Festival of Wood and Barrel-Aged Beer 2023

Festival of Wood and Barrel-Aged Beer 2023

NOVEMBER 03-04, 2023


This gathering of barrel-focused brewers celebrates 20 years of boundary-pushing brews and “defends its legacy.”

With wind off Lake Michigan growing colder by the day, the people of Chicago know just what that foretells. Time to don your flannel, your beanies, and retreat inside for a 15% ABV Pastry Stout at the Festival of Wood and Barrel-Aged Beer.

Twenty years ago, FOBAB started in a second floor brew-pub as a gathering of people with a shared interest: enjoying beer that tastes like licking an oak-panel cabinet. In all seriousness, barrel-aged beer is some of the most rare, diverse and expertly made product America’s craft beer scene possesses. Hosted by the Illinois Craft Brewers Guild, FOBAB has grown from that small room into the largest barrel-aged festival, filling out an arena-sized venue. Sure, you may look at a lineup of over 12% ABV Bourbon-Aged Imperial Stouts and think, how different can they really be? But the answer is, definitely, wildly different, and FOBAB has a variety of beer beyond stereotypic stouts to showcase. 

The festival highlights all kinds of wood-aged beer, from lighter pale ales to mixed culture brews, and even cider, mead, and perry (which is made from pears). Best in Show is awarded with gold, silver, and bronze, across 12 categories. Following a recent trend in craft beer, lower and zero alcohol options are also available through a “Lager Lounge” and a “NA Lounge,” hosted by Chicago brewery Revolution Brewing, who are unveiling their long-awaited Super-Zero Hop Water. These are a nice addition, even for the most die-hard high-impact beer fans, as a way to refresh the palette and provide a chance to pick yourself up off of the floor after one too many mix-ferm sours. 

Come in out of the cold to sample hundreds of our country’s most refined and hard to get your hands on beers—including selections from 3 Floyds, Crooked Stave, Firestone Walker, Other Half, and Sierra Nevada—and stay for the community of fellow beer enthusiasts and appreciators you’re sure to find. Just, you know, pace yourself. 

The Specs

  • Credit Union Arena’s capacity sits at 9,500.
  • General admission tickets cost $85, excluding fees. 
  • Tickets went on sale on August 25th, and space is limited, so don’t wait to reserve a spot. 
  • Check out Fifty Grande’s guide to Chicago here.


What is the closest airport to the Festival of Wood and Barrel-Aged Beer?

O’Hair International Airport (ORD) is about a 30 minute drive, or hour-ride via public buses, from where the festival will take place in downtown Chicago. 

What kind of beer will I find at the Festival of Wood and Barrel-Aged Beer?

The twelve categories judged at the festivals are Strong Porter & Stout, Specialty Strong Porter & Stout, Barley Wine/ Wheat Wine, Other Pale Beer, Lager, Other Dark Beer, Fruit Beer, Experimental Beer, Wild Brett, Wild Mixed Beer/ Acidic, Wild Mixed Culture w/ Fruit, and Cider/ Perry/ Mead. 

What are the festival’s hours?

The festival will take place across two days. Friday’s hours are 6-10pm (entry at 5pm). Saturday’s hours are 1-5pm (entry at 12).


BY Sébastien Luc Butler