Each year the Chicago Beer Society (CBS) holds the Day & Night of The Living Ales: A Celebration of Real Ale.  This event features real ale, also known as cask beer.  Real ale has no carbon dioxide added and the beer naturally carbonates, additionally the yeast in this beer is still active almost up until the time you drink the beer.  The beer also likes to exist around 53F so festivals like this can be a bit chilly.  Normally CBS finds a deli or other caterer to put out a small selection of higher end meat and cheese to munch on.

CBS splits the day into two sessions the Day and the Night.  There is no real difference except time of day.  The organizers try very hard to make sure beer is held in casks for the second session.  Occasionally one will run out, but not usually half way into the second session.  A benefit of the second session is you can call people you know at the first session and know what is worth it and what is not.  Personally I am done for the day after drinking for hours so I typically crawl into bed after an event like this.

Night Session 2011

In 2011 there were 45 beers available and for the most part were very good.  Chicago brewers dominate at this event, but there was a fair sprinkling of brewers from elseware.  Metropolitan had an intriguing ginger infused alt and Piece had smoked chocolate porter that reminded me of cocoa puffs.  The bad side of cask events was evident in Revolution’s Village Green Bitter which had some off flavors.  This can happen easily and I would note their Eugen Porter was above average.  With the ale be alive right up to the end it is hard for a brewer to ensure the perfect flavor.  I do not know if this was the situation with Village Green, but many brewers never get to crack open the cask until the event itself making it near impossible to provide the level of quality control we have become used to.

CBS also gives awards at this event and Firestone Walker’s Double Jack Double IPA won the Golden Tut Award for being the beer that best exemplified the cask experience.  Attendees also vote for their top beers.  This year first place went to Goose Island’s production facility for Scully an oak aged saison with strawberries, honey and Champagne yeast.

Overall, this is one of the better events on the annual beer calender, and does sell out.  I try to attend each year as I never know what I may find.  I have done both the day and night sessions, and I lean towards liking the night better.  CBS holds Living Ale each March and I hope to see you there next year.


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