By Kevin Haas
Rock River Current
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ROCKFORD — An ale with hints of Swiss chocolate and strawberries.
A hazy IPA with a juicy taste derived entirely from hops.
A stout with a smooth taste that goes down like chocolate milk.
Those are just a few of the unique local brews to try at 815 Ale Fest, an annual celebration for lovers of craft beer and other spirits to sample different creations from breweries around the region.
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There are more than 20 vendors at this year’s Ale Fest, which runs from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday at Tebala Event Center, 7910 Newburg Road. VIP tickets get you in an hour early. Aside from craft beers you can also get seltzers, tequila and other spirits.
“We have everything from a light pilsner to a dark lager,” said Anna Wright, marketing director at Tangle Roots Brewing Co., one of this year’s vendors. “We have something for everyone.”
Tangle Roots was founded in Ottawa and has four locations. Its DeKalb brewery will represent the company at Ale Fest. The dark lager it’s bringing is called Black Forest Bedtime Story.
“It’s light flavored but really dark in color, so people are very surprised with how much they like that one,” Wright said on B103’s Morning Routine.
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Tangled Roots is also bringing a west-coast style IPA with hints of grapefruit and an amber ale for those who aren’t fans of hoppy beers.
The amber ale is a “very light, malty, peachy-flavor ale that is delicious, and that is our No. 1 seller,” Wright said.
Lena Brewing Co. will have several offerings on Saturday, including its Chocolate Covered Strawberry Ale, which has hints of Swiss chocolate and strawberries.
“We kind of wanted to do something for Valentine’s Day,” said Jaime Heddinger, director of marketing and promotions at Lena Brewing. “Along with the traditional-style beers, the flavored beers have also kind of taken some precedence in the scene.
“So we thought, well why don’t we get a little creative and do a short, cool run of fun Valentine’s Day beer — and here’s what we got.”
Lena Brewing will also offer its Chubby Rumbler Chocolate Milk Stout, which is brewed with cocoa nibs and lactose. The lactose, Heddinger said, gives it a smooth, creamy feel like chocolate milk. It will also offer its Northern Lights Belgium White, which is a farmhouse ale.
“You can never judge a beer by its color,” Heddinger said. “Sometimes the darker beers can have a really light flavor and the lighter beers can have a really intense, full flavor.”
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Byers Brewing Co., a family-owned brewery in DeKalb, will offer its popular black lager, A Beer Named Sue, for the first time this year. The lager won’t be released at its brewery until Feb. 11.
You can also try its top seller, N.I. Universe, which is a hazy IPA made with simcoe and citra hops.
“It tastes juicy, but there’s no fruit in it or anything: It’s just hops that give it all that wonderful flavor,” said Steve Byers, the owner and head brewer.
Ale Fest is produced by Mid-West Family Broadcasting stations B103, 95.3 The Bull, 100 FM and 104.9 The X. Mid-West Family is also the parent company of the Rock River Current.
Know before you go | 815 Ale Fest
When: noon to 4 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 4
Where: Tebala Event Center, 7910 Newburg Road, Rockford
Admission: $35 for general admission from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m., which includes a tasting glass, pretzel necklace and access to all breweries. $55 for VIP from noon to 4 p.m., which includes the early access, a VIP hat and other Ale Fest swag, access to a VIP pre party Friday night, a tasting glass and pretzel necklace. $10 for designated drivers, which comes with lunch but no alcohol is served.
Participants: Pig Minds Brewing Co., Urban Forest Craft Brewery, More Brewing Co., Scorched Earth Brewing, Byers Brewing Co., Tangled Roots Brewing, Prairie Street Brewing Co., Generations Brewing Co., Lena Brewing Co., Founders Brewing Co., Church Street Brewing Co., Holzlager Brewing , Spiteful Brewing Tap Room, Buckle Down Brewery, Goose Island, BrewDog, Marz Brewing Co., Maplewood Brewing, Galena Brewing Co., Rush Creek Distilling and Hairy Cow Brewing Co.
Get tickets: Here