brew dude (copy)

Joshua Riley is the Brew Dude

Ultra Fresh IV, put on by the fine folks of The Hop Review, is right around the corner. The event is from 5 to 9 p.m. June 29 at ICNC Make City, 2019 W. Carroll Ave., Chicago. Tickets for this event cost $45 and can be purchased online at

Because the guys of The Hop Review are sweet people, they have made a special promo code only for Daily Journal readers to knock off $10, bringing the price to $35. If you are reading this right now, you are sitting in the cat bird seat, get on over the Ultra Fresh IV website to get those tickets right now.

In years past, Ultra Fresh has been one of the best parts of Illinois (Chicago) Craft Beer Week, and I have written about it as many times as it has happened. This fest is just up my alley as far as craft beer.

I have written about beer freshness plenty in this column, and it is something I can’t not check for when I am out buying beer. I sat at Paul’s Place in Kankakee while writing this column and ordered a Sweetwater 420 Mango Kush wheat ale. I checked the date before they opened it for me, and the beer tasted great.

It might seem strange freshness is important to enjoying a beer because beer is brewed — start to finish in a couple of hours usually — but it sits in a fermenter (giant stainless-steel vessel) for weeks at a time. How can freshness matter here? I assure you, it does.

As soon as the yeast drops out, breweries do their best effort in getting that beer kegged, canned or bottled and shipped to retailers as soon as they can to not lose any precious clock on that beer.

“The idea for Ultra Fresh grew organically over the years as we built The Hop Review,” said Tom White, co-founder of The Hop Review and fest organizer. “We’ve been lucky enough to visit some of the best breweries in the world, and all of them would speak to the benefits of freshness and drinking their beer the way they’d intended. As the beer industry has grown and matured, consumers have learned to value breweries that prioritize how long it takes their beer to go from tank to glass. Ultra Fresh was created to celebrate beer the way the brewer wanted you drink it.”

So, what do the guys at The Hop Review mean when they say their beer is packaged within a week of the event to make the beers “ultra fresh?” Breweries from 18th Street Brewery in Hammond, Ind., to Allagash Brewing in Maine, to our very own Brickstone Brewery in Bourbonnais coordinate with the fest-throwers to make sure the kegs they bring to pour at the fest have been packaged at just the right time.

In the past, some breweries have brewed beers just for Ultra Fresh, which means they were working a month in advance to make sure a specific batch of a beer was ready in time to bring to this awesome party. Why would a brewery go through all that trouble for just one party?

First, I think it is a cool idea — they probably do, too. Also, it helps showcase their beer the way the brewery intends for you to drink it. If you go to a brewpub or a taproom, the breweries go to great lengths to make sure the beer they are serving you is in a clean glass, pours through a clean system at the right temperature and is fresh.

When breweries send out their beer to retailers and festivals, they can’t always ensure their beer is served in these conditions.

“Freshness is important to nearly all styles of beer, though some are affected more drastically than others by spending too long on the shelf,” White said. “One thing is for sure, though: All the beers at Ultra Fresh are there because that brewery thinks they’ll taste best during that first week.

“There are always a ton of surprises at our fest, but I get really excited to try the beers I’m not able to get my hands on every day. Breweries like Energy City and Roaring Table (and many others) are bringing beers you won’t find on your store shelves and would likely have to visit the taproom to try.”

Here is who I am excited for at this fest.

Grist House, of Pittsburgh, Pa., was at Uppers and Downers in March, and that beer was fantastic. I definitely will try whatever they bring.

After that, I am excited for the usual Hop Butcher, Hubbard’s Cave, Energy City, Marz, Maplewood crews, which produce some of the best hazy beers in the city. But really, I am a sucker for a well-made beer, so I am going to drink anything Revolution, Half Acre or Pipeworks makes because they make great beer, and the fresher the better — even if it is Half Acre’s Daisy Cutter or Revolution’s Fist City, which I’ve had a million times.

“For the first time, we’ve invited some of our brewing friends from outside Chicagoland,” White said. “Breweries like Kankakee’s own Brickstone, all the way out to Pittsburgh’s Grist House and Michigan’s Old Nation. ... There are so many options this year both from down the street to hundreds of miles away.

“The ICNC is a totally unique location, and I can guarantee you haven’t been to a beer fest in a spot like this. For those who came to previous year’s events, it maintains that authentic artsy feel while offering us a ton of extra space to get creative. It also just so happens to be bang in the middle of the Chicago Brewing District and in the same building as Rhine Hall Distillery.”

Enter the code KANKAKEE when you purchase tickets for this event. Let’s get out and use that code so they know people from Kankakee County like craft beer and, more importantly, fresh beer. If you are going to the fest, reach out to me on social media, and I will come by and have a beer with you up in Chicago.

Hazy State from Collective Arts Brewing

ABV: 4.1 percent


Style: IPA — Session/ India Session Ale

Notes: Citrus and tropical fruit notes dominate but are balanced with a smooth body.

Where to buy: You can buy this beer at The Open Bottle in Tinley Park in a four pack of 16-ounce cans for $16.99.

Man-Go Hazy from Brickstone Brewery

ABV: 6.7 percent


Style: IPA — New England

Where to Buy: You can find this one on tap at the brewpub in 23-ounce pours on Tall Tuesdays for $3.50 or on Sundays all day for $3. It also is available in the new edition of the Brick Pack — a 12-pack of 12-ounce cans of four different Brickstone beers, available at retailers such as Jewel, Meijer, Kroger and Liquor World in Kankakee.

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