RAVENSWOOD — The Ravenswood on Tap beer festival is back this weekend, with the brewery- and distillery-heavy neighborhood showing off its strengths.
Now in its third year, Ravenswood on Tap is a two-day craft beer festival that takes over Ravenswood Avenue, between Berteau and Belle Plaine, Saturday and Sunday. The area, nicknamed Malt Row, is home to one of the country’s most prolific craft brewing communities.
Attendees will be asked to give a $5 suggested donation at the door at the festival each day. Presale tickets, which include four drink tickets and a limited-edition Ravenswood On Tap stainless steel tumbler, are still on sale online.
Thinking back to the fest’s first year, Gene Wagendorf, associate director at the Greater Ravenswood Chamber of Commerce, said they had a different, smaller location to host the festival near Empirical Brewery at Foster and Ravenswood.
“The first year we did the event our roster was a little bit different. There were some breweries that were in Ravenswood at the time that are no longer here, and we’ve got some new breweries that have opened since that first year, which is exciting,” Wagendorf said.
“We kind of planned on about 2,500 to 3,000 people coming out that first year. And then we just had 4,000 people show up I think in the first hour and a half and we just got swarmed,” he said. “So it was a real test of how much beer this neighborhood can produce. I remember Spiteful Brewery was out of all of the kegs they brought. So those guys were hauling up and down the corridor with just racks of cans on a cargo bike so they could keep pouring through to the end of the event.”
For last year’s Ravenswood on Tap, the festival organizers moved to their current larger location, expanded the festival to two days and dramatically increased the amount of beer that they ordered.
“And so this year, even though it’s the third, it really feels like the second. Urban Renewal Brewery will be participating for the first time this year,” said Wagendorf. “They’re kind of our newest brewery on Malt Row, so I’m excited for people to get to try them because they don’t have a public space yet. So this is kind of a rare opportunity to try them, especially outside of the handful of bars that they’re available at right now.”
Other breweries and distilleries participating this year include Band of Bohemia, Begyle Brewing Co., Dovetail Brewery, Empirical Brewery, Half Acre Beer Company, Koval Distillery, Spiteful Brewing and Urban Renewal Brewery. There will also be special guests The Northman and Greenstar Brewing.
This year also includes an expanded special tasting for craft beer aficionados that includes tapping a small keg of an imperial rye stout that’s been aged in Koval Rye barrels.
“Dovetail has an experimental line of bottled beers that they launched I think at the end of last year, so their first release was XO1 and that was like a sour version of their rauchbier, so it was like a sort of tart cherry with some smokiness. So on tap they’ll be debuting XO2, which is one of the more experimental beers I can think of,” Wagendorf said.
“They couldn’t even give me an actual style for it. It’s part lager and part lambic style beer that’s made from I think spontaneous fermentation of wild Chicago microbes, and so that’ll be…the way that [brewer] Hagen [Dost] from Dovetail described it was a gentle sour with notes of vanilla, and then it’s aged in oak barrels. So they’ll be tapping that and they’ll also be available at the taproom over the weekend.”
Additionally, this year the festival will also feature summer cocktails from Koval Distillery like a bourbon lemonade.
In addition to the tasty brews, this year’s musical lineup includes a mix of artists that include Chicago Afrobeat Project, grunge-cabaret favorites Mutts, electro-pop savant Emily Blue and a Sunday set from piano-man Paul Brinnel and his Personnel.
The entire lineup can be heard on this Spotify playlist.
Fest proceeds benefit the Greater Ravenswood Chamber of Commerce, Ravenswood Community Council, and other local non-profit organizations.