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Highwood hosts first craft beer fest on North Shore

Ted Banick owner Teddy OÕBrienÕs Highwood (left) Ted Widen founder HighwoodÕs first annual Craft Beer Fest. | Lee A. Litas~for

Ted Banick, owner of Teddy OÕBrienÕs in Highwood (left) and Ted Widen, founder of HighwoodÕs first annual Craft Beer Fest. | Lee A. Litas~for Sun-Times Media

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Craft Brew Festival

» Everts Park, 130 Highwood Ave, Highwood

» Opens Saturday at noon

» (847) 432-1924 or and

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Updated: September 18, 2013 6:07AM

Craft beer aficionados don’t have to wait for their favorite brews to, well, brew because the North Shore’s first Craft Beer Festival comes to Highwood on Saturday.

Thirsty attendees will be able to sip samples from a variety of seasonal and year-round brews from 35 nationwide microbreweries offering 70 kinds of beers.

“The craft beer market has been picking up speed and momentum in recent years,” said event founder Ted Widen.

About 7 percent of all beer sales are from craft beers. That may change, if trends are any indication — like the recent sale of Chicago’s own iconic microbrewery, Goose Island, to Budweiser for nationwide distribution.

“(The big beer producers) are realizing that if you can’t beat ’em, buy ’em,” Widen said.

Richard Holleb, owner of Norton’s restaurant in Highland Park, estimates that some 25 percent of his beer sales now come just from the two craft beers he carries.

“In River North bars,” estimates Widen, “it’s got to be 80 percent of their business.”

Kevin Fraulini, owner of the Silver Dollar Tavern in Highwood, operating since 1947, said, “For years we were more traditional but now I’m picking up new (craft beers) all the time.”

It’s noteworthy that this, the first such craft brew event on the North Shore, takes place in Highwood, which once held the Guinness World Record for most bars per square mile.

“I talked with a few other cities, but it wasn’t meant to be — not enough restaurants, not enough capacity,” said Widen. “But here in Highwood they understand bars, they understand restaurants, they understand entertainment because they (already) do all these events all summer long.”

With the entrance fee of $35 (or $50 VIP), each participant receives a 4-ounce glass and the opportunity to try 20 kinds of beer. The event takes place in Everts Park, the site of Highwood’s weekly farmers market, which will be cordoned off (for 21 and over). Food vendors representing some of Highwood’s well-known eateries will be stationed every 3-4 breweries.

“So you can go around sampling the food (and) all these beers. We’re going to have entertainment all day. It’s a great value,” said Widen. The craft brewery line-up includes 10 from the greater Chicago area and the remainder from around the country.

Attendees are encouraged to take Metra, which stops half a block from Everts Park, Widen said. “So if you live downtown or anywhere on the North Shore, the train literally stops 100 feet from the entrance.”

Lee Litas is a local free-lance writer.

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