Chicago Craft Beer Week – Illuminated Brew Works Bonfire

Last night Illuminated​ Brew Works hosted a semi-secret Chicago Craft Beer Week event in Chicago. It required an RSVP and in return offered an address and instructions to those not previously initiated in the ways of the mystical West Loop brewery operation.

I arrived via an alley into this expensive vacant lot covered in rock, shipping containers and leftover Halloween skeletons.

It had rained most of the early evening and the rain then took a pretty prolonged 2-3 hour break right in the middle of the bonfire event.

Touted to be pouring at the event were Around The Bend, Maplewood, Illuminated, and Maplewood. In addition a home brewer made a bit of a debut at this event, called Summerdale.

If Illuminated Brew Works doesn’t yet have a semi cryptic name for this space, they need one

The event was mostly self-serve, which was refreshing in some facets and a short fall in others. For instance, there was an overcarbed Around The Bend beer pouring from a pitcher with no label. I still have no idea what it was. It smelled like apple cider but tasted kind of like a brown ale.

The event also touted the welcoming of bottle sharing. There was a small table space where bottles were out, but it seemed that there were more people taking than contributing.

Live music was a welcome addition to the space

The biggest most glaring shortcoming of the event was how Illuminated Brew Works poured their own beer. It was not separated from the rest of the taps or seemingly special from the crowd in any way. This is your event. You’ve promoted this, you’ve built a cool atmosphere that really no one else in the city limits has, and your beer is taking a backseat.  I don’t mean just any backseat but like that third backseat that faces backwards, found in station wagons from the 80s.

This could be/should be/is a fun branding event that you’re hosting. Illuminated has made many beers with unique and cryptic labels. Their style honestly is likely underappreciated in the marketplace. In an event where they should be doing everything short of strapping matching Nikes on to your feet and preparing you for that next plane of existence, they didn’t pour the Koolaid right.

I came last night to be indoctrinated by a brewery I didn’t know enough about. Frankly it felt like a great unique CCBW event with an opportunity left on the table. That said, with the gorgeous city view and the open bonfire pit they have, I’d certainly come back, but please, get the Koolaid right next time.

Marshmallows and an open flame: an undefeated combination

Standout Event Beers

  • Passion Fruit Gose – Brewer unknown. This could easily be a potential favorite summer crusher. Now if I can only find out who makes it.
  • Life is a Peach, and then you Pie – Summerdale Brewing. Tart peaches up front, rounding into a tasty sweet crusty pie finish.
Omnipollo/Buxton Texas Pecan Ice Cream giving locals that H. H. Holmes treatment

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