Craft Beer Comes to Highwood

Have you hopped on the craft-beer bandwagon yet? If not, you should.

Picking up steam in the past few years, craft beer has finally hit the Chicago dining scene. And who better to introduce it to the ‘burbs than Ted Widen, the force behind Chicago Scene? The Winnetka resident put on his first craft-beer festival this past May in River North with 10 bars, 20 craft beers and more than 2,000 attendees.

“It was a huge success,” he says. “People loved it, and I just fell in love with craft beer even more. So I went to all the craft-beer festivals this spring and summer, and I was like, ‘I’ve got to do one here.’”

If you missed the River North fest, you can hit the Highwood Craft Beer Festival Saturday, Aug. 17.

Small Breweries, Big Taste

Not exactly sure what craft beer is? It’s beer that’s produced in a small, independent microbrewery, a brewery that produces a limited amount of beer each year. People love it because of the high quality, full-flavored taste and hundreds of unique styles. Not to mention, it has a higher alcohol content (an average of 5-10 percent alcohol by volume) than mass-market beer, because the fermentation process is two to three times longer.

“When you taste the difference, it’s night and day,” Widen says. “The color is completely different; the smell is completely different; and the taste is completely different. The cost of a Miller beer can is probably 60 or 70 cents, and a bottle of one of these is $1.50, so it’s twice as much money that goes into these things—and you can taste it.”


With about 60 breweries in the state of Illinois and more than 100 in for licensing, according to Widen, Midwest craft beer is exploding onto the scene. Goose Island, which recently celebrated its 25th anniversary, led the way for Chicago craft beer as the first local brewery. Lucky for us, many others are following in their footsteps.

The Festival

The Highwood Craft Beer Festival at Everts Park (130 Highwood Ave.) will feature more than 70 samples from 35 breweries—both local and national—including Two Brothers Brewing Company, Wild Onion, Goose Island, Stone Brewing and Oskar Blues Brewing Company.

Beer-drinkers will receive a brewers list card, a reusable sampling glass, drink tickets for 3-ounce beer samples and a pretzel necklace. There will also be live entertainment and food tents set up around the park by local restaurants (think Mexican, burgers, ribs and more). Representatives from each brewery will serve up an explanation of the beer they’re pouring to educate festival-goers on the different brews.

A portion of the proceeds from the festival will be donated to The Puppy Mill Project, a nonprofit organization that educates and raises awareness about puppy mills.

Hot in Highwood

After pulling out a map and bringing his idea to a few other towns, Widen found that not only was Highwood the most interested, but they also had the most happening.

“There’s no other community that has so many things going on,” he says. “Their Halloween Pumpkin Fest draws 100,000 people or something like that—it’s enormous. So I just figured if we can’t make it happen here, then where else can we make it happen?”

To get your drink on at the Highwood Craft Beer Festival, purchase tickets on their website.

Want more craft beer? Indulge in your new favorites down the street at Tap House, one of the largest craft-beer bars on the North Shore. With 27 craft beers on tap—mostly from Chicago and the midwest—there’s no way you’ll go thirsty.


VIP and general-admission tickets to Highwood’s Craft Beer Festival can be purchased online (VIP, $50—includes early entrance and 5 extra drink tickets; general admission, $35). The festival is located just a half of a block from the Highwood Metra stop, so attendees are encouraged to ride the train rather than drive. Safety first!

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