July 7th 2012, Warrenville, IL – I had been hearing about this fest for a few weeks now and I can say that I was a little apprehensive about how Craft Beer was going to pair with popcorn. Mind you, this wasn’t just going to be any popcorn, it was going to be gourmet popcorn from the Popcorn Palace located in Naperville, IL. Looking at the event list, there was going to be some great breweries in attendance as well as beers from the various Chicagoland Rock Bottom locations. Now in case you haven’t heard, we have experienced 100+ degree days the last week here in the Chicagoland area and I for one wasn’t really looking forward to baking in the 100+ degree heat for another day but what the hell, it was time to hunker down, suck it up and see what this Craft Beer fest had to offer.
I hopped in the car, dropped the kids off at my folk’s house and headed out to Rock Bottom Warrenville. You know those little “Exterior Temperature” gauges on the inside of your car? Well, mine read 107° and I was praying that the cold beer would make the heat that much more tolerable.
As I approached Rock Bottom I noticed a large tent in the parking lot, needless to say, I was thankful that it would be shade as opposed to standing in the sun all afternoon. I approached the entrance, got my wristband, my Pop Fest glass and I was off to my first beer/popcorn pairing. I stepped a little outside my norm and headed over to the Goose Island Clybourn table. I’m really not a big fan of Goose Island but figured what the hell? I grabbed a Florence, which is a Belgian Blonde Ale dry hopped with Citra, which was paired with Popcorn Palace’s Spicy Cheese popcorn. Wow, Florence was easily a top 3 beer of the day and the spicy cheese popcorn was excellent. Right off the bat, highly impressed, this was the right way to start off the fest and I couldn’t wait to see what was awaiting me upon my next selection.
I decided to return to the well and go with the second selection from Goose Island Clybourn, Cherry Crush, a Berliner Weisse that was simply fantastic. Cherry Crush was paired with Popcorn Palace’s Fruit Rainbow. I can’t say that I was a fan of the Fruit Rainbow but I would not let this deter my pursuit of more enjoyable combinations. Next, it was the very own Rock Bottom Warrenville creation, POP Mexican Cerveza(which was make with popcorn), paired with a Jalapeno popcorn. This was a perfect beer for a hot day and the popcorn was amazing, excellent combination that proved to be a perfect fit. Another popcorn inspired beer was next, this time it was a collaboration between Half Acre Brewing Company and Rock Bottom Lombard. This concoction titled, King Puff International Style Pilsner, was simply fantastic and the Better Salt N’ Pepper popcorn was my pick to click to best popcorn of the day.
Despite the hot weather, I decided to then go with the Eugene Porter from Revolution Brewing Company which was paired with Popcorn Palace’s Deep Chocolate popcorn. Eugene has always been a solid brew and the chocolate popcorn was a bit heavy but delicious.
Now, here was my favorite pairing of the day. Chicagoland’s newest brewery is not playing around, Solemn Oath’s newest brew, Yarn Bomb Cascadian Hefeweizen, was simply put…AMAZING!! Yarn Bomb was paired with Popcorn Palace’s White Chedder popcorn which not only perfectly matched with the beer but on its own, was also amazing! If you haven’t had anything from Solemn Oath Brewing Company yet, don’t wait any longer, they are crushing it!
Up next was the Last Chance Belgian IPA from Haymarket Brewing Company, which was my third of the top three brews of the day but I have to say that the pairing with the Currycopia curry popcorn was completely lost on me. The popcorn wasn’t necessarily bad but just not my cup of tea. Last was Rock Bottom Lombard’s Pirate Porter paired with Cinnamon Sin, a wonderfully paired combination that proved to be a great way to end my time at Pop Fest 2012.
Not to be left out, some of the ones that I unfortunately missed were, Buttery - Two brothers Brewing Dog Days, Nutty Caramel - RB Chicago Mild Ale, Cheddarific - Gordon Biersch Summerbrau, Cheddar Ranch - RB Orland Park Czech Pils, Chicago Chic - Two Brothers Bitter End, Chipotle Cheese - RB Lombard Smoked Helles, Coconut Cloud Nine - RB Chicago Bourbon Barrel Aged Imperial Red, Cookies n' Dream - RB Warrenville Schwartzbier, French Caramel - Emmets Brewing Summer Bock, Sesame Ginger - RB Warrenville Surrender, Macadamia Magic - Flossmoor Station Hefeweizen, Pink Peppercorn - Metropolitan Flywheel Bright Lager, Wild Blueberry - Rock Bottom Orland Park Weizen Bock.
Unfortunately, the problem of too many beers too little time applies here. That being the case, this was by far the most unique fest I’ve had the opportunity to attend. Live music from the likes of, Jack Avery’s Kin, The Jack Pines and Overman combined with great beer and popcorn made the weather an afterthought. This was an overall great Craft Beer fest and for sure will be one that I will not miss again. When Pop Fest rolls around again next year, don’t miss it!!