As you are aware by now, COVID-19 has impacted everything. Craft breweries have had to reorganize and regroup their entire business models. At the start of the summer, the Illinois Craft Brewers Guild canceled Beer Under Glass (BUG), the annual premier craft beer festival in Chicago. And as fall has approached, the ICBG has also had to reimagine what the Mountain Top Brew Fest will look like this year. The difference between The Festival of Barrel Aged Beers (FoBAB) and Beer Under Glass is that FoBAB is at its heart a competition to see who has made the best barrel-aged beer in the country. It started as a local festival and competition amongst friends and local brewers, but FoBAB has grown to include brewers from all over the country — many of which continue to bring home the highest medals like Colorado’s Weldwerks, Ohio’s Listermann’s Brewing, and California’s Bottle Logic Brewing.

Each year, the best breweries in the country send their finest, most labor intensively, most experimental, and most expensive beers to Chicago for a panel of judges to rate and review in order to crown winners in 12 different categories and to name a finalist, Best in Show. Because these breweries are already sending these beers to be judged, festival goers are also allowed to sample these high ABV beers alongside the judges. That’s where I come. For the last five years, I have had the opportunity to attend this event, and have had a roaring good time each time. The first time I attended, I went with George Giannakopolus and a friend. I didn’t know what to expect and was confronted with a high hill climb of an event. This festival is a marathon, and it can trip up even the best of us. Last year, I was able to take Sam for the first time.

2020 will not be the same, but the creative people at the Illinois Craft Brewers Guild have gathered the best beers available together to give craft beer fans here in Illinois the chance to purchase some beer and play along at home so to speak. The festival judging will still happen, and they will again crown a winner of Best In Show to reign supreme for a full calendar year.

The judging this year will take place on Nov. 12 and 13 at Hailstorm Brewing in Tinley Park. The awards announcement will be live-streamed via social media. Stay tuned for more details. This event will not be open to the public but craft beer fans can join in as well with the ICBG’s mixed 6-packs they are selling to celebrate the reimagined festival.

Starting with presale on Tuesday, Oct. 20, and general admission sale on Friday, Oct. 23, the opportunity to purchase these 6-packs is only available for Imbibe members of the Illinois Craft Brewers Guild. Pre-sale is only for Imbibe members who activate their memberships by 11:59 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 15. Get details and a membership at

These randomly selected 6-packs will be taken from the FoBAB entries, which includes 12 different styles.

“While we wish we were able to celebrate FoBAB in person this year, we are very grateful to our participating breweries for helping us get their creations into the hands of the people who appreciate barrel-aged beer most,” said Danielle D’Alessandro, executive director for the Illinois Craft Brewers Guild. “The FoBAB festival is a significant source of revenue for our nonprofit organization, and this fundraiser will provide a critical infusion of funds to support our work the remainder of this year.”

Here is something to bake your noodle, a typical length to age an imperial stout for this contest is nine to 12 months. When many of these beers were brewed and put into wooden vessels, COVID-19 wasn’t part of the equation. November is a common time to start these sorts of projects, and so when these beers would have been put into barrels, these brewers were not thinking FoBAB would be reimagined or that they would have package these beers in this way.

Here is my call to action. Sign up for Imbibe to make sure you can get ahold of one of these mixed 6-packs, which $60 and come with a FoBAB tote bag and a 2020 tasting glass for your commemorative collection, I know I have one going. Member pre-sales will come with a 2020 FoBAB T-shirt.

So, in honor of these happenings, in honor of these creative folks going to great lengths to reimagine what the Festival of Barrel Aged Beers will look like for 2020, I am recommending another barrel-aged product that just hit the market this week. Our friends at Brickstone Brewing in Bourbonnais have released their Dark Matter Cold Coffee. Brickstone made two versions of Dark Secret last year, their Double Barrel version which was a wild ride, and their Maple Rum barrel aged Dark Secret. These were incredible beers, but Brickstone wasn’t done with those barrels yet. On top of these excellent beers, Brickstone partnered with Dark Matter Coffee, of Chicago, to age coffee beans in these barrels. You can buy these coffee beans at the brewpub right now for $25, but in addition to these beans, you can also buy a 4-pack of 8-ounce cans of Dark Secret Coffee, which is fantastic.

Dark Secret Barrel Aged Cold Coffee from Brickstone Brewery

ABV: 0% (there is no alcohol in this coffee)

IBUs: 0 (there are no hops in this product)

Style: Cold Coffee

Notes: This is coffee. It tastes like coffee; it is delicious.

Where to buy: You can buy it on the online store or at the brewpub.

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