Nights at the round table
By Selena Fragassi For Sun-Times Media November 22, 2013 9:03AM
Knights hoist their steins at Medieval Times, site of this weekend's Ale Quest. | MEDIEVAL TIMES PHOTO
Updated: November 25, 2013 3:39PM
Home brew devotees and Renn Faire fanatics, we may have found your Holy Grail: Ale Quest, a medieval craft beer festival held Friday and Saturday at the court of Schaumburg’s Medieval Times. The festival offers samples of small brews amid the background of torture chambers, stallions and a hall of arms. Imagine how much greater the jousting and falconry are after a few rounds in your chalice, and you have to wonder how this idea didn’t come up before.
It’s the brainchild of Ted Widen and Ken Monro, partners at local nightlife guide Chicago Scene, who — along with Widen’s event production company, Global Scene Productions — also did the Highwood Craft Beer Festival and River North Craft Crawl. The idea for Ale Quest came to Monro after taking his children to Chicago Comic-Con earlier this summer.
“There happened to be a Medieval Times booth, and after seeing if they’d like to sponsor an upcoming event, they upped the ante and suggested hosting one,” recalls Monro. “It was great timing as we had been looking at alternative options for awhile. Don’t get me wrong, beer fests are great, but there are a lot of them, so we wanted to find something that could add value for attendees.”
The event, which has three tiered packages, includes three-hour beer festivals along with dinners and tournament shows.
While there is a costume contest for attendees, the real games begin with the brewer competition. Among the contenders: Allagash, Bell’s Brewery, Berghoff Beer, Cider Boys, Goose Island, Great Lakes, Half Acre, Lagunitas, Metropolitan, New Belgium Brewing, Revolution Brewery, Rogue Ales and Two Brothers, with another several spots reserved just for a growing crowd of independent home brewers, which Widen calls the country’s “new gold rush.”
Much of the popularity is linked to new legislation in Illinois that allows home brewers to bring batches to a fest for sampling. As a result, “the industry is growing like crazy,” says Widen. Monro says he and Widen are already looking at expanding the idea to all nine Medieval Times locations in the U.S. next year. “Once you taste home brew, you can never go back to Budweiser,” Monro says.
Ale Quest is Nov. 22-23 at Medieval Times, 2001 N. Roselle Rd., Schaumburg. $34-$69; medievaltimes.com/chicago.