Chicago’s craft beer scene is rich and flavored, but the HopString Craft Beer and Music Fest brought scores of brew masters to downtown Joliet Saturday.
Area residents and beer buffs who poured into the fifth annual event at Silver Cross Field sampled up to 40 different ale and lager varieties, while jamming to the live music from more than 20 local bands.
New to the festival this year was a carnival sideshow that featured fire breathers, sword swallowers and aerialists.
Mike Trizna, an event organizer and co-owner of Chicago Street Pub in Joliet, said it was his love for music that gave him the idea for HopString.
“When I go out to hear music, I don’t go out to hear tribute bands or cover bands,” he said. “We go hear bands that pen and write their own music. They don’t get a lot of credit; they don’t get a lot of places to play.”
So, Trizna and his wife decided to create a venue where their favorite local bands come together and play.
“My wife and I own a bar, also, and we have become a nice location for craft beers, so we decided to incorporate that into our festival,” he added.
The beers on tap at HopString ranged from India pale ales to seasonal brews, as well as popular lagers such as Pabst Blue Ribbon and smaller local brewers such as Metal Monkey Brewing in Romeoville.
“We’re selling a lot of craft beer, instead of things like Bud Light and Miller Lite that you can go get everyday,” Trizna said.
Trizna said the large offering of unique craft beers is one reason Trizna said the event has been a success.
“All the people who sell the beers truly believe in what we’re doing,” he said. “They really like the fact that it’s a community event; everybody comes from around here.”
David Masciotra, of Highland, Indiana, was jamming to the live tunes and said he was enjoying his time at the festival.
“It’s a win-win all around,” he said. “You have a fun time, you get to support original, local musicians, you get to support local businesses and you get to do this in a collaborative sense with other people in the community who have that same sense of belonging and kinship.”
This year was Masciotra’s fourth time attending HopString. He said he thinks the event’s popularity is a product of good timing and planning.
“The combination of craft beer and local music is effective,” Masciotra said.
Colleen Seneger, of Joliet, said she was most looking forward to listening to the bands.
“I like to support local music,” Seneger said. “I know some kids in bands.
This year was Seneger’s first time attending the festival, but noted that it’s clear to her why people appear to be drawn to the event.
“I think it’s the outdoor venue and the combination of all the different craft beers, local beers and local bands,” she said.
Mennas Dulbandzhyan, of Joliet, said he heard about the event through a local radio station that was giving away tickets. He said he liked everything the festival offered.
“I like all the beers I’ve tried so far,” Dulbandzhyan said. “The music is good.
Dulbandzhyan said he tried about different 3 beers and they were all India pale ales.
“They’re really citrusy and hoppy,” he said. “I really like that.”
Dulbandzhyan said he discovered a few beers he’d never seen before, as well as one that appeared to be named after HopString Festival.
Last year’s event drew nearly 5,000 people to the festival, according to Trizna. Despite rain the forecast for this year’s festival, Trizna said he hoped attendance would not be affected.