Having an ice cold beer has long been a rite of summer, but city officials as well as a local events company think folks in Naperville might enjoy some craft beers even in the middle of winter.
That’s the thinking behind the first Naperville Winter Ale Fest, scheduled for Feb. 22, from noon to 4 p.m. at Frontier Park in Naperville.
The fest is being organized by Lou Dog Events, an event management and production company which offered the successful Summer Ale Fest this past summer at the Naper Settlement.
Founder and President Josh Seago said a total of 60 brewers from across the country “with 50 percent representing the Midwest” will offer somewhere between 120 to 130 craft beers at the winter festival.
“We’ve scaled this back a bit from the event we had this summer when there were 91 brewers and 210 craft beers,” Seago said. “There are three to four events every week here in Naperville from June through August, but there is absolutely nothing during the winter months. There is extreme weather here in Chicago and it’s cold four to five months a year, and people here are used to it.”
Seago said his company contacted the city of Naperville and pitched the idea after this year’s summer fest, which drew 4,200 people.
The Frontier Park location was a deliberate effort to hold an event somewhere else rather than the downtown area.
“We wanted to give people on the south end something that was closer to them, and the Park District worked with us to offer this location,” Seago said. “We’re going to be prepared for the weather by having heated tents, two large bonfires, and 20 propane patio heaters going. We also have six food trucks coming so that food can be prepared without having to set up other equipment.”
Food vendors include Old Mango from Aurora, who will offer “Indian fusion” food, and Toasty Cheese from Schaumburg offering gourmet grilled cheese sandwiches. Seago said a few other food vendors are pending.
The event will also include a company creating live ice sculptures in three stages, including rough cutting with a chain saw, fine detailed work and completed sculptures.
Cost will be $45 per person and include unlimited 3-ounce samples of beer.
“Guests will wear wrist bands which will be punched for each purchase they make and so we’ll be able to monitor consumption,” Seago said. “At $45 for an entrance fee, people aren’t coming here to get over served. There weren’t any issues with drinking this summer and we don’t expect any at this event. We think people are truly interested in trying out some unique winter craft beers — the stouts and porters that are typical of the winter ales.”
Seago said this is the first outdoor event of its kind in Illinois and that brewers are excited about it.
“We’ve gotten some good feedback about this and people are looking forward to having something unique to do in the winter,” he said. “Beer changes with the seasons, and this will be a way to enjoy that.”
For more information, visit www.NapervilleWinterAleFest.com.