Has expansion changed the culture of Chicago’s craft beer scene?
One only needs to look at places like the aforementioned Chicago Brew Werks/Werk Force Brewing to understand the camaraderie between brewers that binds the industry in Chicago. It’s there that one can find home brewing supplies and take brewing classes, taste many brewing collaborations, and notice the multitude of stickers and posters provided by almost every other Chicago brewer (and national ones, too). Indeed, collaborations are still a mainstay within the community -- Half Acre has a link on its website for beers “brewed with friends,” and almost every Chicago brewery engages in something similar. Not to mention, festivals are a mainstay within the Chicago craft-beer community: Oak Park Micro Review, Festival of Barrel Aged Beer (FoBAB), Beer Hoptacular, and Chicago Ale Fest, to name a few. In fact, 350 Brewing’s Summer Fest randomly pairs breweries together to formulate collaborative brews just for the festival, known as Collab Roulette. And each May, the entire brewing community comes together for 10 days as part of Chicago's Craft Beer Week -- an entire industry forging together to celebrate Chicago craft beer.
Even if one looks to Chicago’s biggest brewery, Goose Island, one can find a strong sense of community. Despite the consternation associated with the Anheuser-Busch (AB InBev) purchase of Goose Island, the brewery continues to grow domestically and internationally just as the numbers of independent brewers increase in Chicago. Goose still demonstrates a strong commitment to its home city of Chicago with pub-only beers, special Chicago-only events, and routinely hosting festivals that include its “competitors” such as the Goose Island Stout Fest in February and the Belgian Beer Fest in the fall.
Simply put, no matter the size of the brewer, collaboration and community is a must, and growth seems inevitable (at least so far).