane. Brewed only with grain and sugar unencumbered by the heat of the kiln, we created a hazy, golden body.”

Where to Buy: The Open Bottle in Tinley Park in four packs of 16-ounce cans for $9.99.

Ninja Vs. Unicorn from Pipeworks Brewing

ABV: 8 percent

IBUs: 150

Style: IPA — Imperial/Double

Brewery’s notes: “Ninja Vs. Unicorn celebrates the epic battle between two of the biggest hop heads of lore. ... This unfiltered double IPA is sure to please the most discerning hop lover.”

Where to Buy: The Open Bottle in Tinley Park in four packs of 16-ounce cans for $9.99.

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