Naperville’s first Winter Ale Fest debuts Saturday

By Annie Alleman For Sun-Times Media

February 20, 2014 1:26PM

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There are plenty of winter brews on the market today, so it stands to reason there would be a festival to celebrate them.

Enter the first-ever Winter Ale Fest, to be held from noon to 4 p.m. Feb. 22 at Frontier Park in Naperville. The festival is presented by Lou Dog Events, which produces the summertime’s Naperville Ale Fest.

“We had a fantastic turnout from festival participants and from the brewing community,” said Lou Dog president Josh Seago. “I’m a big craft beer enthusiast myself, and 12 months is a long time to wait for the festival to come around. So I got to thinking, why don’t we do a winter festival and have two events per year? The beers change with the season, so you get your summer seasonals and your winter seasonal.

“We could do a festival in the winter and bring in a totally different set of beers and create a whole different atmosphere that’s going to be a lot different than the summer festival. Craft beer changes with the season, so why not have festivals all year long?”

Winter Ale Fest will showcase over 120 American craft beers by 60 breweries from around the country, with 23 from Illinois. Breweries include locals Solemn Oath, Two Brothers, Goose Island and Pipe Works; Bell’s Brewery from Kalamazoo; and New Belgium and Sierra Nevada on the national scale.

It helps that the brewers aren’t as busy in February as they are in the summer.

“They’re pretty excited to get out there and talk about their brand and their history, about the brewery and get out and represent the brand,” he said.

Beers will have a “strong focus” on the winter seasonal, he said, which include porters and stouts and barley wines.

The festival is outdoors and will be held snow or shine, he said.

“We’re from the Chicago area, it’s cold here five months of the year. We’re used to it, so why not do an outdoor festival?” he said. “We say the snow adds to the atmosphere of the winter festival. If you dress appropriately and come out, you will have a good time.”

For when you get hungry, there will be six food trucks from OMango, Chicago Pizza Boss, The Calle Wagon, Toasty Cheese Mobile Eatery and Bridgeport Pasty. Indulge in dessert while supporting cancer research with confections from Cupcakes For Courage.

And if the beer doesn’t warm you up, there will be heated tents, patio heaters and a bonfire seating area.

“And with the festival falling fairly close to Mardi Gras, we have a New Orleans-style brass band that will be playing out at the fest,” he said. (That would be the Four Star Brass Band.)

Other entertainment includes ice carving demonstrations, he said. Additionally, Two Brothers recently started an artisanal coffee line. They’ll have coffee available, or a shot of espresso you can add to your cup of Two Brothers stout.

The admission price gets you three-ounce samples of beer, a program guide and a commemorative Winter Fest glass. Designated Driver tickets are also available. No one under 21 will be admitted.

Free parking is available at Neuqua Valley High School. A portion of the proceeds from Naperville Winter Ale fest will benefit the Naperville Parks Foundation.

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