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Winter Brew Craft Beer Extravaganza Doubles in Size But Tix Still Scarce

By Patty Wetli | January 7, 2013 2:08pm
 Winter Brew 2012 was a sellout.
Winter Brew 2012 was a sellout.
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LINCOLN SQUARE — Despite adding an afternoon session and doubling its capacity to 1,000 attendees, demand for Winter Brew Lincoln Square is still likely to outpace supply.

Rudy Flores, executive director of the Lincoln Square Ravenswood Chamber of Commerce (LSRCC), checked the tally an hour after tickets went on sale online at 10 a.m. Monday and beer lovers had already snapped up 232 ducats.

Stop reading now and rejoin us after you've purchased your tix.

Now in its second year, Winter Brew, a collaboration between LSRCC and the Square Kegs Home Brew Club, has become one of the most hotly-anticipated events of the new year.

Conceived as a way to promote the neighborhood and its burgeoning craft beer and distilling scene, Winter Brew sold out in two weeks in 2012, leaving many locals high and dry.

"'I live in Lincoln Square and didn't find out about it until it sold out,'" was a common complaint, according to Flores. Last year he saw the $10 tickets going for $60 on Craigslist.

"We want to showcase our neighborhood but we also want to benefit neighbors," he said.

Those dual objectives are one reason LSRCC opted to add a second session rather than move Winter Brew from its home at DANK Haus German American Cultural Center to a bigger venue.

DANK, 4740 N. Western Ave., offers the largest local event space that nobody knows about, said Flores.

"They had five people book their ballroom after Winter Brew."

Finch's Beer, 5 Rabbit, Half Acre, Metropolitan, Revolution and Koval Distillery are all returning for the Feb. 9 fest, with Begyle Brewing joining the lineup this year.

Flores has a meeting planned with the breweries for later this week to talk tap schedules, new for 2013.

"A lot of craft beer events have tapping sessions," he said. "It's something we played around with at Summer Brew. It's a chance for the breweries to offer something a little rarer."

Another change from Winter Brew I: More consideration for home brewers.

Judging for this year's contest will take place Jan. 26 and winners will be announced at the afternoon session. The number of entrants has been capped at 200, with submissions due by Jan. 18.

Rich Forsythe, the owner of Ruff Haus Pets who runs Square Kegs in his spare time, learned a number of lessons in 2012 that he put to good use for Winter Brew II.

Last year's inaugural festival was almost "too much of a success," said Forsythe. "We weren't ready to handle it."

Judges scrambled to assess more than 300 beers onsite at Winter Brew, which felt "like an afterthought," according to Flores.

"Our goal [in 2013] was to increase quality," Forsythe said. "Over the course of 300 beers, there's a lot of run of the mill. There's also a lot of fantastic beers and some that you'd pay money for."

Entrants in the home brew competition were given access to purchase tickets in advance of the general public, said Flores.

"There's more focus on the people that this is their livelihood or hobby."