I dropped by the Peoria Jaycees International Beer Festival Saturday night, and I think I’ve found a new annual, must-attend event. With over 100 beers available from 40+ local, national, and international vendors and home brew groups, there’s bound to be something there for everyone.
The setup is simple: you buy your entry ticket and they give you a four-ounce glass. You then buy drink tickets ($5.00 for 8 tickets), and you go from table to table for samples, getting one drink per ticket. They also have live music, a few food vendors, and if you want to get touristy, they have t-shirt, glasses, and other tchotchkes. My friends and I had a great time just hanging out and sampling the brews, but I’ve come to the conclusion I’ve made several rookie mistakes I won’t mistake next year.
First off, I should have listened when I was told the alcohol sneaks up on you. Halfway through our expedition, we started looking a little closer at the beer labels. Some were your typical 4-6% alcohol by volume, but a few brews shot all the way up to 8% or more. One table, in fact, insisted on pouring everyone their “Russian answer to Colt 45” because it promised 9.5% alcohol.
A consequence of the latter is it becomes tough to remember what you’ve had by the end of the night, and what you liked and didn’t like. I remember enjoying Monty Python’s Holy Grail, as well as a fruity-but-tasty ginger beer I don’t remember the name of. I remember thinking Sherwood Forest’s Archer’s Ale was a bit drier than I like, and Atwater Block Brewery’s Double Down was better than their Dirty Blonde. Legbiter Ale from Ireland’s Strangford Lough Brewing was good stuff, too.
I know I sampled more than that, but that’s all I can remember at the moment. I should have brought my notebook with me. It was raining pretty hard when we arrived, so I chickened out and left the Moleskine in the car so it wouldn’t get wet. It would have been nice to jot down a lot of the beers’ names and what I thought about them. Guess I’ll have to visit Peoria’s Super Liquors and see if their massive beer selection will jog my memory, and see if they stock any of the good stuff I do remember.
On the food side, I discovered J and J’s jerky. Coming out of the Chicago ‘burbs, these guys put out a nice selection of jerky for sampling and purchase, and while most of it was pretty standard, their jalapeño and habanero bbq w/cheese flavors really stood out. I bought two sticks of each, but that’s not going to cut it. Must. Order. More.
I ran into a couple other friends in the main hall, one of whom, it turns out, is a ten-year vet of the event. We made a few more friends waiting in line at the porta-pissers (once you break the seal, it’s all over), and we learned there are some smokers the rain just can’t stop. We learned you really don’t want to mess with Peoria cops, and if you drop and break your glass, prepare for a loud chorus of jeers. (For those wondering, I still have mine; a friend dropped hers.) Rinse stations and dump buckets are your friend, and it’s probably a good idea to wear a dark-colored shirt for when the crowd jostles you and you spill beer on your shirt.
This is their 18th annual show, and I can see why it’s so successful. I’m already looking forward to next year’s.