For a day filled with tasting with the focus on less wasting, Seven Generations Ahead and Illinois Craft Brewers Guild invite everyone to the 7th annual Oak Park Micro Brew and Food Review on Aug. 16 in downtown Oak Park.
“We’re looking at locally grown hops and wheat, and we’re looking at being conscious of water usage and we’re looking at making sure everyone’s working together as a cooperative,” said SGA Event Manager Laura Ford, coordinator of the Oak Park Micro Brew and Food Review. “For me, it makes perfect sense and if we can get people to come to the event because they like beer and educate them about sustainability at the same time, then I think the two make the perfect partnership.”
According to SGA this is the Midwest’s largest zero waste craft brew festival. The community-focused summer event supports the non-profit sustainability work of SGA and the non-profit craft beer advocacy work of the ICBG.
“Because craft brewing is very sustainable — they use more organic materials, they’re very conscious about water usage and they’re very conscious of what happens to waste — it’s a good partnership dealing with the Illinois Craft Brewers Guild,” said Ford.
About 70 Illinois, Midwest and national craft brewers will bring close to 200 novel brews to tempt tasters.
Recycling and compost bins will be conveniently accessible, and in the end nothing from the event goes to the landfill. Area restaurants will also be on hand to serve up their dishes made with locally grown ingredients.
“I’m looking forward to all the people coming together,” said Ford. “We had 250 zip codes come last year, so I’m quite exciting to see all the people that are coming from all over Illinois to come to our little community.”
Ford said in the event’s early years, about 500 visitors came to enjoy the party in the street. The fest keeps growing, and this year over 4,000 craft beer enthusiasts are expected to come out and enjoy the lucky seventh year. The Micro Brew Review serves as a fundraiser for both SGA and ICBG.
The main event kicks off with the sound of the Chicalba Bagpiper and throughout the day about 10 local bands will provide the live music.
On the beer front, a unique aspect of this year’s festivities is the ReplicAle project, available with ReplicAle or VIP tickets. Working from the same recipe, 33 Illinois brewers will create their own version of an American Red Ale. Sampling the many versions of one ale, ReplicAle tasters will be learn distinguish nuances in brewing techniques and system design.
As part of the green strategy, fest-goers will receive a souvenir glass cup for their 40 tastings.
“Our goal is to make zero waste such an integral part of the event that attendees are zero waste without even thinking about it,” said Jen Nelson, SGA’s zero waste program manager. “We hope that our attendees have fun and that they find zero waste to be surprisingly easy.”
Goose Island will sponsor the VIP experience. The VIP ticket, which begins earlier than the main event includes 40 tastings with exclusive beer choices from Goose Island and ICBG favorites, a brewer meet and greet (and photo op), small plates from Oak Park restaurants, a special seating area and access to the ReplicAle project. The souvenir tasting glasses are also bigger for VIPs and ReplicAle tasters.
At the Seven Generations Ahead-sponsored Sustainable Practices Pavilion, guests can learn more about healthy eating and discover ways to integrate sustainable and zero waste practices into their own lives. Additionally, Nelson said there will be zero waste volunteers throughout the Micro Brew Review to help guide attendees and answer questions to keep the goal easy and fun to achieve.
“I like to think of Zero Waste as a goal for living our lives naturally and sustainably through conserving and recovering valuable resources,” said Nelson. “Much of what we throw away as waste is really a valuable resource that we can choose to recover through recycling and composting. In nature there is no garbage.”